Continuing the Mission

by Matthew Smith

North Texas Catholic

February 3, 2020

Brijil Lawrence Brijil Lawrence
Father Brijil Lawrence, SAC ( NTC/Juan Guajardo )

Bishop Michael Olson recently named Father Brijil Lawrence, SAC, as the new director of Propagation of the Faith for the Diocese of Fort Worth as well as chairman of the Diocesan Mission Council. Fr. Lawrence also serves as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Abbott and Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Penelope.

Originally from India, Fr. Lawrence said he’s only been in Texas a short time.

“Texas is new every day,” Fr. Lawrence joked. “Starting with the weather. But I love this place.”

Hot weather being common in India, Texas summers don’t bother him, though he admits the transition involved a bit of culture shock.

“It’s a huge change, of course,” Fr. Lawrence said. “But as one preparing for missionary priest life I was already exposed to different cultures. India is a multicultural country. As part of our formation we moved from one place to another, at least six different states. So, I had already been exposed to different cultures and, as missionary priests, we are open to experiencing new cultures.”

In addition, the priest has enjoyed eating steaks and living in Willie Nelson’s hometown of Abbott. “Also, the history of the two parishes,” Fr. Lawrence said. “The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is 110 years old, and Immaculate Heart will soon be 75.”

Fr. Lawrence was ordained eight years ago, but knew long before then that he wanted to become a priest.

“What inspired that was living in a Catholic tradition in association with the Church,” Fr. Lawrence said. “Seeing and living the faith and growing up with many people all around and many priests always inspired me.”

A priest in his hometown encouraged Fr. Lawrence to take his time before making such a decision.

“At the end of 10th grade I wanted to join the seminary, but a priest from my parish advised me, ‘No, you finish 12th grade, then you’ll be able to make a good decision.’

“So that was my discernment period and, at the end of it, I knew this was my call. I belong to a missionary congregation, the Society of the Catholic Apostolate, which is also known as the Pallottines.”

Fr. Lawrence said that most Catholics, assuming they’ve heard of either entity, likely have little idea what the Mission Council or the Office of the Propagation of the Faith do.

The late Father Thomas Craig wrote in 2017 that all baptized Catholics are called to mission. The Mission Council, Fr. Craig wrote, began in 1997 to “educate, initiate, and coordinate activities with the goal that every parish will participate in this outreach.”

The Office of the Propagation of the Faith, Fr. Lawrence explained, is a canonical requirement for the diocese. The scope of both offices covers both the diocese and beyond, he said.

“Just as every Catholic is called to [be a] missionary, the way of the diocese is also missionary — both within and without its territory,” Fr. Lawrence said. “The Mission Council is here to help counsel the bishop, suggest ways to carry out that mission and call based on needs of the various groups and places. 

“Then the Propagation of Faith office coordinates those efforts. It’s sort of an office within an office that listens to the Mission Council and helps implement the things Bishop [Michael] Olson would like to see implemented in the parishes and missions. It’s looking at the [Diocese of Fort Worth] and the universal Catholic Church big picture at the same time, because we also coordinate with missions operating outside the diocese.”

The vision is for every parish in the diocese to have a mission council of its own and participate in diocesan missionary activities.

Although many hear mission and think of travel to foreign countries, mission is more than that, and, more importantly, should be accessible to all.

“First of all, you have to become a missionary to yourself before you can be a missionary to others,” Fr. Lawrence said.

“Obviously everyone can’t go off to other countries to do missionary work. But mission can be carried out in different ways. For those who cannot go to these mission fields, they can pray and support missions and missionaries in different ways possible for them. And, of course, mission can be both local and elsewhere.”

Bishop Michael Olson recently named Father Brijil Lawrence, SAC, as the new director of Propagation of the Faith for the Diocese of Fort Worth as well as chairman of the Diocesan Mission Council.

Published (until 6/19/2030)