Dear parishioners and friends of our parish,
Greetings and Blessings to each of you from Assisi, the City of Peace.
As you read this letter, I will be concluding my five-day canonical Retreat in Assisi, one of my favorite places for doing the spiritual exercises required of priests every year. I have been here many times in the past. This year, however, the Retreat took on a particularly unique meaning to me because I am now a pastor. The faces of many of you, as well as the needs and concerns of our parish, were pretty much always on my mind as I prayed, reflected and discerned the Lord’s will during the much-needed rest, far from the hustle and bustle of our city.
Having spent most of my days in the quiet and tranquil environment of the Franciscan Monastery here, I felt rested and renewed, physically and spiritually. This short time away has done me much good, as it brought many things that have happened in the last few months of my life into focus. I believe that, in the end, I have gained a deeper sense of mission and a greater motivation for pastoral service among you.
As I attended various functions at the Vatican this past week, I had the opportunity to meet some really dedicated priests and religious sisters who serve as missionaries in different parts of the world. They each had a fascinating story to tell, and their heroic witness inspired me. Most of them have felt a deep sense of mission and was motivated by it to leave behind their own family and homeland in order to serve the poor and the most vulnerable people in foreign lands. Some even faced unspeakable dangers as they minister in extreme poverty conditions or under an oppressive and hostile political regime. These men and women all have something in common: they are filled with gratitude. They see God’s blessings everywhere, and they are enthusiastic about sharing with others even the least of those blessings.
This weekend, in Rome and throughout the world, the Church observes World Mission Sunday. Through this letter, I wish to encourage the fullest participation of our parish, and to ask each of you to support the World Mission Sunday collection at Mass. Each year at this time, we are called to focus our attention on the great needs of the Church beyond our parish and our diocese. As I met His Holiness Pope Francis at the Vatican this past week, I was reminded of the Scriptural theme that he has chosen for this year’s Mission Sunday, “We cannot but speak about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). The Holy Father reminds all of us of our responsibility to participate in the missionary work of the universal Church. In times of tragedy, natural disaster, war, and persecution, many people look to the Church and her missionaries for help and hope. World Mission Sunday celebrates our unity as a human family and provides an opportunity to support the life-giving presence of our Church among the suffering and the poor. In a real way, your contributions today will help someone in need see the merciful face of God.
My own presence in Rome these days is also seen as a sign of that special Catholic unity and universality that we all share in. The Holy Father and the various Superiors at the Holy See were delighted to learn about our parish and what we are doing to keep Christ’s mission alive within our multi-cultural community. They assured me of their prayers for us and for our good works. In that spirit of spiritual closeness, I wish to end my letter with a promise to pray for you and your families in the Mass that I will celebrate this Tuesday morning at the Tomb of Saint John Paul II in St. Peter’s Basilica, before my return to New York that same day.
Looking forward to seeing you again soon, I remain
Yours in Christ,
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham