In 2019, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Pope Benedict XV's Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud, Pope Francis announced that October would, from that point, be known as The Extraordinary Missionary Month - a worldwide occasion of prayer, stories of mission, formation and charity.
This year, the theme of the month is ‘Baptised and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World.’ As his Holiness Pope Francis shared in an open letter, “I have asked that the whole Church revive her missionary awareness and commitment. Celebrating this month will help us first to rediscover the missionary dimension of our faith in Jesus Christ, a faith graciously bestowed on us in baptism.”
A powerful example of this is the work of Catholic Mission - the Pope’s official mission agency – who help Catholics in Australia to live God’s mission in the world. In 2019, their Schools Appeal focuses on a partnership with Nazareth Home for God’s Children in the Yendi Diocese in the northern region of Ghana, West Africa.
Through Catholic Mission, students across Australia are encouraged to learn about how the Church in Ghana is taking a lead in providing life-saving care to children with disabilities and fostering their personal development for a brighter future.
To celebrate Catholic Mission World Mission Month, students and staff from every school across the Diocese will gather at St John the Evangelist Catholic High School in Nowra on 18 September for the Diocesan Launch of World Mission Month, led by Fr Brian Lucas, National Director of Catholic Mission.
Below we share the story of one inspiring missionary, Sister Stan Therese Mumuni, who works in Ghana with vulnerable babies and children, providing them with a loving home, an education and a chance at a full life.
The Mark Of A Mission
When Ghanaian schoolgirl, Sarah was four years old, she was wrongly implicated in the deaths of fifteen people in her community, simply because she had a speech impediment.
In accordance with local customs in parts of northern Ghana, some people in Sarah's community believed the little girl to be a "spirit child". Under these customs, any child born with a disability or whose mother dies during their birth may be considered a bad omen, and their lives placed at risk.
When tragedy strikes in a village, it’s the unhealthy children that are blamed. They are banished, thrown on the street, fed poison and left to die. In Sarah’s case, members of her community, including her own family, became furious at her inability or unwillingness to speak and cast her out, even threatening to kill her.
"I was about four or five... I came here because I was accused of witchcraft and I was condemned by my family and my community." — Sarah, aged 12.
Thankfully, Sister Stan Therese Mumuni and the local Church were made aware of the imminent danger Sarah was in. “She didn’t have the power of speech and wasn’t taken care of,” recalls Sister Stan. Alongside other missionaries, Sister Stan has dedicated the last decade to running the Nazareth Home for God’s Children, a haven where children like Sarah are given shelter, nutritious meals, healthcare and education as well as unconditional love.
At the Nazareth Home for God's Children the children receive a quality education so that they may one day gain employment and provide for themselves. Sister Stan's dream is that one day they will return to their home community and show how the support of the Church has empowered them to develop and reach their goals.
“If we try and empower them with either sewing or carpentry work or catering or baking bread or cooking, at least they can get to a place where somebody can employ them. It is a journey of faith and it is a journey that we are all travelling to,” said Sister Stan. “There were days when the children used to cry, I also wept. So when I see their smiles now, I also smile.”
Under the missionaries, Sarah was able to not only survive but flourish. "She is now growing and growing and becoming better every day," said Sister Stan, who was in our Diocese recently sharing some of her story with members of our Catholic Life, Education and Mission team.
“These children must be given the opportunity to live,” she said. “These people who are throwing away the children have no faith. That was my reason to go ahead and find a place where I can rescue these children to give them life and to love them, take care of them, educate them, and to see how I can try to give them medical support to get some of their deformity problems solved.”
Sister Stan's work includes educating the adult villagers, as well as rescuing the children. “We have priests who are preaching to these people and talking to them to be able to convince them, to be able to educate them to accept that all these children are created in the image and likeness of God,” she said. “The children need education, and that is my mission here. My mission is to get them education - to ask the good people of Australia to please come to my aid.”
As for Sarah, her life is far from ordinary – and more hopeful than ever. The schoolgirl says of Sister Stan, “I like her - because she saved my life”.
We look forward to having our schools come together to celebrate as one community and stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are less fortunate than ourselves on 18 September and be a part of the Extraordinary Month of Mission.