Dr. Tim Muldoon
May 1, 2018

The clearest statement of Christ’s mission comes early in Luke’s gospel. Jesus unrolls a scroll of the prophet Isaiah and reads from it in order to announce what he is up to.    

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”
Rolling up the scroll, … [Jesus] said to them,
“Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:18-21)
Jesus says to the people in the synagogue that his mission is to the poor, prisoners, the blind and the oppressed. Jesus’ mission comes from the Father. John’s gospel states it even more clearly: “I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me” (Jn 6:38).
The mission of the Church is to carry on Jesus’ own mission from the Father. The clearest statements about the Church in the modern era are in the documents of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). One of its central documents, Lumen Gentium, describes the dual missions of Christ and his Church. Just as Christ’s mission of redemption unfolded in the contexts of poverty and persecution, the Council fathers write, so too the Church must follow the same route. Quoting the beautiful Philippians hymn (2:5-7), the document reminds us that Christ “emptied Himself, taking the nature of a slave,” becoming poor for our sakes. So too must the Church embrace those who are poor and afflicted, seeing in them the image of their Founder.

Catholic Extension exists to support the Church’s ministry to the poor. Our life blood as an organization is to fulfill this mission. But there is more: we hope and pray that others will join us in this mission. Our founder, Father (and later Bishop) Francis Kelley, wrote of a desire to “awaken the missionary spirit” among U.S. Catholics, because he saw firsthand as a missionary priest how easily forgotten people on the margins can be. What was true when he founded Extension in 1905 is even more true today—people pay attention to newsmakers in the public eye, but often lose sight of those who live quiet, desperate lives away from the camera or journalist’s pen.

Every day, we witness stories of men and women who quietly but heroically respond to Christ’s invitation to serve the poor. There is Sister Princess Mary Dawson of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart, who serves in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where the poverty rate is at 24 percent of the population. She runs a food pantry that feeds some 200 people each week, and wondered at our visit why anyone might want to know about her corner of the world.

There is Franciscan Father Carroll Mizicko, the pastor of St. Augustine Parish in East Saint Louis, Illinois, where 46 percent of the population live in poverty. He has served the parishioners, many of whom are old, for 16 years, very aware of the difficulties they face. In the midst of great despair he is quick to point to what gives him hope: “Well, the Lord, of course.”

There is Antonio Trujillo, the principal of St. Joseph Mission School in San Fidel, New Mexico, a part of the state where about a third of the population live in poverty. The school serves primarily Native Americans of the Acoma and Laguna Pueblo reservations, and is a beacon of hope amidst widespread despair.

Catholic Extension has supported these and hundreds of other ministries, through education of leaders, training of seminarians, contributing to the construction of facilities, and many other ways.

From its earliest days, the Church has recognized the necessity of raising funds for those who carry on the ministry of Christ. During his missionary journeys, for example, Paul collected money for the “saints in Jerusalem” (Acts 20: 1-5; 1 Cor 16:1; Rom 16:26), recognizing that all in the one Body of Christ must support one another.

Today the story is no different: The whole Church serves the poor both through its men and women in ministry, and through the generosity of all who enfold the poor in loving embrace. We at Catholic Extension are humbled to be part of that ongoing mission.

Dr. Tim Muldoon is Catholic Extension's Director of Mission Education. Hear more on this topic from Dr. Muldoon by listening to the podcast below. 

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