In recent centuries thousands of missionaries have set out from Europe to bring the Catholic Faith to the rest of the world. They have come from Italy, France, Ireland, Spain and many other countries to bring the knowledge and love of Christ to distant places by means of their preaching and actions, including the establishment of schools, universities and hospitals.
More recently, however, there has been an ironic twist. For with the practice of the Faith and number of priestly and religious vocations diminishing dramatically in the West the erstwhile mission countries in Africa and Asia have been reversing the previous order and are themselves sending missionaries to reconvert the West, including Australia.
Many Australian parishes nowadays are blessed with priests from such countries as the Philippines, Vietnam, India and Nigeria.
An example of this phenomenon is the parish of Our Lady of the Rosary, Kenmore, in the Brisbane Archdiocese which now has as its parish priest Fr Francis Onwunali from Nigeria. Father Francis was ordained twelve years ago, came to Australia in 2007, and was appointed to Our Lady of the Rosary parish last year.
The previous parish priest had kindly left a considerable amount of money to refurbish the parish office complex but Fr Francis decided it would be better to use the money to construct a chapel for Eucharistic Adoration.
Parishioners agreed and donated such an abundance of time and materials that the chapel was swiftly constructed at minimal cost.
The Gospel for a recent Sunday in July was that of St Luke where the Apostles asked Our Lord to teach them to pray. Fr Francis took this opportunity to teach his parishioners how to pray, reminding them in the parish bulletin that prayer is simply communicating with God who is a loving Father interested in every detail of their lives.
He encouraged the women of the parish to participate in a retreat being conducted that weekend and invited everyone to pick up a leaflet at the back of the church exhorting them to spend time in Eucharistic Adoration.
Beautifully produced in full colour, the leaflet has a monstrance on the cover above the words: "Jesus waits for us in this Sacrament of Love". On the inside cover Fr Francis lists "25 Ways to spend an hour with Jesus" (see box below).
The leaflet also contains in coloured print the following quotes:
"When you look at the crucifix you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now." (Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whose order of nuns blossomed worldwide once they began Eucharistic Adoration.)
"It is pleasant to spend time with Him, to lie close to His breast like the Beloved Disciple and to feel the infinite love present in His heart. How can we not feel a renewed need to spend time in spiritual converse, in silent adoration, in heartfelt love before Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament? Such adoration is a sign of gratitude, an expression of love and an acknowledgement of the Lord's presence." ( Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Pope John Paul II.)
"In a world where there is so much noise, so much bewilderment, there is a need for silent adoration of Jesus concealed in the Host. Be assiduous in the prayer of adoration and teach it to the faithful. It is a source of comfort and light, particularly to those who are suffering." (Pope Benedict XVI at a meeting with Roman clergy on 2 March 2006.)
The Adoration Chapel is open from 8am to 7pm Monday to Friday and for several hours on Saturday and Sunday. All night adoration is held once a month. Father Francis wishes that there be at least two adorers every hour. Concluding the leaflet he writes, "If you cannot commit to a regular hour then please just come. Come for an hour, or come for a few minutes. Just come visit Jesus. He is waiting with open arms."
There is perhaps no better gauge of religious commitment than involvement in Eucharistic Adoration with its proven track record of stimulating priestly and religious vocations and rekindling the faith of the lukewarm or lapsed.
With many more priests like Fr Francis Onwunali in the parishes, from Australia's seminaries as well as from African and Asian countries whenever any of their priests can be spared, there is some prospect of countering the creeping secularism that has deadened the faith of so many Australian Catholics in recent decades.
Bob Denahy taught Japanese at Geelong Grammar and Girton College, Bendigo, before buying a farm in northeast Victoria where he educated his own children in the 1980s and 1990s.
• Slowly read Scripture until something hits you. Then listen.
• Pray the Rosary.
• Let God look at you.
• Tell Him something that made you happy. Then listen.
• Tell Him what you are afraid of. Then listen.
• Tell Him what angers you. Listen.
• Speak about your loved ones.
• Pray for an enemy.
• Talk to Him about work.
• Sing a song for Him in your heart.
• Promise to trust Him.
• Imagine Mary sitting next to you and praying with you.
• Renew your loyalty to His Church.
• Lean on Him. Tell Him you love Him.
• Thank Him for the Sacraments.
• Tell Him your failures. Ask for help. Then listen.
• Slowly recite the Beatitudes.
• Say one Our Father slowly.
• Say one Hail Mary slowly.
• Say the Creed slowly.
• Pray for vocations.
• Ask Him to show you the next step.
• Look at yourself. Count your gifts. Then thank Him.
• Pray for the world.
• Enjoy just being in His presence.