The fact that St. Therese of Lisieux is the patroness of missionaries – yet never traveled outside of her native France – speaks volumes about how everyone, not just global travelers, can fulfill his or her baptismal calling to spread the love of God throughout the world, said Father Jimmy Jeanfreau, speaking to fourth, fifth and sixth graders assembled at Mary Queen of Peace Church in Mandeville for the Oct. 12 celebration of Children’s Mission Day.
Being present and reverent at Mass is one way children can be good home missionaries, noted Father Jimmy, director of the archdiocesan Mission Office.
“How would you feel if you went to church and the church was empty?” Father Jimmy asked. “If you are counting on other people to be there, shouldn’t you be there to give others strength in their faith?
“Don’t sell yourself short,” he added. “People are watching you in church – and not just to see if you’re messing up; they are watching you to be encouraged in their faith!”
The day kicked off with a preview of “Landfill Harmonic,” a documentary film about young musicians from a slum in Paraguay who make orchestra-quality music using instruments made out of discarded materials.
Stephen Lee, a former music minister at St. Paul the Apostle Church in New Orleans, was the day’s guest speaker. Lee told the children that they could be missionaries simply by becoming more enthusiastic singers at Mass.
“Sing strong – not loud – but strong, with the spirit of God in your voice!” Lee told them, as the group practiced each hymn and sung response in preparation for upcoming liturgy. Lee demonstrated how singing at Mass could be enriched if congregants did more advance practice and if more young people were drafted as cantors. Song leaders, especially at children’s Masses, also might consider changing the key of hymns to accommodate the higher register of children’s voices, Lee said.
After Mass, the youngsters sampled foods from five continents and played games such as Takraw – a type of kickball played in Thailand. A third activity zone had them making maracas, drums and tambourines out of simple materials.
As the youngsters played dozens of musical instruments from around the world, Lee noted a parallel between playing music and being a missionary: Both callings can be carried out in foreign places and at home.
“If you don’t own an instrument, you can be an instrument yourself – you can be a mission instrument!” said Lee, explaining that mission work can be as simple as helping a friend stand up to a bully.
“Being a missionary is about being willing to go help, to be of service!”