International apostolate joins Pontiac parish to share Gospel during Holy Week

For the second consecutive year, Mission Youth and Family are hosting missions during Holy Week at St. Damien of Molokai Parish in Pontiac. (Photo courtesy of Carolina Aguilar-Garibay for Detroit Catholic en Español)

During Holy Week, Pontiac community enthusiastically joins a dedicated group of missionaries in spreading the Gospel

Editor's note: This story was first published in Detroit Catholic en Español, the Spanish-language sister publication of Detroit Catholic.

PONTIAC Mission Youth and Family, an international apostolate of Regnum Christi, is fully engaged in its mission: welcoming Christ into every home and heart.

Originating in Mexico in the late 1980s, Mission Youth emerged in response to St. John Paul II's call for a new evangelization. Since then, it has expanded to 24 countries, offering hope to those seeking life's true meaning and salvation.

The group's Holy Week missions in Pontiac, which started in 2023, transcend mere religious activities; they represent a profound commitment to evangelization and community service. From their inception, they have served as a living testament to Christ's love, reaching out to families in their own homes to share the faith, promote participation in the sacraments, and remind them that the parish is always open to them.

In an interview with Detroit Catholic en Español, Edith Alejandra Sosa Hernández, who is responsible for creating the apostolate's Missionary Handbook, explained that in 2022, a small group of laypeople and a priest, all members of Regnum Christi with previous mission experience beyond Michigan, chose to expand their outreach to Pontiac.

The inaugural mission in the Pontiac area took place during Holy Week 2023, in collaboration with St. Damien of Molokai Parish and its priest in solidum, Fr. Jacob VanAssche.

"Our main objective with these missions is to visit families in their homes, sharing our faith, fostering greater involvement with the sacraments, and above all, assuring them of the parish's steadfast support for their spiritual and sacramental needs," Hernández explained. "Additionally, we aim to inform them about all the activities and ministries offered in their parish so that they can benefit from them."

Missionaries are pictured during a training session on the Divine Will in November 2023. (Photo courtesy of Carolina Aguilar-Garibay for Detroit Catholic en Español)
Missionaries are pictured during a training session on the Divine Will in November 2023. (Photo courtesy of Carolina Aguilar-Garibay for Detroit Catholic en Español)

Because of the community's enthusiastic response and the positive impact on the families who received visits during the initial mission, preparations began for a second mission this Holy Week. It is being hosted again at St. Damien of Molokai, which encompasses the churches of St. Vincent de Paul and St. Michael, with twice the number of registered missionaries and an expanded visitation schedule.

Two priests from the Legionaries of Christ will be administering the sacrament of reconciliation, offering healing prayers, and blessing homes during their visits. Consecrated women from Regnum Christi and a seminarian will be providing spiritual guidance and support to all participants.

Last year, missionaries prayed the rosary alongside the group that is part of America Needs Fatima. (Photo courtesy of Carolina Aguilar-Garibay for Detroit Catholic en Español)
Last year, missionaries prayed the rosary alongside the group that is part of America Needs Fatima. (Photo courtesy of Carolina Aguilar-Garibay for Detroit Catholic en Español)

From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, a diverse range of activities has been planned not only to delve into the significance of these sacred days but also to strengthen community bonds and deepen commitment to the Catholic faith.

"We kicked off our missions during the Sunday Masses of Lent, urging parishioners to welcome Mission Youth and Family into their homes. Those interested in hosting us registered, enabling us to compile a database for organizing missionaries for scheduled visits during Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday," Hernández said.

The week started with a special seder dinner, where Fr. Juan Sebadell, LC, elucidated the meaning of the steps of a Jewish Passover dinner, drawing parallels to Jesus' Last Supper with his apostles. Following the blessing of the olive branches, the missionaries marched in procession to St. Vincent, where a Palm Sunday Mass, also known as the Sending Mass, was celebrated, signifying the beginning of the Easter Week mission.

The beginning of the week was marked by a special seder dinner, where Fr. Juan Sebadell, LC, explained the meaning of the steps of a Jewish Passover dinner, relating them to Jesus' Last Supper with his apostles. (Photo courtesy of Edith Alejandra Sosa Hernández for Detroit Catholic en Español)
The beginning of the week was marked by a special seder dinner, where Fr. Juan Sebadell, LC, explained the meaning of the steps of a Jewish Passover dinner, relating them to Jesus' Last Supper with his apostles. (Photo courtesy of Edith Alejandra Sosa Hernández for Detroit Catholic en Español)
Fr. Juan Sabadell is the spiritual director and the coordinating priest of the missions. He presided over the Palm Sunday Mass and will also be present at the Easter Vigil Mass. (Photo courtesy of Edith Alejandra Sosa Hernández for Detroit Catholic en Español)
Fr. Juan Sabadell is the spiritual director and the coordinating priest of the missions. He presided over the Palm Sunday Mass and will also be present at the Easter Vigil Mass. (Photo courtesy of Edith Alejandra Sosa Hernández for Detroit Catholic en Español)

Throughout the Paschal Triduum, missionary families kickstart their days with prayer before reviewing their house visit schedule and diving into their missionary endeavors.

"Our biggest challenge lies in making that initial contact with the families. Many are hesitant at first to welcome strangers into their homes, fearing we might seek personal information. However, once they invite us in and realize our sole purpose is to convey the parish's readiness to support them, addressing any spiritual concerns or needs they may have, their apprehensions melt away. In fact, some families have requested another visit from us this year," Hernández said.

"Often, during our visits, we encounter situations that deeply move us, and ultimately, it's often us who receive the mission."

While house visits take center stage, each day also includes a brief reflection session. Additionally, the young members of Mission Youth, aged 13 to 22, have diverse activities planned.

On Holy Thursday, discussions will revolve around the Eucharist, followed by a Lectio Divina session centered on a passage from the Gospel of St. John. The youth will prepare to present a live Way of the Cross, a poignant portrayal of Christ's Passion aimed at touching the entire community's hearts. They will also visit a Capuchin monastery to serve the most vulnerable.

Good Friday, a day of profound service, will feature reflections on Jesus' last seven words on the Cross. Following a Way of the Cross presentation at 10 a.m., the youth will serve at a soup kitchen in the Pontiac area, showcasing their dedication to the most vulnerable.

Holy Saturday's agenda includes a Rosary of the Seven Sorrows, accompanied by images, offering a day of prayer and contemplation. Various activities aim to raise awareness and foster commitment to defending life from conception to natural death. These include apologetics talks for young people, street evangelization, roundtable discussions, and guided meditations on the holy days. Additionally, the youth will gather to pray the rosary outside an abortion clinic.

During last year's missions, children and teenagers made cards for mothers who are hesitant about having their babies, encouraging them to trust in God and choose life. (Photo courtesy of Carolina Aguilar-Garibay for Detroit Catholic en Español)
During last year's missions, children and teenagers made cards for mothers who are hesitant about having their babies, encouraging them to trust in God and choose life. (Photo courtesy of Carolina Aguilar-Garibay for Detroit Catholic en Español)

Fr. Drew Mabee, who serves at St. Damien of Molokai, and Joe Tuski from Protect Life MI, along with the youth coordinators, will support activities promoting the Gospel of Life on the streets of Pontiac.

The children of the Mission Family will have the opportunity to attend a daily camp, participating in activities and crafts centered around themes of Holy Week. Missionaries are encouraged to participate in parish services, including daily Masses, the Tenebrae service, and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Easter Sunday will be a time of celebration and testimony as the entire community gathers to share their faith experiences and rejoice in Christ's victory over death.

In a brief video message to the participants of the National Missionary Congress of Argentina in October 2023, Pope Francis compared Christian life to water, emphasizing that when the Church is not in motion, it stagnates. “Just like stagnant water becomes corrupt, a Church that is not missionary gets corrupted,” the pope said.

From meticulous preparation to initial contact with families and ongoing spiritual support, Mission Youth and Family demonstrate an unwavering commitment to the Church's evangelizing mission. As the Lord commanded, "I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth." (Acts 13:47)



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