We often talk about the universal Church—the union of Catholics all over the world in loyalty to our Holy Father. I have been blessed to actually experience the universal Church. Here’s my story:
I recently left my second tour of duty as Procurator General of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers in Rome. A lofty title, but more importantly, an amazing mission experience.
I represented Maryknoll by communicating our accomplishments and goals to Vatican leadership. Maryknoll has a great reputation around the world, and that was never more obvious to me than when meeting Church leaders from many nations as well as the Pope himself.
While in Rome, I also met with members of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. One of our goals was to advance a cause identified by Pope Francis: the training of “middle management” priests and clergy. We are grateful to our Holy Father for having the vision to develop skilled personnel who will manage growing parishes in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Among my happiest experiences in Rome was hosting visiting priests. Many were students working on doctorates or advanced degrees in missiology and spirituality. Sitting around the dinner table might be 12 people—some speaking Spanish, others Mandarin Chinese, and the rest of us gabbing away in English. Other times the men might be from Venezuela, South Korea, and the Philippines. It was a true United Nations of the Catholic Church!
“My first overseas assignment was in Tanzania. The people were extremely poor but they had two sensibilities that remain with me still: the gift of welcoming the stranger and the importance of keeping good relationships.”
Today, I am experiencing the universal Church in a new way. In January I was assigned back home to serve as a staff priest at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City—another crossroads of the world. Cardinal Timothy Dolan who presides at St. Pat’s asked me to bring a missionary dimension to the parish.
When presiding at Mass, I love to preach about my overseas mission experiences. My first overseas assignment was in Tanzania. The people were extremely poor but they had two sensibilities that remain with me still: the gift of welcoming the stranger and the importance of keeping good relationships.
One of my parishioners in Tanzania was the country’s first post-colonial president, Julius Nyerere. He would often invite me to his residence to say Mass. When our parish celebrated our 50th anniversary, he joined us for the festivities.
Talking about anniversaries, this year marks my 40th year as a Maryknoll priest. I had no idea at ordination that I would have such a rich and rewarding life. God has blessed me, and so have you. Thank you for your prayers and for making mission such an important part of your life.
Remember what I said before about African hospitality? If you are ever in New York City visiting St. Pat’s, please stop by and say hello. I’m usually greeting people in the back of the Cathedral.
~ Father Edward Dougherty, M.M.