‘Mission’ and ‘witness’ are important terms to know when it comes to faith

      I had a call this past week from a Catholic lady who was pondering something she read. What, she asked, does it mean to give “witness” to our faith. And, while I was at it, what exactly is “mission” and what responsibilities do we have in terms of Christian mission? All this Church jargon, she laughed, can be confusing. Those in the thick of things can assume the faithful fully know the meaning, but sometimes, the full import of the words can escape those in the pews.

      Point taken!

      Let’s start with mission. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, mission is a task or a job that someone is given to do. In terms of the faith community, mission is a ministry commissioned by a religious organization to propagate its faith.

      For instance, the mission statement of our diocese is:

      “As members of the Body of Christ, the people of the Roman Catholic community of the  Diocese of Gary, diverse but united  through Baptism and empowered by the Holy Spirit, nourished by Word and Sacrament, are called to continue the mission of Jesus by being a sign and instrument of God’s kingdom of truth, peace, justice, and love.”

      As members of the Body of Christ - of the Church of Gary - we are tasked with continuing the very mission of Jesus.

      Your parish should also have a mission statement, perhaps listed on the cover of your bulletin. Parish mission statements take what we are called to do by our diocesan mission (and most importantly by Jesus) and expand upon it within our own faith communities and beyond.

      From the same source, witness is defined as an attestation of a fact or an event; one that gives evidence. When we speak of giving witness in the context of faith, we mean we give a public affirmation by word or example of our beliefs and convictions.

      Does that mean we all need to become street corner preachers? No, although I guess you could if you wanted. What it means that we need to “witness” to the fact that we dare to call ourselves disciples of Jesus, not on for the hour we spend in church each week (hopefully each week!) but rather in how we live our lives day in and day out. That old hymn was right on: “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love.”

      Do we behave one way in church and another way as we screech out of the parking lot? Do we take care to pass on the faith to our children? Parents, we know, are the primary teachers of our children. If, by your actions, you show your faith isn’t important to you, it won’t be to your children either.

      How do our friends, neighbors and co-workers perceive us? Do they see an example of someone living what it means to be Christian or do they look at us and proclaim “hypocrite” behind our backs?

      Christianity more than a stick-on label! It comes with obligations and responsibilities. And, it’s important to know the terms and definitions.

      As we enter fully into our diocesan synod process, there could be terms you don’t fully understand. If you find yourself scratching your head about the meaning of any of this Church “jargon,” let me know and I’ll do my best to get you an answer.


     Debbie Bosak is the editor and general manager of Northwest Indiana Catholic Publications and a member of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Merrillville. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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