By Beth Donze, Clarion Herald, Kids’ Clarion
Last month, 120 third through seventh graders from seven Catholic parishes and schools gathered inside Dominican’s gym for Children’s Mission Day 2018, a fun-filled Saturday of prayer, stories, games, live music, crafts and Mass.
This year’s event, sponsored annually by the archdiocesan Missionary Childhood Association (MCA) office, carried the theme “Voices in Mission: Sharing Our Story.”
“The beat of your heart is like the rhythm of a drum. We are all connected!” said Oba William King, a musical storyteller based in Houston, discussing the bond all human beings share as God’s beloved children.
King played drums as a backup track while sharing a folk story about three eaglets that had been stolen from their nest, separated from their parents and raised in a coop alongside chickens.
The eaglets grew up assuming that just like the chickens around them, they couldn’t fly that well and had to content themselves with scratching around in the dirt. Two of the eaglets ultimately were able to find their wings and reach their potential, but the third refused to believe in his gifts and remained land-bound.
“Sometimes your friends might laugh at you, but know that you have the spirit of a great eagle,” King told his young audience. “If you don’t try to (discern, develop and use your gifts), there’s nothing I or anyone else can do to help you.”
Father James Jeanfreau, director of the archdiocesan Pontifical Mission Societies Office and pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Marrero, shared a story from a mission trip he made to Mexico as a young priest.
Assuming he was going to Mexico as a sort of “savior” for its people, Father Jeanfreau leapt at the opportunity to build a sturdier house for a blind man named Juan Sanchez. The priest was proud of his carpentry work – until he visited Sanchez in his new house the next day and discovered that the blind man had busted out the windows Father Jeanfreau had just installed.
“He wanted fresh air!” Father Jeanfreau said. “He was blind! He didn’t need windows!”
“Juan Sanchez changed the way we (missionaries)looked at ourselves. Others see the world in different ways from us,” he said. “Juan Sanchez saw the world without eyes, but he saw the world. He taught us to be more respectful.”
Father Jeanfreau said another lesson was learning that mission work is less about “the things we do” for the poor and marginalized, and more about “the company we provide.”
“The people we met in Mexico were happy that we had given up our summer vacation because it told them that they were valued,” he said.
Activity stations included the making of World Mission Rosary bracelets – their color-coded beads reminding children to pray for their peers in each part of the world; and two musical workshops: Drummers Oba Williams King and Mark Vaughn taught the children basic drum technique as they sat at individual drums arranged in a large circle; and the sung parts of the Mass were practiced with local music minister Roberto Matthews – to increase participation in the day’s concluding liturgy, celebrated by Archbishop Gregory Aymond.
The MCA also announced the following contests, open to children enrolled in an archdiocesan elementary school or parish school of religion:
• A toy contest (deadline Feb. 15) asking entrants to create drums out of recycled cans, plastic buckets and other types of containers.
• An art contest (deadline April 15) challenging children to create next year’s Children’s Mission Day T-shirt logo.
For more information, call 527-5773.
Beth Donze can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.