“Evangelize with love, be zealous and joyful missionaries, do not lose your joy!” This was the mandate given by Pope Francis on Saturday to over 400 families of the Neocatechumenal Way, who were sent to announce the Gospel all over the world. These words of the Holy Father were particularly touching to those 174 families at the meeting who will be part of 40 new missio ad gentes to the most de-christianized areas of Europe, America and Asia.
The families taking part in this mission “to the gentiles” feel a particular call to leave their home, work and securities in gratitude to what they have received: the love of Christ.
Pedro and Carmen Dinoris Biaggi, a couple with 8 children, one of whom is in the Redemptoris Mater Seminary of Dallas, were among the families sent by the Holy Father to one of two missio ad gentes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
“I see how God has saved me from death,” Biaggi told ZENIT. “And from this death I am so grateful for what He has taken me out of – from the gangs, from the streets, from drugs – and now he’s given me a wife and children, a Christian family. I see this as a call from the Lord to go and announce what God has done in my life to the brothers of Philadelphia.”
Regarding the challenges and difficulties they might face in their mission, Biaggi said that despite those difficulties, God will open a way for them to be happy, even in the midst of suffering.
“I am more afraid of my sins than the mission,” Biaggi’s wife, Carmen, added. “Seeing where God has taken me out of, too see that I have been married for 18 years with 6 children, I see that I don’t deserve it. I see real graces! I’m very happy to do this mission and I can’t wait to throw myself and see what the Lord has for us.”
“The Lord Precedes Us”
Many families who are already in various missio ad gentes around the world were present at the meeting with the Holy Father. Miguel and Beatriz, a family with 4 children, form part of the missio ad gentes in Manchester in the UK. “In the beginning it was very hard,” Miguel told ZENIT, “The language, the customs, the food…For one year, we lived in very humble conditions, without being able to communicate or understand [the language]. But God has never allowed us to lack His help, as well as strengthening our faith, even providing us with concrete things, like a house, a job, etc.”
“What touched my wife and I the most was to see how quickly our children adapted, they were happy from the moment we arrived, and learned English very well! This mission is our way of giving thanks to the Lord, for everything He has done, for the life he has given to us and our children.”
This same gratitude was expressed by Cedric, Cristine and their four children who were sent to Rajkot in their native India. Their mission is particularly difficult as they are being sent to an area known for continued persecution against Christians. “There are many risks,” he confirmed to ZENIT, “the majority of the population are Hindi, some are even extremists. It is very difficult. Even though we will be in India, we still must learn a new language, a new culture, it is all very different.”
“Then why embark on this mission?”, we asked him.
“Because our gratitude towards God is much stronger,” he replied. “We have seen so many miracles and received so much love, that we can’t help but share this with others.” One such example, he recalled, were the difficult pregnancies his wife had. Despite the risks, Cedric and Cristine said that God has blessed them with four children. “It is truly a miracle: each child is a gift! Our children know that God has given them life, so they are very happy to go on this mission.”
Announcing the Gospel Courageously
“It is truly a miracle that see all these people will be going around the world to evangelize, leaving their homes and their securities,” Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron of Guam told ZENIT. “What struck me the most were the families sent to China, who are willing to learn a new language, a completely different culture, to lose their life. I am sure that the Lord will help them.”
The same sentiment was shared by Bishop John McIntyre, auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia, where 12 of the families will be sent, among them the Biaggi family, in two different missio ad gentes. Bishop McIntyre said he was moved by the Holy Father’s words at the meeting, particularly his concern for the families and their generosity in offering themselves in mission to the Church.
“In certain parts of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, participation in the life of the Church is very strong and in other areas. it’s very weak,” he said. “We need to evangelize, to go out to those who are far from the Church. The families, the priests and the seminarians who are with them will dedicate themselves full time to that so we’re very grateful for their willingness to do that and to come to us.”
While acknowledging that there are very real challenges and difficulties the families might face, Bishop McIntyre expressed his confidence that Christ will ultimately triumph.
“With faith in Christ, in his victory over all those problems, over sin and death, I know the families will succeed [through] Him,” the Bishop said.