Mission Column October 16, 2019
In October, we celebrate Extraordinary Mission Month. The theme is “Baptized and Sent: the Church of Christ on Mission in the World.” The Mission Office will feature columns written by religious and clergy reflecting on their work in the Mission Lands as they too, were baptized and sent.
Baptism – Dying and Rising
Reflections by Missionary Father Daniel L. Chapin
“Each Christian, because of Baptism into Christ, must proclaim the glorious works of God” (1 Peter 2, 9).
I have always appreciated my own baptism, celebrated in my home parish of St. Augustine’s in North Bangor on December 8, 1946, less than a month after my birth; my godparents were my aunt, Margaret Mc Carthy and my uncle, Patrick Henry Mc Carthy who were my mother’s sister and brother. My mother, Ruth, and the Mc Carthy clan as a whole were great role models and I was, by virtue of my baptism, introduced into a very supportive faith community at St. Augustine’s. My years at St. Joseph’s Ursuline Academy in Malone were formative as well; it was there that I first thought of priesthood. It was Fr. John Weir, pastor at St. Augustine’s during the 1960’s, who continued to nurture me (and many others) in my desire to be a priest; I will always remember Fr. Weir’s great (and often difficult) work in bringing the parish through the changes of Vatican II.
This appreciation for my own baptism has been manifested over these 47 years of priesthood in countless celebrations of baptism, here in various parishes of the Diocese of Ogdensburg; in our diocese’s mission of San Martin de Porres in Mollendo Peru where I served for 10 years; and now in the Archdiocese of Cochabamba, Bolivia, where I serve as a Priest Associate of Maryknoll.
I love celebrating baptism, this great sacrament of initiation into the life of Christ and the world-wide Christian community. I especially enjoy baptism at the Easter Vigil—powerful, profound. I have presided at many baptisms in many places and under many circumstances; however, I have never carried out baptism in a cemetery! I share this experience.
It was 2017 and I was administering St. Pius X Parish in Cochabamba at the request of the bishop; the pastor was forced to retire due to illness and the bishop had no one to take his place, since it was the middle of the pastoral year; Maryknoll was called upon to help and I volunteered. One of the parishioners worked in the city’s general cemetery—Bolivia’s oldest and largest--which is located within the parish boundaries. Sandra’s job was to supervise a small group of workers who were tasked with keeping the cemetery clean. At the same time, since Sandra was a parish catechist, she took opportunities to share the faith informally with this group, whose members had never been baptized; this led to the group requesting baptism, and so Sandra set up a formal time to teach the truths of the faith, again right in the cemetery—Catechumens surrounded by thousands of graves, niches and mausoleums! I thought of the early Christians who gathered in Rome’s cemetery, in the catacombs.
Following the period of the Catechumenate, it was time for the celebration of baptism. It took place in the cemetery’s chapel. Family members and godparents gathered; Sandra was lector and the music ministry consisted of a man and his guitar. Those baptized were a young, single mother and her two-year-old son; and three teenage boys, ages 14, 15 and 16, two of whom were brothers. Those present were actively engaged and there was an attitude of reverence and devotion. The photos taken really tell the story more than these words, but be assured that this was for me and all present a profoundly spiritual moment.
Confirmation and Eucharist were to follow in the lives of this small Christian community, one brought-- in a place of death-- to new life; for baptism is about dying, being immersed in the waters of death; but being washed, cleansed and rising to a new life in Christ.
Remember to pray the World Mission Rosary….
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