Our Lady in her Immaculate Conception Patroness of the United States
For Mission Doctors Association and our sister organization Lay Mission-Helpers this Feast day, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, also holds a connection to our founder Msgr. Anthony Brouwers.
As Catholics we believe that Mary was conceived free from original sin. But what does that mean? While conceived by normal means God acted upon her soul, keeping it “immaculate”. And, although the belief that Mary was sinless was believed by many of the faithful in the early Church, the doctrine was not dogmatically defined until 1854, by Pope Pius IX in his papal bull Ineffabilis Deus. In 1846, the United States bishops unanimously chose Our Lady in her Immaculate Conception as Patroness of the United States.
Having been ordained on December 8th, Msgr. Brouwers had a special connection to Mary, and in 1954 he traveled to Lagos, Nigeria to attend the Marian Congress that was being held on the 100th anniversary of the declaration by Pius IX. (1)
It was following this celebration that Msgr. Brouwers, as the head of the Propagation of the Faith in Los Angeles, traveled all over Africa. He wrote later that he had traveled by jeep, boat and on foot, meeting with Missionary priests, sisters, brothers and bishops. He heard over and over “we need help!” It was these requests that were the spark of the founding of the two oldest Lay Mission sending organizations in the United States, Lay Mission-Helpers and Mission Doctors. Msgr. Brouwers dedicated the organizations to the Blessed Mother under this title of the Immaculate Conception and invited all those involved in the program to keep this Holy Day in a special way. (2)
Last year, Pope Francis prayed on this Feast Day http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions/prayers/pope-francis-prayer-for-the-immaculate-conception.cfm From this prayer these words speak to all involved in the work of Mission Doctors Association:
We are in need of your immaculate hands,
To caress with tenderness,
To touch the flesh of Jesus
In our poor, sick, or despised brethren,
To raise up those who have fallen and support those who waver.
Let us pray for each other, for our nation and for the world. May we all strive to follow the example of Mary whose faith and trust in God gave her the grace to follow His will.
(1) (https://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en/letters/documents/hf_p-xii_lett_19541111_cattolici-nigeria.pdf )
(2) (A book on our founder can be found here https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=msgr.+brouwers)