The Children’s Kingdom

This year we celebrate 100 years of Columban mission around the world! We invite you to join us in living out the Columban spirit in your local community.

The Columbans have produced a free toolkit packed with 100 ideas for #SharingGospelJoy: for example, accompanying migrants, deepening your relationship with creation, or building friendships with other faith communities.

Inspired by this resource, and reflecting on 100 years of Columban mission, Nancy Brouillard McKenzie shares how she shares the Gospel joy with children and young adults.

by Nancy Brouillard McKenzie

People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them, and when the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. Jesus, however, called the children to himself and said, “Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” 

Luke: 18:15-17

On February 27, 2018, the faith community marched on Capitol Hill for a “National Catholic Day of Action with Dreamers.” We urged Congress to pass legislation protecting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, and all Dreamers, from deportation. Accompanying Dreamers on their journey is one of four practices that the Columban Center recommends for defending migrants in 2018.

My call to missionary discipleship compelled me to march that day for all children and affirm their right to the kingdom of God (Evangelii Gaudium #120). While marching, I imagined Jesus from the story in the Gospel of Luke, welcoming all children and tending to the wounds they suffer as victims of physical, political, psychological, or sexual abuse.

Columbans have ministered to abused and exploited children throughout the world for years. While marching, I thought about the Columban Mission Center in El Paso, Texas. It is the home base for the Columban Border Awareness Experience, an intensive program where participants see the faces of migrants, and hear their stories. In the summer of 2014, for example, Columbans opened the Mission Center to welcome the many children crossing the border to find their families and have the opportunity for a better life.

Columbans in Peru also live out this commitment to the well-being of children. At St.Bernadette’s Children’s Center, Home and School, in Lima, Father Tony Coney provides a safe and caring environment for all children and adolescents, regardless of race or religion. Sexual abuse is a major problem in Peru. Saint Bernadette’s trains its staff to identify the violation of a child’s human rights, and what they can do to respond

Nancy marching for Dreamers

While marching, I also imagined Jesus crying for children illegally jailed in “Houses of Horror” or trafficked as sex slaves in the Philippines. In 1974, Father Shay Cullen founded the People’s Recovery Empowerment Development Assistance (Preda) Foundation. Preda protects the human rights and dignity of Filipinos, chiefly women and children. Overlooking uncooperative authorities and their death threats, Preda continues to rescue children and shelter them in homes. Once there, each child receives therapy, health care, legal support, and educational opportunities.  

While I marched alongside the Dreamers - the children of God - in the United States, the examples of Columban priests and sisters sharing their Gospel joy with children and adolescents flooded my imagination. As Christians, we are called to imitate Jesus in the Gospel of Luke and honor the God-given dignity each child has. It is frustrating to me to witness how others abuse children. Encouraged by the Columbans’ witness though, I continue my journey.

I’ve found a few ways to share the joy of the Gospel with children, and to walk alongside them.

Through prayer, we thank Jesus for caring for our families. We can also pray that all children receive love and respect. Donating blood to a sick child is a precious gift of life. Moreover, we can publicly advocate against child abuse and for better protections for children. Marching for Dreamers is one way to do this.

Standing up for justice for the Dreamers means starting a dialogue with members of Congress. In a face-to-face meeting, a telephone call, or an e-mail to members of Congress, explain why passing laws protecting Dreamers from deportation, ending family detention and separation, and stopping the abuse of migrant children ought to be national priorities.

Protecting all members of the body of Christ, whether an adult or a child, is part of what being in a faith community is all about. It is one way we can live our missionary discipleship.

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Weekly Reflections on Justice & Columban Spirituality is produced by the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach. We hope these reflections help to guide you on your own spiritual journey working toward justice, peace, and the care of creation.

Nancy Brouillard McKenzie is an Ignatian Volunteer with the Columban Center.