‘You can become superheroes and save many lives in the name of Jesus,’ youth are told at annual MCA Mass.A record 4,000 Catholic school students, teachers, principals and parents attended the Oct. 25 annual Missionary Childhood Association Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, to the delight of event organizers.“The crowd was bigger and even more enthusiastic this year,” said Msgr. Terrance Fleming, director of the archdiocesan Mission Office, which sponsors the Missionary Childhood Association (formerly the Holy Childhood Association) in Los Angeles. Msgr. Fleming presided at the Mass, and concelebrants included several priests who arrived in L.A. to participate in the National Mission Association Conference Oct. 26-28.Teachers and principals said they were inspired by the presentations held at their schools by Father Ken Deasy, coordinator of MCA, who visits more than 100 educational institutions throughout the school year together with members of missionary orders. Father Deasy described MCA as the “younger church of Los Angeles.”“We decided to participate [with 30 students from the student council] after Father Ken visited our school,” said Renee Lannutti, religion teacher at Our Lady of Malibu School in Malibu. She said the occasion also provided an opportunity to build community with other schools in the archdiocese. “This is wonderful for the children,” Lannutti said. “And this is not only about the monetary collection, but Father Ken reminded us it’s about love.” “It’s a joy to see the young faces of the Church together,” added Dolores Ross, mother of an Our Lady of Malibu student.It is the first time Our Lady of Malibu School participated in the event, after which students, guardians and teachers mingled on the Cathedral’s plaza, enjoying music played by a D.J. Lannutti said students collected funds and school supplies to support a deaf and mute school project that Father Deasy has led in Haiti since 2010 after an earthquake devastated the Caribbean island nation.The new name of the organization “effectively emphasizes the missionary nature of our work,” said Oblate of Mary Immaculate Father Andrew Small, national director of the New York-based Pontifical Mission Societies of the United States. “It brings us into alignment with MCA worldwide.”Founded with the vision of promoting and encouraging children and families with more resources to help less fortunate children throughout the world, the MCA in the United States is one of the four organizations that work under the umbrella of the Pontifical Mission Societies. Branch offices are established within the different archdioceses and dioceses in the country. Each year MCA’s leadership selects a project in a poor country and efforts are directed towards collecting resources and educating children in the classroom about the socioeconomic challenges faced by the country natives.In many cases, fundraisers begin with a presentation by Father Deasy, who travels worldwide to learn about the needs in missions supported by the Pontifical Societies.During the Mass, which is the culmination of the activities, the priest urged the assembly to think about the spirituality behind the fulfillment of those needs.“Who is the greatest?” Father Deasy asked the young assembly in his homily, drawing from St. Mark’s Gospel in which Jesus finds the disciples discussing who was the greatest among them. “Are the greatest the ones who got here driving their fancy cars, or the ones who took the bus or the subway, or the big children or the little children?“Jesus came for the people who said ‘I’m the least, the most hungry,’ and he told them, ‘I will walk with you, I will teach you to speak the Word of God, even when you don’t speak the same language of others, like in Haiti.’”Then, after asking three volunteers to put on different hats following the Halloween tradition, he pointed out that, “no matter how you dress up we are called to be Christians. It doesn’t matter who we are, but how we love the stranger.”Addressing needs and wants, Father Deasy asked the students to consider that in countries like Kenya “students have to share the only book they have in the classroom,” whereas “we have all types of gadgets and toys we don’t want to share.” He encouraged the assembly to “be creative” and to “be leaders” during the upcoming “Big Season of Giving.”“You can become superheroes, superstars and save many lives in the name of Jesus,” he told them.“This has been an eye-opener for me,” said Father Donatus Ekenachi, who arrived in L.A. in 1993 from Nigeria to earn master’s and doctorate degrees in education, and has served as associate pastor in different L.A. parishes since then. He will return to his country in January to serve as principal of an all-girls high school in the Diocese of Okigwe.“I will be organizing this type of event there, and attending this event has given me great ideas. This is very very encouraging,” he said.Students and teachers were encouraged as well.“With this event we get to see and learn where the money we donate goes to,” said Armando Carvalho, social studies teacher at Transfiguration School. “They’ve had a really hard time in Haiti and this program of Father Deasy is a very good idea,” said Transfiguration sixth grader Darius Bernard. “It’s good he asked us to share those things that we like with the kids in Haiti.”Following tradition, 10 schools led by St. Catherine Laboure in Torrance were singled out for their financial contributions to MCA’s projects during the 2011-2012 school year. In addition, two St. Genevieve (Panorama City) students and one from St. Dorothy School (Glendora) were among the winners of the National Christmas Art Contest. Their artwork will be displayed during Advent and Christmas season at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., and is posted on MCA’s website.For more information about the Missionary Childhood Association in Los Angeles, call (213) 637-7223, or visit www.hcakids.org and www.onefamilyinmission.org/hca.html.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/1102/mca/{/gallery}