Fund raising effort continues all year
It all starts around the middle of July - next year's work, that is. Our Sisters are still busy coping with the current year's round of Mission Appeals but July is the time to start planning. Dozens of letters have to be dispatched, applying to be part of the Missionary Co-op Plan for the following year.
Replies begin to trickle in and are filed away till there are enough to take a look at to see how the new year will shape up. How many Sisters will it take? Who will go where? Who will go with whom? Who knows which highways from previous experience? How many Sisters can be released from overseas to give us a hand?
The Sisters in Chicago are faced with these questions as they try to piece together the jigsaw that is the MMM summer Mission Appeal effort in the United States.
Sister Mary Ann MacRae says: "Some Pastors tell us they love having us come, but there is only one weekend in the year where they can fit us in. If they are in Texas, Louisiana, Kansas or Colorado, I line them up and try to make a circle so that two people can cover them without returning to Chicago. That pair of Sisters will be on the road all summer."
Last year this fell to Sister Bernadette Gilsenan, an old hand at the work, and Sister Edna O'Gorman, who joined her for the first time. First they cleared Minnesota and Iowa. Those could be done on weekends, traveling out from Chicago and back.
Then at the end of May they left for Louisiana and Kansas, covered a couple of dioceses there. Then they headed to Colorado. Just two churches there, then on to Corpus Christi, Texas. There were two churches at different ends of the diocese.
Sister Edna stayed in Austin, which is quite far north. The sisters who provided hospitality for her would see she got to her church, and then to the airport to fly to Dallas, en route to Omaha, Nebraska. There was still one remaining church in Kansas before they were ready to return home to Chicago.
Mercifully there was one weekend with no appeals where everyone could draw a breath. Then it was down to southern Illinois, to Springfield.
Meanwhile on many a Saturday morning Sister Mary Ann heads out on a 500-mile drive to reach her church, returning Sunday evening. She doesn't use a SatNav but prints the routes from Mapquest.
She tells how on a recent trip she marvelled at the cornfields and rows of soya beans as far as the eye could see. "However you don't get very precise directions in a locality like this. If there is no sun it is hard to know which direction you are heading. With the help of a mobile phone you can contact those who are awaiting you and get directions for the last few miles. All depends on whether you recognise the right barns and silos", she says.
She is referring to Dietrich, a rural community, generous as they come. "Nearly everyone is of German origin. It is very different to a city parish where you could have a little mini-world in the borders of a single parish."
Sister Margaret Anne Meyer's overseas missionary experience as a doctor took her to Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria, where she spent many years serving people with Hansen's disease (leprosy). Her work has given her a wealth of stories and insights to tell and untold zeal to raise awareness of the worldwide mission of the Church. Now back in the USA she does mission awareness work all year round, and last year covered Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Georgia and Ontario.
Sister Paula Smith visited Cincinnati and also Los Angeles and San Diego. Sister Triona Harvey covered parishes in Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin as well as Chicago. Sisters Therese McDonough and Nina Underwood from our community in New Hampshire did other places, including several churches in New York, New Jersey, Massachussets and Colorado.
Others who helped included Sisters Eleanor Donovan and Jeane Lynch, based in Florida; Bernadette Kenny based in Clinchco, Virginia; Mary Donato and Felicitas Egeolu based in Somerville, Massachussets; and Catherine Carey and Mary Shephard based in New York. Sister Radeguna Shayo from Tanzania went to the USA for the summer to lend a hand.
MMM Associates also give enthusiastic support in this work. Nancy Hinds takes on northern California and her own local area around Fresno. Kathy Velakkanan does the Rochester end of New York and Kathleen Albee, New Hampshire.
Sister Mary Ann is Director of our Mission Development office in Chicago. She says:
"We find ourselves always having to revisit the plan. We can expect a few emergencies and arrangements have to be made to pick up what people are not able to do. By the time August comes, most churches have been covered and we begin to slow down."
Slowing down means gearing up for the autumn and winter desk-work - all part of the major fund-raising effort carried on year-in, year-out, by our Sisters and Associate MMMs in the United States, and supported by the faithful mission-minded Catholics who respond so generously to our needs.