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Commissioned by Christ lives out the call to be missionaries in the world

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After emerging from a life-changing tragic period in his life, Andy Richers was looking for his next path — holy orders or becoming a missionary.

Father David P. Meng directed him to visit Father Jason Weber in Bánica, Dominican Republic. It was there Richers met Michelle Haworth, executive director of Commissioned by Christ, a Catholic missionary organization supported by the Diocese of Arlington.

It turned out Bánica was what Richers needed.

“It gives me what feeds my soul — daily Mass and prayer, simple food and logistics, no electronic connections or distractions,” he said. “It is as much a retreat as a mission.”

Pope Francis named October as Extraordinary Missionary Month to celebrate the anniversary of Pope Benedict XV’s apostolic letter “Maximum Illud.”

Commissioned by Christ is responding by focusing on mission trip opportunities available for the diocese. They are scheduling one-day mission trips for those who want to give back to the community but don’t have the time or desire to do something internationally. “You want to start there, in your own backyard,” said Haworth.

Local trips include broccoli gleaning for Catholic Charities St. Lucy Food Project and going to Washington to help the Missionaries of Charity with their work for the aging homeless population.

“We are reaching out to former missionaries and supporters helping them understand what Extraordinary Missionary Month is about. It’s important that people see their corporal and spiritual works of mercy in the big picture,” said Haworth.

Not only is there an impact on the people they serve, missionaries are impacted.

“I love the part of coming home and touching base with them to see where they’ve landed,” said Haworth. “Some have a hard time going back into their old lives. Some are inspired to get involved in their community, some branch out and do a bigger thing.”

When Commissioned by Christ began, there were only two mission trips — Bánica and Peru. Going into next year, they will have added trips to Kenya, Jamaica, Rome and Nazareth Farms, W.Va.

Father Jamie R. Workman, diocesan chancellor, is chairman of the board for Commissioned by Christ.

“Our mission and purpose is to serve working Catholic adults and families with the opportunity to attend mission trips and by which be better formed in their faith with sacraments and community,” he said. “Our emphasis is on serving and providing that opportunity, which isn’t always afforded working Catholic adults and families.”

Father Workman said the membership of the trips have been representative of the diocese.

“Young adults, parents with teens, middle age and retirees are all on the same trip, sharing the faith, serving and sacrificing together,” he said. “As a small community, they tend to stay in touch and some missionaries sign up for multiple trips.”

Gloria Solorzano participated in the mission trip to Kenya, where she helped at the Mother of Mercy Girl’s Secondary School.

“My decision to go was a combination of things beginning with being grateful for all the blessings I have in my life and I wanted to serve Our Lord in something more proactive, something bigger than my world,” said Solorzano. “It’s something that pushes you out of your comfort zone, in a different environment and a completely different world from what you’re seeing.”

Solorzano found a connection.

“I found that even though you’re from different places, our Catholic faith is universal,” she said. “We’re all the same at the end of the day.”

Being away from distractions helped her find focus and become more conscious of her beliefs and values, she said. “I’m much more grateful now for everything I have because I think sometimes you take so many things for granted.”

Participants on mission trips come back enriched and motivated to be more engaging in their own parish communities, said Father Workman.

“We may think we’re limited by our age or physical abilities, but God gives us what we can handle, then he does the rest,” said Haworth.

Find out more

Go to commissionedbychrist.org or call 571/699-3339.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019