Mission Matters: April 10, 2018

This week’s “Parish Table Talk”: Reminder – Ecumenical and Interfaith Prayer Service with Archbishop Lori; Why ChristLife Matters?; Word on Fire Community; Project Rachel Baltimore Retreat Read more

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed.

Five years ago, the Holy Father sent an Easter message to Rome and to the World. It is a message of hope. It is a message of love. It is a message for you. Happy, blessed season of Easter!

Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, Happy Easter!

What a joy it is for me to announce this message: Christ is risen! I would like it to go out to every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in hospitals, in prisons…

Most of all, I would like it to enter every heart, for it is there that God wants to sow this Good News: Jesus is risen, there is hope for you, you are no longer in the power of sin, of evil! Love has triumphed, mercy has been victorious!

We too, like the women who were Jesus’ disciples, who went to the tomb and found it empty, may wonder what this event means (cf. Lk 24:4). What does it mean that Jesus is risen? It means that the love of God is stronger than evil and death itself; it means that the love of God can transform our lives and let those desert places in our hearts bloom.

This same love for which the Son of God became man and followed the way of humility and self-giving to the very end, down to hell – to the abyss of separation from God – this same merciful love has flooded with light the dead body of Jesus and transfigured it, has made it pass into eternal life. Jesus did not return to his former life, to earthly life, but entered into the glorious life of God and he entered there with our humanity, opening us to a future of hope.

This is what Easter is: it is the exodus, the passage of human beings from slavery to sin and evil to the freedom of love and goodness. Because God is life, life alone, and his glory is the living man (cf. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, 4,20,5-7).

Dear brothers and sisters, Christ died and rose once for all, and for everyone, but the power of the Resurrection, this passover from slavery to evil to the freedom of goodness, must be accomplished in every age, in our concrete existence, in our everyday lives. How many deserts, even today, do human beings need to cross! Above all, the desert within, when we have no love for God or neighbor, when we fail to realize that we are guardians of all that the Creator has given us and continues to give us. God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones (cf. Ez 37:1-14).

So this is the invitation which I address to everyone: Let us accept the grace of Christ’s Resurrection! Let us be renewed by God’s mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.

And so we ask the risen Jesus, who turns death into life, to change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace. Yes, Christ is our peace, and through him we implore peace for all the world.

Peace for the Middle East, and particularly between Israelis and Palestinians, who struggle to find the road of agreement, that they may willingly and courageously resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted all too long. Peace in Iraq, that every act of violence may end, and above all for dear Syria, for its people torn by conflict and for the many refugees who await help and comfort. How much blood has been shed! And how much suffering must there still be before a political solution to the crisis will be found?

Peace for Africa, still the scene of violent conflicts. In Mali, may unity and stability be restored; in Nigeria, where attacks sadly continue, gravely threatening the lives of many innocent people, and where great numbers of persons, including children, are held hostage by terrorist groups. Peace in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in the Central African Republic, where many have been forced to leave their homes and continue to live in fear.

Peace in Asia, above all on the Korean peninsula: may disagreements be overcome and a renewed spirit of reconciliation grow.

Peace in the whole world, still divided by greed looking for easy gain, wounded by the selfishness which threatens human life and the family, selfishness that continues in human trafficking, the most extensive form of slavery in this twenty-first century. Peace to the whole world, torn apart by violence linked to drug trafficking and by the iniquitous exploitation of natural resources! Peace to this our Earth! Made the risen Jesus bring comfort to the victims of natural disasters and make us responsible guardians of creation.

Dear brothers and sisters, to all of you who are listening to me, from Rome and from all over of the world, I address the invitation of the Psalm: “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. Let Israel say: ‘His steadfast love endures forever’” (Ps 117:1-2).

Mission Matters: March 27, 2018 (UPDATED)

This week’s “Parish Table Talk”: Join the Gospel Choir for the Ecumenical and Interfaith Prayer Service; Ministry with Young Adults; Equip Courses in Spanish; Good Friday Way of the Cross; Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment; Beauty and Evangelization; Sister Jean and the Sweet 16 Read more

Mission Matters: March 27, 2018

This week’s “Parish Table Talk”: Join the Gospel Choir for the Ecumenical and Interfaith Prayer Service; Ministry with Young Adults; Equip Courses in Spanish; Good Friday Way of the Cross; Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment; Beauty and Evangelization; Sister Jean and the Sweet 16 Read more

Mission Matters: March 13, 2018

This week’s “Parish Table Talk”: Ecumenical and Interfaith Commemoration -MLK, Jr.; The Institute of Catholic Culture; The Injustice of Family Breakdown; Maryland March for Life guest speaker Read more

Watch Cardinal Tagle’s Unforgetable Homily on Hope

Hope was the theme of this year’s Mid-Atlantic Congress. This theme came alive in an unforgettable way in the words of Cardinal Tagle, 32nd Archbishop of Manila in the Philippines. His “keynote homily” had the over 1,500 participants sometimes laughing, sometimes wiping away tears, as he unpacked the true meaning of Christian hope. We’re happy to share the video of his homily with you here. Please pass it along to anyone you know who may be in need of these life-giving words of hope.

For reflection: In what sense is hope essential for our mission to evangelize and make disciples of Jesus Christ?

Mission Matters: February 27, 2018

This week’s “Parish Table Talk”: NEW Pastoral Letter from Abp. Lori; Corrie Marie album; Catholic Evangelizing Lessons from Billy Graham; What Church People Can Learn from Elon Musk Read more

Missionary Discipleship and the Emanation of Joy

We often feel the joy that comes from serving our church in the mission of evangelization in our given vocation and as leaders. However, are we aware of the joy that we have shared when we do this beautiful work? Read more

Mission Matters: February 13, 2018

This week’s “Parish Table Talk”: Witness to Justice; Lent in 3 Minutes; Word on Fire ENGAGE; Regional Townhall Meetings with Office of Respect Life Read more

Holy Week: Hispanic Traditions as Ways of Evangelization

In Latin America and Spain Holy week is lived intensely. Hispanics celebrate the passion of the Lord with colorful images and with signs that represent their culture, this ‘religiosidad popular’ is what helps the community accompany the Lord on his way to the cross. Read more

Mission Matters: January 30, 2018

This week’s “Parish Table Talk”:Equip for Ministry in Spanish; Open Wide the Doors; Catholic Schools Week 2018; #ShareJesus: Lenten Series; Given – February 10th; World Youth Day – Panama; World Day of the Sick 2018 Read more

Essential Pieces of the Pastorate Puzzle

It seems these days that every time we open a magazine or read an online article there is more bad news about Catholics leaving the Church. Last week, the Catholic News Agency reported the results of a CARA study about why young people leave the Church. Of the 214 former Catholics interviewed for the study, the median age at which they said they had decided to leave was 13; overall, seventy-four percent had decided to leave between the ages of 10 and 20.

The natural follow-up question to: “Why do people leave the Church?” is: “What can we do about it?”

Thankfully, we do have resources that show how parishes today have overcome what seems like an overwhelming challenge.

Two key resources come to mind: The Amazing Parish and Parish Catalyst. Both of them have studied parishes across the country and identified the hallmarks of vibrant, thriving, evangelizing parishes. It’s no surprise that they both found some of the same hallmarks.

In addition to a “Sunday experience” focused on “hymns, homilies, and hospitality” (or “music, message, and ministries”), The Amazing Parish identifies three essential building blocks for a parish to become “amazing”:

  1. A Reliance on Prayer and the Sacraments
  2. A Commitment to a Healthy Organization
  3. A Passion for Evangelization and Discipleship

Likewise, Parish Catalyst has amassed a treasure trove of information on best practices of “great Catholic parishes,” descriptions of which can be found in the book Great Catholic Parishes: How Four Essential Practices Make Them Thrive, by Parish Catalyst founder, Bill Simon, Jr. From these interviews they identified four essential practices of “great Catholic parishes.” These are:

  1. Great Parishes Share Leadership
  2. Great Parishes Foster Spiritual Maturity and a Plan for Discipleship
  3. Great Parishes Excel on Sundays
  4. Great Parishes Evangelize

Notice any similarities?

Of course, these things don’t just happen without deep prayer and thought, hard work, and tough decisions. They also don’t happen overnight.

Pope Francis wrote in The Joy of the Gospel that “if a parish proves capable of self-renewal and adaptivity, it continues to be the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters.” Here we find at least one answer to the question of what to do about the latest religious trends: if we want the Church to continue to be relevant in our communities, it must be open to change and be able to respond to the demands of the times.

There are excellent programs that focus on personal conversion to Christ as the first step to a parish full of missionary disciples. (For example, ACTS, Alpha, Christ Renews His Parish, ChristLife, and Dynamic Catholic.) But only if we keep focused on all the elements that contribute to long-term, sustained parish vibrancy will these programs be truly transformative. Looking at the daunting statistics on religion today, and reading the stories of parishes where missionary discipleship is thriving, we realize that it’s essential to be intentional and strategic about engaging in this call if we are to be successful. This is a foundational premise of Archbishop Lori’s Be Missionary Disciples planning initiative.

If you need a little inspiration or information to dig deeper into best practices for missionary discipleship, I encourage you to register for the upcoming Mid-Atlantic Congress, being held in Baltimore February 15-17. There will be many outstanding speakers and lots of fabulous resources available to help you. Additionally, the Rebuilt Conference is happening April 16-17 in Timonium. Those who can travel further afield can take advantage of the Amazing Parish conference in Dallas, TX April 25-27 or the Divine Renovation conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia June 11-12.