Msgr. Kieran Harrington, vicar of communications for the Diocese of Brooklyn, has been named national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States.
The five-year appointment was announced April 14 by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, which oversees more than 120 national mission societies around the world.
Msgr. Harrington succeeds Oblate Father Andrew Small, who is completing his second five-year term as national director of the four organizations that make up the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States.
"I am humbled by the trust placed in me to serve the Church in this most important area of missionary evangelization," said Msgr. Harrington, who added that he looks forward to "working with the bishops and dioceses to support the pastoral work of the pontifical missions."
Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, in a statement, called the selection of Msgr. Harrington “the absolute right choice.” He noted that there has “always been an extraordinary desire within him to bring the good news of Jesus Christ, and the Christian faith, to the people not only of his parish, but throughout the world.”
On July 1, Father Small will officially continue his work as president and CEO of Missio Invest, a group he founded in 2014 to help fund the social service efforts of the Catholic Church in Africa through Missio Invest Social Impact Fund.
Msgr. Harrington, who was ordained in 2001, has been vicar of communications for the Diocese of Brooklyn since 2006.
He has been responsible for overseeing the diocesan public information and affairs office and its government affairs and public policy office as well as supervising NET, the diocese's cable station, and The Tablet, the diocesan newspaper. He is rector of the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Brooklyn.
He told Catholic News Service he was grateful for the opportunity “to be involved in this important ministry in the life of the Church” noting that the “missionary impulse” is at the heart of the baptismal call for all Catholics and that the Pontifical Mission Societies aims to “awaken that missionary spirit.”
His own sense of the Church’s missionary role goes back to when he was young and his Irish immigrant parents in New York had visiting Irish Holy Ghost Fathers come to the house, where they would celebrate Mass and take up a collection for the church in Biafra, then a secessionist state in West Africa and today part of Nigeria.
He said the priests impressed him with their “essence of missionary spirit.”
Msgr. Harrington said he hopes to discuss with the nation’s bishops and diocesan directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies the best ways to tell the story of the Church’s outreach around the world.
“Amazing things are being done,” he said, noting the Church’s mission work is not solely about humanitarian projects but also about communicating the faith.
A key focus, he added, is to help Catholics in developing nations or struggling areas to know “they are not alone: The whole Church is praying with them, walking with them."
Father Small has overseen the group's online curriculum in mission theology and its creation of the Missio USA "MassBot" which enabled users to request the offering of a Mass for their intentions and receive messages from the missionary priest who celebrated the Mass and online updates of global missionary work.
During his tenure, Father Small said the Pontifical Mission Societies focused on new ways to communicate the Gospel message by hiring people with backgrounds in youth and young adult ministries and by providing more bilingual materials.
The Pontifical Mission Societies includes the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the Holy Childhood Association, the Society of St. Peter Apostle, and the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious.