Laypeople are the future of mission work

23rd in the series

Susan Nagele
URBANA, ILL. -- Twenty-six years ago, Susan Nagele, just out of medical school, took a leap into the relatively unexplored territory of lay mission work when she joined the young movement of Maryknoll lay missioners. A three-year commitment grew, year after year, until it became her life’s work, a vocation that drew her simultaneously to the front lines of war in Sudan and to the quieter pursuit of a deeper interior journey.

Longevity makes hers an unusual tale, but foreign mission work is one of those staples of U.S. Catholic life that is shifting because of increased involvement of laity and changing needs in the field. The initial impulse to involve laypeople as active missionaries at Maryknoll, a peculiarly American organization, was provided by the reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and its emphasis on the roles and responsibilities of laypeople within the church.

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