We are standing on two legs! In 2012, our diocese set out on a journey to deepen our discipleship and then transform that discipleship into outreach to those neighbors and friends of ours who are “former” Catholics, that is, to help make us missionary disciples. In fact, one might say that we are never really disciples of Jesus unless we are sharing him and inviting others to know him, and then walking with them along his way.
A good 1,800 of your fellow parishioners joined in a two-day assembly to reflect upon and undergo some very basic training in how to call by name these other Catholics in our midst. They came from every parish, and you may wish to contact one of them to help you become a missionary disciple as well. The key place where all of us will find support for and a challenge to reach out to our brothers and sisters is our parish. And if there is to be a great re-awakening of the faith in our communities, it will take place in our parishes, largely due to the efforts of the laity. I once read an article that spoke of the first great evangelization being conducted by the apostles, the first bishops; then the second great wave was by the priests who went as missionaries into various parts of Europe and Asia. The third great wave took place when the new worlds were discovered and religious order missionaries were especially prominent in proclaiming the Good News. This New Evangelization will require the work of the laity — living and speaking the Gospel message of Jesus Christ in the places where you work, live, play and assemble. Obviously, for this to take place, we need to do a better job of equipping you for this mission. That happens in your parish.
I wrote of two legs. The second is our capital campaign, the first for our diocese in its history. The largest single component of the campaign is to strengthen your parish. I invite all of you to consider how you will leave a legacy that the next generation and the one after that will find helpful for their own faith life. Others before us built the parishes we enjoy today; let us leave them in even better condition for our descendants.
This campaign also will assist in the pension support of our elderly priests, in paying for the formation of future priests (our seminarians), in promoting better adult and youth catechesis and evangelization, in making a deeper commitment to our Catholic Charities, who carry out so much of our works of mercy, and in providing more scholarship help to those in need to take advantage of our Catholic schools. The campaign, which seeks a five-year pledge, will also pay for the 2017 Diocesan Services Appeal, which will not take place, and, hopefully, will provide some starter money to get air conditioning in the cathedral. As you can gather, that last one is low on my priority list.
All of these activities should help our parishes be even better places to celebrate the sacraments and our faith, and thus make all of us better missionary disciples. We had a very successful pilot phase for 16 of our parishes in the fall of 2016. Now, your parish will participate either in the January grouping or the July grouping of this year, 2017. Please be prayerful about how you can make a sacrificial offering, and then how the Lord might give you the courage to reach out to those Catholics out there whom we really want to come home.