Diocesan News

Father Holoubek Visits Kenya Mission

(SNR) - For two weeks in February, Pontifical Mission Societies’ National Director Monsignor John E. Kozar led ten members of the diocesan mission office family and two Catholic News Service reporters to Kenya. Among the group was Father K. William Holoubek, director of the diocesan mission office and pastor of Saint Mary parish in Sutton and Saint Helena parish in Grafton.

The trip was co-sponsored by the Pontifical Mission Societies and Maryknoll, the U.S.-based mission movement. There are four societies, all of which concern evangelization, though they emphasize different aspects of mission work.

It was Father Holoubek’s first overseas mission trip.

"This was an opportunity that came up," he said. "I applied, and I was accepted and the bishop said yes."

From his work in reviewing applications sent to the diocese by missionary priests who wish to come to Nebraska to make an appeal, Father Holoubek knew that the Kenyan missions were doing great work with the help of the four Pontifical Mission Societies. He was eager to see it for himself.

Catholicism is still relatively new to Kenya, and it is one of the most important focal points for the Pontifical Mission Societies.

The oldest diocese of the 19 in that country was founded less than 60 years ago. Most Kenyans are Muslim, Hindi and other religions as a rule, but the majority wishes to send their children to Catholic schools.

"The Catholic schools have the discipline," Father Holoubek explained. "Kenya is a great testament to Catholic education. Sixty percent of the schools are Catholic, and that’s one of the main forms of evangelization."

Indeed, many of the seminarians Father Holoubek met in Kenya were the children of Muslim or Hindi parents who had discovered Christ in Catholic schools. When Father Holoubek and the other missionaries brought up the New Evangelism at the seminary, they were gently corrected.

"We’re concerned about the first evangelization," they were told. "We need to proclaim the Word of God for the first time."

Between Catholic schools and the work of the Pontifical Mission Societies, children are the first to receive the Good News.

Sister Pauline Andrew Wengeci, D.D.L., coordinates the work of the Pontifical Mission Societies for three dioceses in eastern Kenya. The society that takes the most time, she said, is the Pontifical Society of the Missionary Childhood, known in the United States as the Holy Childhood Association.

Sister Pauline Andrew coordinates a large grass-roots network of programs and volunteers whose goal is to teach children that everyone is a missionary.

Various children’s activities are coordinated in nearly every parish in the region by volunteers. Music festivals, sports and more fill the agenda. Once a month, the parishes have a special Mass in which the children do the readings, take the collection, serve at the altar, lead the singing, and handle other liturgical tasks.

No matter how poor the parish is, the children collect donations to give to children in need around the world. Once a year, the bishop celebrates a special Mass for children representing each parish, where the tins filled with coins are presented to the bishop.

The money is forwarded to the Vatican, where pontifical mission directors from around the world meet to decide what children’s projects have the greatest need.

Special collections are also taken. After Haiti’s devastating earthquake in January 2010, Kenyan children collected $835 for youngsters suffering in the Caribbean island nation.

Every day, the group saw another aspect of evangelization in Kenya.

On their first Sunday in Kenya, the missionaries celebrated Mass in one of the slums of Nairobi. An estimated 800,000 people are crammed into a few thousand acres. Imagine four times the population of Lincoln living in an area that’s roughly the size of York.

The people live in tin shacks, typically without plumbing or electricity. Jobs are scarce, and the people willingly walk for miles to work.

But at Mass, Father Holoubek said, the people put on their finest clothes and sing their hearts out in thanksgiving to the Lord.

"They were all dressed up," Father Holoubek marveled. "It was the middle of summer, no air conditioning, and the men were in ties and long-sleeved shirts. Some were wearing coats. The women were dressed up in joyfully colored dresses – they came to celebrate."

As music is a big part of their culture, the Kenyans sing their way through Mass. There are songs of welcome, songs for processing the gospel, songs for thanksgiving and son on.

"They sing every opportunity they can," Father Holoubek chucked. "They live a very difficult life, and the chance to come together and rejoice and celebrate is like an escape…They yearn for that."

Another day took the team to St. Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary in Langata. There, 125 young men are in the theology program, preparing to serve their people as priests with the help of another one of the societies, the Society of Saint Peter Apostle.

The group visited many different missionary projects in Kenya, including the Ukweli Home of Hope, which houses 25 street children. Managed by the Little Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, the home was moved out of Nirobi’s largest slum in to escape overcrowding, water shortages and – worse – the temptations of drugs that many of the boys struggled against.

Today, the boys live in small concrete and corrugated tin buildings on the grounds of the headquarters of the sisters. They are encouraged to prove that they are no longer street boys, and some have even gone on to college.

The boys performed skits for their visitors, talked sports (including Kenyan winners of the Boston Marathon) and traded high-fives. As the missionaries were preparing to leave, Father Holoubek wanted to give each of the boys something, but he thought he had only a handful of Miraculous Medals blessed by the pope left in his bag.

He counted and found that he had 26 medals left. One extra.

"Our Mother wanted these boys to have these medals," Father Holoubek said.

Happily, he made sure each boy received a medal and taught them the prayer to go with it.

Now back in Nebraska, Father Holoubek is grateful for his opportunity to travel to Kenya.

"It was a wonderful gift, he said. "I’m very thankful that the bishop allowed me to go… and to Father (Christopher) Kubat and Father (Troy) Schweiger who tended to the parishes."

The lessons he learned in Kenya will stay with him for a long time.

"The main one is prayer, just pray for the missions," he said. "Pray for them, that they may come to know Christ, grow in the faith and continue to have the sustenance of life."

He continued, "The second is that through the Church’s mission societies, we do have a incredible impact, reaching out to those that many times nobody else can get to."

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Pontifical Missions Societies Share Faith Around the World

By S.L. Hansen

(SNR) - As director of the mission office for the Diocese of Lincoln, Father K. William Holoubek works with the Pontifical Missions Society.

He explains the purpose of the society in an easy way. Missions, he says, has two goals: "One is belief and one is relief."

The Pontifical Missions Societies has four different areas of focus so that needs for both "relief" and "belief" can be met worldwide. The Holy Childhood Association encourages children to help relieve the needs of other children, while the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the Society of Saint Peter the Apostle and the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious promote the Catholic faith in various ways.

Founded in 1822, the Society for the Propagation of the Faith began with a young laywoman in Lyons, France.

Pauline Jaricot was inspired by tales of missionary work in China. She felt called to assist in the Church’s worldwide missionary efforts, but she was never able to travel on a mission herself.

Instead, Miss Jaricot started "circles of ten" - friends and co-workers who would agree to pray daily for the Missions and sacrifice one penny per week. At the time was a significant sum.

Today, Catholics all over the world contribute their prayers and monetary sacrifices to the General Fund of the Propagation of the Faith, generally collected on the third Sunday of October each year, although contributions can be made at any time. This cooperative effort has become the basic means of support for the Catholic Church’s entire worldwide Missions.

The Catholic Church’s primary missionary effort at the time, apart from China, was the United States. Many French priests and bishops had journeyed to the relatively "New World" to establish U.S. parishes.

In 1839, Bishop Charles de Forbin-Janson sailed across the Atlantic to visit these fledgling parishes. His intention was to gather information to share with his countrymen, inspiring them to support the missions.

Bishop Forbin-Janson visited New York, Baltimore, New Orleans and Canada on horseback over the next two years. When he returned to France, he determined to "arouse great interest for the useful work of the Propagation of the Faith," an organization started by his old friend, Pauline Jaricot.

Speaking with her in 1843, the bishop shared his own longtime dream – to help the children of the Missions. He was convinced that though these children appeared to be needy, the richness of their faith and love would enable them to play a part in the Church’s mission.

Thus, the Holy Childhood Association (HCA) was born. Initially, Bishop Forbin-Janson appealed to the children of France to support needy Catholic children in the U.S. and Canada. Now, children all over the world pray for and send money to the world’s poorest children.

In 1889, a French missionary bishop working in Japan wrote Stephanie Bigard and her daughter Jeanne, asking for their help in keeping his seminary open. He was working with a group of promising young Japanese men, but he was out of funds.

The Bigards started a small group in their hometown of Caen, France, which would later become the Society of St. Peter Apostle. Within five years, the Bigards and their group were also sending funds to seminaries in India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Korea and China.

By inviting individuals to support the education of seminarians and men and women religious, the Society of St. Peter is helping bolster the Catholic faith in developing countries. According to the organization’s web site, some 30,000 major seminarians, mostly in Africa and Asia, receive an annual subsidy of $700 per student from the Society.

Father Holoubek noted how important this effort is to Catholics the world over.

"The Church can’t become stable within a country until they have indigenous priests and religious," he said.

In 1916, Father Paolo Manna was an Italian missionary serving in Myanmar (then called Burma). Through his work, he developed a vision for an organization that would help him encourage priests and religious to support the missions – and perhaps become missionaries themselves. Father Manna wanted others to share the spiritual graces he had received through his work in missions.

So, he formed the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious. Today, this spiritual apostolate helps Catholics understand their baptismal responsibility for the church’s missionary work.

To an extent, the success of the efforts of the three other missionary societies depends on the vitality of the Missionary Union. Priests, religious, seminarians, pastoral leaders and religious education instructors develop and nurture a spirit of prayer and generous sacrifice on behalf of the missions.

As Father Holoubek pointed out, each person can support the branch of the Pontifical Missions Societies that they find most appealing.

"If they wanted to help the children, give to the Holy Child association," he said. "If they want to help seminaries or convents, they can support the Society for St. Peter the Apostle, and so on.

To make a donation, simply write a check earmarked for the society of your choosing and send it to the mission office in care of Father William Holoubek.

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‘The Poor are a Blessing to Us’

By S.L. Hansen

(SNR) - Returning to Nebraska after 10 days in Kenya, Father K. William Holoubek can’t get over the joy. No matter how meager the conditions, it seemed that every resident of every "informal settlement" he visited exuded joy.

"Informal settlement," he explained, is another term for "slum."

"It’s kind of an odd experience walking in," he said. "You’re shocked, but you’re not shocked… Maybe because they’re so welcoming."

He recounted how the missionary group would drive into a community and be met with smiling children who chanted, "How are you, how are you?" in happy tones.

"It’s no longer just a picture in a book to make you feel bad," Father Holoubek said. "It’s real people, living a life the best they can."

The slums are crowded with tin shacks, measuring perhaps 100 square feet, by Father Holoubek’s reckoning. In the 2- or 3-foot space between the shacks, sewage would be running freely. A few homes were equipped with electricity, but most went without.

Automobiles are scarce.

"Whenever we drove out or walked on the street, we always met people walking," Father Holoubek remembered. He recalled schoolchildren leaving their homes at 6 a.m. for an hour-long walk to school, and workers who walked up to three hours to get to work.

"I asked why they didn’t take the bus, and they told me that the bus would cost more than they made in a day," Father Holoubek said.

"I was just so struck by this – we jump the car to drive a few blocks, and they walk for miles every day," he added. "And they make it a joyful sacrifice."

The idea of "joyful sacrifice" was a reoccurring theme for Father Holoubek. At a Mass for thousands of poor children, he said, collecting the offering gifts took nearly 20 minutes, as children placed what they could in the baskets: a candle, a little bag of salt, some mangos, a head of cabbage.

Valuable sacrifices, Father Holoubek said, "to give to children who have even less than they do."

He quoted Pope John Paul II, "Nobody is too poor to give, and nobody is too rich to receive."

Shortly after his return, Father Holoubek was speaking with some Catholic schoolchildren in the Diocese of Lincoln about the joy he saw in the Kenyan children who lived with slums.

One child asked, "How can they be so happy if they don’t have anything?"

Glad to be asked such a good question, Father Holoubek let the children ponder their own answers. One girl answered, "They have God." Another child offered, "They have their moms and dads."

Father Holoubek agreed. "I said, ‘Yeah, they know what’s important, and that’s what they really appreciate.’"

The trip to Kenya with the Society for the Propagation of Faith was Father Holoubek’s first mission trip overseas, and he’s so grateful to have had the opportunity to witness the good that is accomplished by missions first-hand.

"It’s something that sticks with you," he said. "You want to help others come to a deeper understanding of their roles as Christians, and also the gift that we have in the poor."

He continued, "Christ said the poor are always with you, and Saint Paul said that there is a double thanksgiving when we give to the poor," (a reference to 2 Corinthians 9:11-14).

"The poor are a blessing to us," Father Holoubek said. "They are here for a reason, so we can all give thanks to God."

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Making The Missions a Focus During Lent

By S.L. Hansen

(SNR) - In his 2011 Lenten address, Pope Benedict XVI encourages all the faithful to, "live the love of Christ in an ever more radical way." Using Lent as a time to support missions can be a key part of spiritual growth during these 40 days.

The Holy Father said, "…[B]y rendering our table poorer, we learn to overcome selfishness in order to live in the logic of gift and love; by bearing some form of deprivation – and not just what is in excess – we learn to look away from our ‘ego’, to discover Someone close to us and to recognize God in the face of so many brothers and sisters."

Father K. William Holoubek suggested some very practical ways that Catholics in southern Nebraska can make missions a focal point during Lent this year.

"Children can make Holy Childhood donation boxes or envelopes," he said.

Instructions and a template for making a coin collection box, can or envelope are available at www.onefamilyinmission.org/hca.html (Click on "HCA Reproducibles"). The society also provides prayers, an annual art contest, coloring pages and other activities on a site just for kids: www.hcakids.org.

Using the boxes, kids can collect coins for the Holy Childhood Association throughout Lent. They might earn money by doing extra chores for their families or neighbors or they could share a portion of their allowance. CCD or Catholic school classes can work together on a fundraiser. Any amount of money is an important contribution.

Adults can make contributions to any of the Pontifical Missions Societies.

"If they want to give up a meal and use that money saved to send to the mission office, that’s one way," said Father Holoubek. "They can also help in their prayers and in their small sacrifices."

 

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