Missioners are called by God to cross geographical or cultural boundaries — the church without walls. They go to those needing ministry rather than expecting the reverse. Their focus is on the lost sheep that society shuns. They believe that God speaks, and that they need to respond accordingly. When He says go, they go. When He says stay, they stay. They mobilize and make disciples.
A great example from our heritage is the Italian priest, Father Felix De Andreis, CM. He and his 12 companions were the first Vincentian Priests to come to the United States. They each felt the call to travel, far into a foreign land; to learn a new language; to accept the challenge of doing something that would matter.
Arrangements were made to sail on an American brig called The Ranger, which weighed anchor at midnight on 12/13 June 1816. On board were thirteen missionaries: De Andreis, Rosati, Acquaroni, Carreo, Ferrari, Deys, Dahmen, Gonzalez, Tichitoli, Blanka, Flegifont, Boranvaski, and de Lattre. Before boarding the ship, they made one last break with their pasts: they laid aside their cassocks and donned the black suits, ties, and round hats that were characteristic of the American clergy.
Thus the priests embarked for the United States, where they arrived in Baltimore in 1816. From there they moved west to the frontier lands, first to Bardstown, Kentucky, then in and around St. Louis, which at the time was nothing more than a town of 2,000 people with wooden buildings and unpaved streets. Working with local communities including trappers, Native Americans, and African Americans, they evangelized and opened seminaries and schools, which laid the groundwork for the Vincentian presence in the U.S. Their Congregation’s legacy continues on in our Vincentian Universities; U.S. missions, ministries, and apostolates; retreat houses; at diocesan seminaries; the Miraculous Medal associations, and even via participation in economic and social affairs at the United Nations.
For more about the adventurous tale of the 13 men who started it all, see the presentation below.