"Where We Have Been, and Where We are Going"
A year ago, Bishop Boyea promulgated his pastoral letter, Go and Announce the Gospel of the Lord. In it, he addressed the decline in Mass attendance, and called us to respond with new fervor to the New Evangelization. Now, he has written a follow-up: Where We Have Been and Where We Are Going. FAITH asked Bishop Boyea to tell us more about his hopes for the Diocese of Lansing, and for the Household of Faith.
Your recent letter is titled Where We Have Been and Where We Are Going. Can you tell us where we have been and where we are going?
For the past year, we have been praying to the Holy Spirit, asking for guidance. My deep hope is that everyone has used this time to develop a deeper relationship with Jesus, and that we are now going to be very open and attentive to what the Spirit is telling us. I want to tell you that I don’t know what that is – it may not be clear and it may not be right away. That is why we need to continue our prayerful listening – so that we can discern the direction God wants us to take.
Can you refresh our memories on the three sections of your pastoral letter?
First is the Household of Faith – our brothers and sisters who are active members of our parishes, whose faces we see at Mass on Sundays. We need to build up our community of believers, and we need to equip others to deepen their own relationship with Christ so they can reach out to those who have left, and those who have never heard the Good News. As disciples, we must call others to Christ and welcome them.
The second part of the pastoral focuses on the Lost Sheep – those members of our family who have wandered from the faith. We must be witnesses for Christ to them – through our prayer, example and encouragement.
Then there is the Court of the Gentiles, those who have not heard the message of Jesus, or who do not believe. We must witness to them, and to all of our society. We are not to be separate from our culture; we are all called to conversion. And through our own conversion and deepening relationship with Christ, we help society to be its best.
You have outlined several actions that we should take as the Household of Faith – what is involved in each of them?
- Equipping the saints really means that we are continuing to help the family of faith to pray, because prayer is a doorway to a deeper relationship with Christ. We need to understand that we are members of a band of disciples; we are part of a community. Remember that Jesus never sent people out alone – they always had a companion on the missionary journey, and a community who were praying for them. This also means that we need to have the zeal of the Holy Spirit to go forth and be missionaries.
- Pray. We have just had a whole year of prayer! But that needs to be a cornerstone of our lives – it is through prayer that we come to a relationship with the One who made us, and who calls us to himself in love. Prayer opens us to be changed by God so that we abandon ourselves to his will and learn to seek the treasure of heaven. We need to continue our prayer, listening carefully to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
- Parish involvement is critical because I believe wholeheartedly that the New Evangelization is the work of the laity. And our parish councils have a key role to play in this – they are our parishes’ leaders. What greater role could they have than engaging with Christ and spreading the Gospel in a missionary way? Our parish councils should demonstrate what it means to be a band of disciples, and I hope they will see my pastoral letter as a guideline for their focus and purpose. All of our parish leaders, and really, all of us, are called to evangelize by virtue of our baptisms.
- Study is required for anything you want to know. In order to have a relationship with Christ and to love him, we must know him – we must know what he has done. To do that, we should study Scripture and the Catechism. We need to really know Christ and his Church.
- Service and evangelization are inherent in our Christian life. The easiest and best way for us to evangelize – to be missionaries – is to help somebody. It really is true that those who give of themselves gain themselves. It is the paradox of Christian love – to give up one’s life to gain eternity.
Who are you hoping will attend the assembly for Church workers that is being held in the fall? What are you hoping will be the outcome?
The diocesan assembly this fall is for the leadership groups of every parish, our Household of Faith. That means priests, deacons, consecrated religious leaders, finance councils, parish councils, directors of religious education (DREs), pastoral workers – everyone who is involved in parish leadership. These are the people who are on fire for the Church, and we want to help expand that. We want to train people to go from maintenance to missionaries!
In 2016, we’ll reach out to those who are members of our faith communities who are no longer with us and invite them back to the celebration of the Mass and the sacraments that are the life of our Church. We are going to focus on how we are calling them back, and how we welcome them when they return.
Then, in 2018, we shall reach out to the Court of the Gentiles, those who have never heard the Gospel, or who are unbelievers.
Can you give us a look ahead to the other sections of the pastoral? What are the plans to address them?
Honestly, I am not sure where all this is going, but I do know that the Holy Spirit wants us to do what we are doing this day and tomorrow. We need to rely on him to guide us – our task is to be open to following where he leads.