With some frequency, Vincentian priests and brothers are asked what the initials “C.M.” stand for. The humorous reply is usually “constantly moving,” but of course the real answer is “Congregation of the Mission.” This leads people to think (erroneously) that this refers to foreign or overseas missions. But as our donors and friends have learned, the “M” refers to parish or “popular” missions. This was the work that St. Vincent de Paul and five other priests started in the early 17th century as an effort to evangelize the poor rural people of France.

In the Western Province, there have been many models of this mission work. In the past century there were the “Motor Missions,” where Vincentians would preach in town squares deep in the Bible belt South. Other missions were attached to the Miraculous Medal devotion. In 1974, provincial Fr. Cecil Parres assigned Frs. Carl Schulte and Frank Crowley to start the Vincentian Parish Mission Center. For almost 50 years, other confreres have been assigned to the VPMC, both full- and part-time, giving thousands of missions across the U.S. and Canada. Other confreres have had similar success giving missions in connection with their own particular evangelization ministries.

Fr. Pat McDevitt, C.M., provincial of the Western Province, recently appointed Fr. Gilbert Walker, C.M., as the new Executive Director of the Vincentian Popular Mission Team. In announcing this appointment, Fr. McDevitt noted that the province’s apostolic planning process has identified the need for new models and the formation of new mission teams. The success that the province has had over the years will be the starting point to evolve new models that will be successful well into the rest of this century.

Fr. Gilbert Walker is originally from Mississippi and was ordained in 1987. In addition to pastoral work in the United States, he spent 6 years in the Dominican Republic and 17 years in Cuba. Now back in the States, he is looking forward to this new adventure. He says, “I see this as an opportunity to form a team of missioners that includes confreres, religious, and laity. Rethinking what popular missions might look like, we are open to new models, which include multi-cultural and multi-lingual missions, with missioners who will work both full- and part-time.”

Let us keep a few prayers going for the success of this venture, always remembering that the popular missions are the original work of the Congregation of the MISSION!

This article was originally published the fall edition of The Vincentian newsletter, which is available online HERE.