Each year when the Christmas season is upon us, our minds may turn to how we can give to those most in need of our generosity, including our Catholic missionaries. For members of the St. Paul Mission Circle, supporting missionaries has been a year-round endeavor for nearly 60 years.
Based at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in La Habra, the St. Paul Mission Circle is a group of parishioners who raise money to support seven missionaries worldwide, as remote as Africa and as local as the La Habra Life Center. Founded in 1963 by late parishioner Dorothy Wilkins, the ministry has raised more than $357,000 to support missionaries since it computerized its record keeping in 1995. Contact Chairperson Becky Maffucci believes that the total exceeds $500,000 since the ministry began.
Doris von Rotz, who has been with the ministry since 1992, commented, “I feel we are called to bring Christ to all people. I see this as our way of being missionaries without leaving home.”
Founding member Rose DeGeorge continues to be active in the organization at 93 years old.
“My hope is for some younger women to come in and continue what (the Mission Circle) has been doing,” DeGeorge said.
Mission Circle gift shop
The Mission Circle’s primary fundraiser has long been its gift shop, open weekends in the parish’s church vestibule. Staffed by members of the Mission Circle, offerings include current religious books, bibles, rosaries, medals, statues and prayer cards both in English and Spanish. The shop also offers gifts appropriate for Confirmation, First Communion and major holidays, including, of course, Christmas. Simple giftwrapping services are offered as well.
“It’s a very small shop but pretty well packed with things,” Maffuci said. “We kind of run the gamut.”
The shop was one of the ministry’s earliest fundraisers. Observing that religious articles and books were hard to find locally at the time, its members requested and received permission from then-pastor Fr. David Coleman to place a glass-enclosed counter in front of the church each Sunday.
When a new church was built for the parish years later, pastor Fr. Justin MacCarthy included in a permanent space for the shop in a small corner of the church vestibule in the building plans.
From cooking to quilting
In a writing a brief memoir about the Mission Circle in 2004, founding member Kay Volgstadt recalled The Mission Circle’s first fundraiser being a steak dinner. In a last-minute decision, her husband offered to donate paint to coat the exterior of a parishioner’s house as a raffle prize, bringing in additional donations for the new ministry.
While the steak dinner became an annual Mission Circle tradition that endured for decades, additional fundraising events over the years have included barbecues, crab dinners, high teas, and patios sales.
The COVID-19 pandemic curbed the ministry’s social events, but the annual raffling off of a quilt made by Mission Circle members in recent years has been a significant revenue-generator for the
The ministry is also supported by the Mission Co-op in the Diocese of Orange, which allows members of different missionary organizations to make appeals at parishes throughout the diocese every year.
Donations raised by the appeal are distributed among mission groups approved by the Diocese.
An array of missionaries Maffucci noted that the Mission Circle keeps in contact throughout the year with the missionaries it supports, receiving letters and pictures from each of them and learning how their donations are being used to support those in need.
“We love our missionaries just so much, and it’s such a connection there,” Maffucci said. “When you read about some of these missionaries and some of the things that they are doing very quietly, they go by doing. Simple things like clean water – that we can help a missionary get clean water to people – it’s amazing. It’s very touching for all of us.”
The roster of missionaries supported by Mission Circle has changed over the years, and the ministry currently supports seven different missionaries.
Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta co-founded The Missionaries of Charity Brothers in 1963, coincidentally the same year that St. Paul Mission Circle was founded. Currently, the Mission Circle assists the Missionaries of Charity Brothers in Los Angeles, which provides blankets and food, advice and counseling to the homeless.
The Mission Circle supports two Consolata Missionaries in Marsabit, Kenya, and Tete, Mozambique, as well as the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in Botswana. It also assists Ninos Don Bosco in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico, and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in Canto Chico, Peru.
Most locally, the Mission Circle funds the La Habra Life Center, which offers free pregnancy screening and referrals as well as maternity supplies.
“The little bit that we can do to be able to do so much for so many people, it’s just amazing to me,” Maffucci said.