Thursday, July 26, 2012
Mission Stations: Small Christian Communities
In the past most of the parishes would be responsible for large land areas because of the small number of priests. The understanding was that any Christian who lived 4 kms from the parish had no obligation to attend Sunday Mass. Consequently, Christians in these outlying areas of a parish would construct a building to be used as a mission station, or use a house that would serve to gather the Christians together on Sundays for the mission station liturgy.
These mission stations would not have a resident priest. The pastor of the parish to which the mission station belonged would visit the station once a month, and sometimes more frequently, for Mass, and be of help to the Christians for their spiritual needs.
In recent years the number of mission stations has decreased because more people have moved to the cities, the number of priests has increased, the ease of transportation and new and better roads. In many cases, the parishes would have vans picking up the Christians to take them to Mass and returning them to their homes after Mass.
Many of the mission station buildings are not in use today, and have fallen into disrepair. One of the journalists for the Catholic Times laments the loss of these mission stations, which have a great deal of history associated with them. There have been efforts to have the Catholics visit the remote mission stations--rediscovering mission station life-- to see what life was like for many of our ancestors in the faith.
Besides the stations that continue to be used, there are others that have become museums, and places were children would go for summer camp and retreats. To lose this memory of the past, some say, would be a catastrophe.