Parish Missions an Apostolate to Catholics
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
March 9, 2023
DIOCESE—“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile,” says Jesus to his apostles in Mark 6:31.
A weekend or week long retreat may come to mind at that quote, but not everyone can get away for that length of time. Most of us, however, can take a morning or evening hour or two to rest a bit and focus on our relationship with God at a parish mission.
Sometimes called “home missions” or “parochial missions,” a parish mission can spiritually renew individuals and even whole communities of faith. They can transform us with a renewed love of God and neighbor.
An article in Today’s Catholic quoted a parish priest who noted the need for such renewals and said, “The glow of the lamp, it sometimes gets a little dim.”
Missionaries have traveled to foreign countries to spread the Gospel of Jesus since shortly after Pentecost. But the idea of providing mission experiences to local communities developed later. 
In the early 1600’s, Jesuits and Capuchins established 3- to 4-year missions in places that had become heavily Protestant. Documents of the time, says EWTN’s website, “present the home missionary as one who is restoring or even initiating a Christian environment, as though he were a religious arriving in a region with no clergy or place of worship at all.” Those missions were demonstrably successful and saw many people convert to the Catholic faith.
Prominent figures such as St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louis Marie de Montfort brought their gifts and organizational skills to the home mission effort. “The term ‘mission,’ says the EWTN site, “is an umbrella term covering a great number of fairly diverse pastoral forms of missionary activity, which came into existence and developed over a long period of time.”
The universal call to salvation was combined with the fundamental value of the missionary spirit. The EWTN site notes that the effort was “rooted in a realization of the misery and needs of the population. The missions aimed above all to catechize the rural parishes whose priests did not truly carry out the ministry of the Word.”
“If, after the Council of Trent,” it adds, “so many missionaries were active in Catholic Europe, it is also because the parish clergy failed to break away from the past and to rise to the task of the care of souls. The missions thus inaugurated a great period of ‘Christianization,’ particularly in France.”
It was, it adds, “the renewal of the spirit of Christianity in Christians.”
St. Vincent de Paul recommended to his home missionaries what he called “the little method,” which was a matter of simplicity in preaching — a whole style and language. “It was the return to evangelical preaching, the use of familiar examples, and a direct and natural tone,” says the EWTN site. “The truths of Catholicism were to be simply set out; it meant concern for the effective conversion of souls and an absolute absence of vanity.”
U.S. Parish Missions
The website notes that parish missions have “been a feature of Catholic life in the American Midwest since the 1820s … first observed in Ohio parishes.”
As people moved west, “the Catholic mission, or parish retreat … dovetailed well with the tent revivals and camp meetings preached by missionaries of other denominations.” Catholic and Protestant gatherings were “colorful” with singing and emotion.
“The whole experience in its Catholic or Protestant manifestations sparked or revived the faith among settlers whose practice of the faith was slim because churches were few and far between,” it says.
Mission Ministry Today
A search of “parish missions” shows that many religious orders have members who are dedicated to providing retreats and/or parish missions. Most parish missions begin at weekend Masses and continue for two,  three or four evening programs, sometimes with a morning option also.
Those sessions may include hospitality and community, perhaps the sale of books and CDs.
One site,, notes that the elements of their missions “have been designed and interwoven to work together to provide, by God’s grace, a great renewal experience.”
The light within all of us will naturally dim at times. A good parish mission might just be the spark that can renew us!
Lent is a great time for parish missions. To the right are some that will be coming soon around the Diocese of Rockford.
Shop Religious items at HOLYART.COM