Faithful Invited to Embrace the Missionary Spirit of the Church this Lent


By Tony DeGol

As we prepare for Lent, it is hard to imagine that our efforts here in Altoona-Johnstown can impact lives around the globe, right?

Not true, insists Andre McCarville.

As the Diocesan Director of Missions and Family Life, he knows the toll the pandemic has taken in already-stressed regions in the world.

As challenging as things are in the United States, the situations elsewhere are heartbreaking, and a solo person may think he or she cannot make a real difference on an international level.

“But together, we can do amazing things, and with God, all things are possible,” McCarville assured.

In that spirit, Bishop Mark is imploring the faithful of Altoona-Johnstown to unite in a true missionary spirit this Lent.

“Let us take this opportunity to reignite our faith, and enter deeply into the Lenten penitential practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving,” the Bishop stated in a pre-Lenten pastoral message. “It is important to remember that while this year has been difficult for us, in many ways the missions have been struggling even more so. As such, I would like to encourage you and your faith communities to continue to participate in two Lenten programs: the Ash Wednesday Mandeville Annual Appeal, and Operation Rice Bowl.”

The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown has partnered with the Diocese of Mandeville, Jamaica, for several years. Mandeville is the poorest diocese in Jamaica, with 22 percent of its residents living in poverty.

“While great strides have been made in the country in recent years, the pandemic has set them back considerably in the areas of education and assistance,” Bishop Mark noted. “The parishes are struggling as well, and our help to them at this point is vital.”

Our diocese also has a rich history of participating in Catholic Relief Service’s Operation Rice Bowl.

“Operation Rice Bowl is a very easy way to go out and fulfill the mission when the pandemic has closed other routes of doing so,” McCarville stressed.

Seventy-five percent of proceeds benefit the work of Catholic Relief Services, which serves the world’s most vulnerable populations.

“Some might make a really astute reply that there are people in our own diocese who need help,” pointed out McCarville. “That’s really true. Fortunately, 25 percent of the proceeds from Operation Rice Bowl stay right here in our diocese.”

Local organizations that have benefited in the past include Catholic Charities of Altoona-Johnstown, the diocese’s Fulton County Catholic Mission, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, the Gabriel Project, and Mom’s House.

Regardless of how the faithful share their time, talent, and treasure this Lent, McCarville has an important reminder.

“We have a mission,” he said. “Let’s make sure we fulfill that mission this Lent.”