Pope Francis has decreed that Catholics around the world will mark the feast of “the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church” on the Monday after Pentecost each year, beginning in 2019.  This is being done as a way to foster “the maternal sense of the Church” and to promote “Marian Piety.” There has long been a tradition of celebrating Mary Mother of the Church and Pope Francis’ own devotion to Mary is well known.

Pope Francis touches a statue of Mary and Jesus after crowning it during Mass in Iquique, Chile, 2018. [CNS photo/Paul Haring]

Francis approved the decree after “having attentively considered how greatly the promotion of this devotion might encourage the growth of the maternal sense of the church in the pastors, religious and faithful, as well as a growth of genuine Marian piety.”  

For many, the month of May is Mary’s month, and Mary is adored with devotions, May processions and celebrations.  People who live in Mission lands throughout the world have a great affection to the Blessed Mother.  Missionaries live by Mary’s example.  They pray daily, they serve those most in need and they follow their calling to spread the “Good News” of Jesus.

We see this example of Mary alive today in the community of Good Shepherd Sisters.  For more than 40 years, the Sisters have worked to eliminate malnutrition, infant mortality and difficulties connected with illiteracy in the village of Magyikwin, in Myanmar. “This area, in the past, was infamous for high consumption of alcohol and ensuing brawls. Today malnutrition, illiteracy and infant mortality are the main challenges.” according to Sister Maria Goretti Lwin.

On their arrival, the Sisters built a small Church and opened a school, providing meals and encouraging parents to bring children to school. Today some 160 pupils attend school.  “The village has no electricity, so we use solar energy and an old power generator. We emphasize school as a better education opens the way to access to Universities and better jobs”, says Sister.

The Good Shepherd Sisters have also started several other programs, like lending money to purchase animals to breed, and then to sell at the local market.  They started asking parents, each according to the family means, to make some monetary contribution towards the children’s education to encourage a sort of self-funding and replace the idea of “always receiving charity”.

Another initiative, the sisters give special attention to a group of young girls and one boy, coming from high-risk families where children are particularly vulnerable to violence, abuse and human trafficking.
Under the watchful eye of the foundress of Good Shepherd Congregation, Rose Virginie Pellettier, the Sisters, pleased at their achievements over the last few decades, continue the activity started almost two centuries ago, helping vulnerable woman and girls and bringing dignity and hope to the entire community.  

Follow Mary’s footsteps and those of the Good Shepherd Sisters, to be Missionary in your daily lives and pray intently for those serving in the Mission lands, that they may bring hope to those in despair.