“Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And lo, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.” Matthew 28:19-20

These words have inspired Catholics to abandon the comfort of their homes and families and to travel the globe to proclaim the Good News of Christ’s Resurrection.

In 1837, when Fr. J. Bonduel, a missionary from Green Bay, celebrated the first Mass in the home of French-Canadian fur trader and Milwaukee co-founder Solomon Juneau, Milwaukee was considered a missionary Church. Thousands of immigrants donated their hard-earned money and used their calloused hands to build the early churches in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

That same missionary spirit that built churches here is also needed to build churches in the greater mission field today.

The Mission Cooperative Plan of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee promotes awareness of missions worldwide in the parishes throughout the archdiocese. Each year, representatives of missionary congregations are invited to visit select parishes to share their experience and ask for financial support and prayers. Groups applying to the Missionary Cooperative Plan must be in good standing, and must be serving in foreign countries or a diocese in the United States that has been designated as a mission diocese by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The MCP was established in Milwaukee following a 1954 letter written when Archbishop Albert G. Meyer served the archdiocese.

Archbishop Meyer stated that one appeal would be made in each parish of the archdiocese per year over and above the usual appeal for Mission Sunday.

“Hence, to safeguard the special Mission Sunday appeal for membership in the Propagation of the Faith, no appeals will be permitted in this archdiocese during the month of October. Moreover, no appeal may be allowed to interfere with any of the archdiocesan collections,” the letter stated.

He added that the purpose of each appeal in each parish must be missionary and permitted to seek only a cash donation.

Letzbia Laing-Martinez, International Mission Engagement, Office for World Mission and Society for the Propagation of the Faith, explained that the Office for World Missions manages the program. They receive the applications, choose the participants, assign three or four parishes and collections, and disperse the money.

“The MCP provides parishes an opportunity to put their faith in action by supporting the global Church. We have 160 parishes involved this year. Each one of them has been assigned a mission group to do an appeal between the months of June and September,” Laing-Martinez said. “Some of the parishes have a formal twinning relationship with a mission group, and the majority choose to invite them for their mission appeal. This year, 45 parishes are raising funds through the MCP to support their twinning relationships.”

Before the pandemic, the MCP raised significant funds, up to $540,000, but during COVID-19, the funds drastically declined and they only raised $126,398.

In June 2021, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki sent a letter to parishes reminding them of their obligation to the MCP.

The letter said, “Then as now, MCP has two primary purposes:

  • To support missionary fundraising. When shared by all parishes, the archdiocese is able to respond to a mission group’s monetary needs, without the burden falling solely on the archdiocese or on only the largest or most well-funded parishes.
  • To ensure that all parishioners have their eyes and hearts open to the story of the global Church. Archbishop Meyer noted, and I concur, that in order “to keep the faith alive among our own people, we must make them mission-conscious,” both within the archdiocese and globally. Every parish should experience the missionary action of the Church to learn first
  • hand about the mission reality of our brothers and sisters in faith.”

Following Archbishop Listecki’s letter, the MCP raised more than $400,000 last year. Despite the increase, Laing-Martinez explained that brothers and sisters around the world are struggling now more than ever to continue their programs and evangelization efforts.

“We are getting more applications than we can possibly accept, all of them explaining the current critical situation all mission groups are facing,” she said. “Some groups that have visited us in the past were not able to travel this year, but they are struggling so much financially that our office decided to use part of the 10 percent received from the appeals to provide funding for them.”

The MCP is an opportunity for parishioners to learn more about missions abroad, hear the stories and be inspired by others who carry out Jesus’ missionary call.

“The MCP emphasizes solidarity and understanding of situations that make life so difficult for so many people,” said Laing-Martinez. “It helps us also be grateful for the gifts that we have, and it allows us to give back as a sign of gratitude.”