Paraphrasing Jane Austen, it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a Catholic mother of five children, must be in want of them to have a good job. However, by “good” she does not just mean a job that pays the bills.

I was raised in a Catholic home and met my husband, Aaron, in grad school at the University of Notre Dame. Maggie, the eldest of our children, is a Fighting Irish herself. The ink hadn’t dried on her diploma last spring when she received a job offer to work for The Pontifical Mission Societies USA (TPMS).

I knew it meant a “Church job,” that it clearly had to do with “missionaries,” and that she would be joining the communications team. But I wasn’t fully aware of what TPMS was, nor what she would be doing.

Five months into the job, and days before she was scheduled to come home for Christmas, Maggie had the opportunity to go to Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries, with some of her colleagues. She took thousands of pictures and gathered the materials to write some of the stories featured in this magazine you are presently holding. Now, we are a big bunch around the table during any given day, but at Christmas, we are close to two dozen people, of all ages and backgrounds, so being able to share much beyond the basics can be complicated.

Yet she somehow conned us all to gather in the living room one morning and, bribing us with coffee, cookies, and the promise of a good story, she became the obnoxious person who turns on the TV to show the pictures of their trip to some paradise destination. 

Alas, Maggie had us enraptured with her stories. 

She showed us pictures of the St. John’s School, and as a chemistry teacher for 6th graders myself, I was shocked, appalled even, that children would call these four walls and dirty floors their classroom. How can children learn in those conditions?

But through her stories, pictures, and videos of the welcome they received in each place they visited, we were able to see beyond that initial cultural shock, to notice that despite it all, the pictures featured eyes briming with joy, hope, and gratitude. The poverty she encountered, Maggie told us, is forever ingrained in her mind, but much more so is the dignity of the people she met. From the small (yet far from insignificant) details of the women having their hands manicured, and the children dressed to the nines in hand-me-down clothes that seemed out of place in the humble churches where they heard Mass, she said it was evident that these are people conscious of their God-given dignity.

The more we heard, the more we wanted to know, as a family, about what Maggie was doing, and about the impact of The Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States and the Pope’s missions. 

We learned about the support of over 800,000 catechists teaching the faith in 1,150 mission territories

We were shocked to hear that there are currently some 38,000 men preparing for the priesthood who would not be able to stay in seminary were it not for the yearly scholarships they receive from TPMS. Can you imagine the good those seminarians will do? 

We were also surprised to find out that there are over 26 million girls and boys who, were it not for the support the local church receives from TPMS, would not have access to an education.

As a teacher, I was happily moved into action when I heard they could connect the school I teach at with schools from many countries around the world. During Catholic School Week, we prayed the Mission Rosary, partnering with children from kindergarten to 6th grade. We produced 150 mission rosary kits that we will send to the St. John School, so that they know that God has their back, but so do we, Catholics in America, who are grateful and proud to be members of the Universal Church.