We need to work with our children, talk to them about Christ, about just how many lives they can change, they can impact, through their prayer, or by making little sacrifices, like giving up that second cookie before bedtime,” said Sister Marie Jaqueline from St. Joseph’s School in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Sister Marie Jacqueline, C.K. is a School Sister of Christ the King. She has been at St. Joseph School for over 15 years, but not consecutively! Currently serving as a resource teacher and para, this religious sister runs a Mission Club that gets together every last Tuesday of the month to make Mission Rosaries and posters which they hang around the school to spread the word about the millions of children throughout the world who haven’t yet heard about Jesus Christ.
The missionary zeal of the community, she said, comes from their founder, Bishop Glennon P. Flavin, who led the diocese in the 1970s and who would send the local priests to be missionaries in Venezuela- much like he had been- to inspire them to reach out to the poor.
“There are poor who are poor financially, and also those who are poor in the faith,” Sister Marie Jaqueline said. “In our school here, in St. Joseph, children know the faith, and we always try to teach them to fall in love with Jesus. Our goal here is not only to make them understand the beauty of who they are as children of God, but also their role as servants of the Father, servants in the Church, servants of Him and one another, and of the Church throughout the world.”
There are some 26-28 members in the Mission Club, and they work hard to spread the word about mission territories, with signs, decorating envelopes for World Mission Sunday (the second to last Sunday of October is the day chosen by the Holy Father for a universal, mandatory collection in favor of the missions), and putting little blurbs over the PA system about what missionary priests, religious sisters and lay people are doing Africa, Latin America or Asia.
“Last year, we gave $3,000 to a school in Bolivia that we found in Missio.org for their education fund, and the year before, we sent the same amount to help build a well in Nigeria,” she said. “This year, we are hoping to send a similar amount to help missionaries who have been brave enough to remain in Ukraine during these trying times.”
The Mission Club collects the funds by holding an annual Mission Carnival on the feast of St. Joseph, on March 19. The event has grown so much, that the student council had to step in and help foresee the project. Conscious of the different realities of each student’s family, there’s no set prize in the tickets or each game: the kids bring what they can, hand it to their grade teacher, and then everyone is welcomed in the gym, where the carnival is held. At the end of the school day, all the funds are counted and sent to The Pontifical Mission Societies.
Despite her love for the missions, Sister Marie Jacqueline is the first to acknowledge that “I haven’t had so many opportunities myself to go to the missions. But one of the patrons of our community is St. Therese of Lisieux, patroness of the missions because she prayed for the missions. Much like she did, our role is to promote the missions with our students, helping them see that though generous giving is important, so is praying and sacrificing for those who don’t know God’s love.”
“Our missionary work is in the school, because there is a lot to evangelize here, but we want to be aware of and pray for the worldwide mission, with Therese as the example: she didn’t necessarily go out to the missions, but she was still a powerhouse,” Sister Marie Jacqueline said.
She also tries to teach the children at St. Joseph’s School to make little sacrifices for the missions, the idea being that, by our baptism, we belong to the mystical body of Christ, and every person in the world is our brother and sister, and we are called to reach out to those in need.
“I always tell them the passage of scripture, from those to whom much has been given, much will be expected,” Sister Marie Jacqueline said. “We are called to give up ourselves to help those in need.”
As she pointed out during a Zoom conversation in late January, the next few years are a time of Eucharistic Revival in the Church in the United States.
“It’s an invitation to see our Lord in the Eucharist, in the Tabernacle, but also the Body of Christ throughout the world,” she said, “keeping in mind this mission of ours to be united not only through the Sacrament, but also through prayer and sacrifice. This is one of the greatest gifts that God has given us.”
Asked what she would say to someone unsure about praying for and giving to the Missions, Sister Marie Jacqueline shared what she often tells her students: “The joy of eternal life is going to be the souls of those to whom we gave a second chance in life, those who we fed, clothed, visited.”
“We won’t know the impact of those 50cents we gave to a homeless man, the cookie we offered up or the check we sent to the relief fund until we run into them in the afterlife and they say ‘that day I had a warm meal thanks to you’,” she said.
“When you reach out with love to someone, you are reaching out to Jesus, because Christ is there, in that homeless person, in that pregnant woman who is alone, in that child in Africa who has no food and in that persecuted Christian in China,” Sister Marie Jacqueline said. “Christ is there, and he is longing for us to comfort him. Our monetary gift, or prayer, our sacrifice, big or small, brings comfort to Christ on calvary. And it is a powerful gift that is ours by our baptism, that we can share in that mystery of his love.”