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Missionaries of Gratitude

December 15, 2019 (514 words)

When the long-time pastor at the small, neighborhood parish where I now attend Mass reached retirement age in 2015, the Archdiocesan office had no one to send us in his stead. So they imported a couple of young priests from South America.

Our current pastor is a native of Columbia, born in 1982, who did his studies and was ordained in Madrid, Spain, on June 6, 2013.

His right-hand man, identified in the parish bulletin as our Vicar, is a native of Venezuela and was born in 1992. He, too, did his studies in Madrid, but was ordained in Escuintla, Guatemala, on June 17, 2016.

Both men identify as Priests of the Franciscans of Mary (FM), “an international association of the faithful,” founded in 1988 by Father Santiago Martin, a member of the diocesan clergy of Madrid. The association has its origins in a group of young people who felt called to live a spirituality based on devotion to St. Francis of Assis and the Blessed Virgin Mary, and to serve the poor on a voluntary basis.

Also known as Missionaries of Gratitude, by 1991 FM began to spread to other dioceses in Spain. On April 13, 1993, the Archbishop of Madrid gave his formal approval of this new ecclesial association. On March 25, 2007 the Pontifical Council for the Laity granted pontifical approval of FM as a lay international association of the faithful, based on…

“…the fruits it has produced in the lives of numerous Christian faithful, thus becoming an authentic path in the school of sanctity and apostolate.

In addition to Spain, the Franciscans of Mary are now present in the US, Canada, throughout South America, Poland, Holland, and Italy, and even in Asia, where they have a presence in Sri Lanka.

According to information found on

The goal of the association is to live and spread the spirituality of gratitude, aiming at helping Catholics develop their relationship with God, basing it on thankfulness rather than the potential for personal gain, or fear.

To reach this objective, those belonging to the association gather in “schools of gratitude” to receive a spiritual formation based on the Sunday Gospel and a concrete commitment to live it out.

The participants, we are told, also receive an apologetic, moral, liturgical, and biblical formation to help them defend their faith and the Catholic Church in a society characterized by secularism and sects. Social voluntary work, evangelization through media, and parish “animation” are characteristics of adherents belonging to the association.

Now, I can’t speak to any of that, since I’m not much of a joiner and have already embarked on my own modest little program of “evangelization through media.” But I can vouch for how our two young Franciscans of Mary priests from South America by way of Madrid, Spain say a reverent Mass and give inspired homilies.

Watching these men execute their office – the way they carry themselves and conduct their affairs – helps the rest of us see there is no better way to live in this world than as a missionary of gratitude.

Robert J. Cavanaugh, Jr.
December 15, 2019

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