On February 22, 1922 Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti became Pope taking the name Pius XI.
In 1926 Pope Pius XI instituted Mission Sunday for the whole Church. This day is a day set aside every year on the second to-the-last Sunday of October, for the Catholic Church throughout the world to publicly renew its commitment to the missionary movement and as a day of prayer for the missions. Now known as World Mission Sunday, all local Churches celebrate it as the feast of catholicity and universal solidarity in order that Catholic Christians, the world over, will recognize their common responsibility with regard to the evangelization of the world.
Since 1927, a worldwide collection takes place at all Mission Sunday Masses which then goes entirely to support churches, hospitals, schools and vocations in countries where the Church is new, young or poor. In addition, through our prayers we support missionaries everywhere in spreading the Good News.
Pope Pius XI changed the priorities for missionary activity in the Church. “At his accession, not a single missionary diocese was presided over by an indigenous bishop. By 1939, there were forty.”
The missionaries of Berriz left the papal closure of their convent for the missions for the first time on September 19, 1926. A little over a month later, October 24, 1926 the first Mission Sunday was celebrated.
Seven years later on October 28, 1933, Mother Margarita traveled to Rome and had an audience with Pope Pius XI. She presented him with an album detailing the beginnings of the new institute’s first four missions: Wuhu, China (November 5,1926), Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands (March 4,1928) , Japan (September 23,1928) and Pohnpei, Eastern Caroline Islands (November 11,1928).
Having solidly established the new missionary institute, Mother Margarita was then called to eternal life with God on July 23, 1934.
Just two years later in 1936, Mother Margarita’s promise was fulfilled to send sisters (left undone with her passing) to the island of Fefan in Truk, Eastern Caroline Islands (now Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia). Sr. Ursula Matsunaga, the first Mercedarian vocation from Saipan, was one of those first sisters sent to Chuuk.
What followed were years of war, persecution, imprisonment and expulsions. There were long periods of time without any communication or opportunities for visitations between Berriz and its missions. In addition, typhoons and bombings destroyed much of the fruit of the early missionaries’ efforts.
A time of rebuilding and expansion then began with the Institute being established in:
United States (1946), Mexico (1948), Taiwan (1953), Rome (1956), Palau, Western Caroline Islands (1959), Congo, Africa (1964), Nicaragua, Central America (1965), Guam, Mariana Islands (1967), Bolivia, South America (1968), Ecuador, South America (1968), Peru, South America (1970), Philippines (1970), Guatemala, Central America (1971), Zambia, Africa (2003). All of these foundations remain till this day, except Bolivia and Nicaragua which needed to be closed in 1985 and 2016, respectively.
The fruitfulness of Mother Margarita’s life continues in the world. With the approval of one miracle through Mother Margarita’s intercession, the Church beatified (made Blessed) Mother Margarita in her home city of Bilbao, Spain. The ceremony took place on Mission Sunday in 2006. Today, we continue to pray for the approval of a second miracle which is needed in order for Blessed Margarita Maria Maturana to be recognized by the Church as a Saint. In God’s time, should a second miracle occur, there indeed may be “A Saint for Our Islands”.
On this World Mission Sunday 2018, Pope Francis’ Message succinctly proclaims the on-going missionary mandate in its four subtitles: Life is a mission. We proclaim Jesus Christ. Transmitting the faith to the ends of the earth. Bearing witness to love.
May his message to each of us, today, touch our hearts and transform our lives, even as the call to mission did for Mother Margarita. Let us also continue to pray to Mother Margarita for her powerful intercession to God on our behalf.