Every next-to-last Sunday of October, parishioners and students are invited to help transform the lives of poor and persecuted Catholics around the world by giving to the World Mission Sunday collection.

The collection, taken this year on Oct. 22, is the only one mandated by Church law in every parish worldwide. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is among the largest contributors, raising nearly $1 million in a typical year. That’s in addition to other special collections, including generous emergency contributions to help victims of the war in Ukraine and of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria.

“The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is really a leader, particularly in . . . involving all the school children of the archdiocese, and it really is a model for the rest of the country,” said Msgr. Kieran Harrington, national director of The Pontifical Mission Societies.

World Mission Sunday supports evangelization and faith formation in dioceses where the Church is young, poor, and persecuted. Gifts go to the Pontifical Mission Societies in Rome, where an international committee of missions directors divides them among the works of four pontifical organizations:

Harrington recently visited a village in India inhabited by Dalits — once called “untouchables” – who suffered severe discrimination under the now-outlawed Hindu caste system. Today Dalits are entitled to compensatory public benefits — but lose them if they become Christians.

Msgr. Kieran Harrington, national director of The Pontifical Mission Societies, with schoolchildren during a trip to India last year. (Pontifical Mission Societies)

When Harrington proposed building a school, a Catholic convert asked for a church instead.

“She said, ‘No, Father. We need a church because we need to come together to a place to pray,’” he recalled.

Curious about why she had sacrificed her government benefits by her public witness, he asked why she hadn’t chosen to worship in secret.

She told him, “I realized that, by becoming a Christian, I was becoming a part of a broader community of people who love and care about each other. That’s why you’re here.”

That, Harrington said, describes World Mission Sunday.

“The most important thing about World Mission Sunday is not the channeling of the money. It’s that priests preach on the responsibility of all Christians to recognize their missionary vocation,” he said.

The LA Archdiocese strives to do so by raising public awareness. For instance, on Sat., Oct. 21, at 9 a.m., parishioners at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Paramount will have an outdoor living rosary.

The archdiocese places a strong focus on youth in its approach to the initiative.

“We want to open their hearts and their eyes to what’s part of their Catholic faith,” said Sabrina Lopez, associate director of the archdiocesan Mission Office. “When a love for the missions is instilled in them at a young age, it definitely changes the trajectory of where they’re going.”

On Oct. 17 at 10 a.m., some 3,000 Catholic school students gathered at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels for the annual Missionary Childhood Association Youth Appreciation Mass, followed by a mission fair with food trucks, music, and exhibit booths.

“It lets them see for themselves, and handle tangible artifacts,” Lopez said.

Students from the music program at Transfiguration Catholic School in Los Angeles process into the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels Oct. 17, 2023 at the start of the annual Missionary Childhood Association Mass. (Victor Alemán)

The exhibits included recordings from missionaries who have visited locally through the Missionary Cooperative Plan, in which the archdiocese vets and approves them to solicit support from local parishes.

This year the Missions Office took tracings of their feet to display at the missions fair, illustrating Pope Francis’ theme for this World Mission Sunday, “Hearts on fire, feet on the move.”

The Mass and fair celebrate what students do all year to support the missions.

At Lord of the Beatitudes School in La Miranda, students recently raised $570 for World Mission Sunday through a “Little Way Dress Down Day,” giving $2 for the opportunity to wear casual clothes to school, said Unica Nino, the fifth-grade teacher and moderator of the school’s Missionary Childhood Association.

Some of her students give talks about the importance of helping other children through missions.

“The students love helping out, because they are helping others around the world,” Nino said. “Sometimes children feel as if they can’t do anything, and I tell them ‘Yes, you are.’ You’re donating money that’s going to help children of your age around the world.”

The students also pray for the missions. Every Monday and Friday in October, students at Lord of the Beatitudes pray a World Mission Rosary, with colored beads representing different regions of the world.

On Oct. 18 a Beatitudes student helped lead a virtual prayer service for the missions, in which students from the LA Archdiocese, the Diocese of San Diego, and the Archdiocese of San Francisco participated.

World Mission Sunday is about much more than what any one person, parish, or diocese does, Harrington said.

“What we are doing is helping the Holy Father support the missions,” he said. “It’s about the Holy Father doing this with the help of Christians all throughout the world. Whether you’re in Los Angeles or San Bernardino or San Francisco or Akron or Cleveland, it’s all of us doing this together. This is an ecclesial response to the Church that is young, poor and persecuted.”