Pope Francis and Thomas Judge, C.M. … They never met but they are kindred spirits.

In his message for Mission Sunday 2018, Pope Francis reminded everyone of their call to mission. “Every man and woman is a mission; that is the reason for our life on this earth.” (See My Mission in Life Through the Eyes of Pope Francis)

Ninety-five years earlier, in 1923 Thomas Judge, C.M., a member of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission asked: “What can be done to inspire, to provoke, to lead the every-day Catholic into missionary work in the providence of his everyday life?”

Already in 1909, he gathered a small group in Perboyre Chapel of St. John the Baptist Parish — what would become the home of St. John’s University. This group  became the nucleus of a lay organization that would call itself the “Missionary Cenacle.” He encouraged them to: “Be good, do good, and be a power for good.”

Ten years later in 1919, he said: “This is the layman’s hour”. By 1923 he was even more convinced. He clarified his thought and prodded the nascent organization we know as Catholic Charities with the following thoughts which were well in advance of this times.(1)

Think about how relevant these quotes from that brief landmark address are today.

  • “There is no school, no class so powerful to work good for the neighbor as the general body of the faithful or as we state it, the laity.”
  • “The Bishops are on the eve of their annual meeting. Much of their conferring and resolving can be reduced to one word, the “laity.”
  • “The hope of our generation lies with the faithful. All great movements come out of the laity, to them we look for our priests, for our consecrated and holy ones in every department of Catholic charity.”
  • “The supreme question then is how to get from every workaday Catholic a sense of responsibility for his neighbor. It is necessary to make each of them realize that indeed he is his brother’s keeper.”
  • “I then would like to leave this question before the assembly. ‘What can be done to inspire, to provoke, to lead the every-day Catholic into missionary work in the providence of his everyday life?’”

Thomas Judge CM was a forerunner of the Lay Apostolate. His recent authoritative biography sums up his life with the title “Every Catholic an Apostle”.

Is there any doubt that Pope Francis and Thomas Augustine Judge would be kindred spirits if they met?

Although he was somewhat controversial in his day, today the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission is proud of its son and seeks to continue his call to empower men and women to recognize their mission. (For a recent example of this see Niagara University Empowering Men and Women for Mission.) We invite you to join with the many women and men who collaborate with the Eastern Province today by sharing their time, talent or treasure.

(1) The original document resides in the Archives of the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity, Philadelphia, PA.


This article was first published on vincentiansusaeast.org, the website of the Eastern Province (USA) of the Congregation of the Mission.


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