Synod reminds us of the important work to be done to build our legacy in local Church

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on April 17, 2016   

 

       I hope that your Triduum and Easter were joyful, prayerful, filled with family, friends and the extraordinary love of God, poured out in the death and resurrection of Christ! I enjoyed the Chrism Mass, as well as all of the liturgical events at which I was privileged to preside and preach. 

      Special congratulations to all our brothers and sisters who joined the Church this Easter!  We need your enthusiasm, witness and faith. Now we have these seven weeks of the Easter season to unpack the mystery!

      This special time will culminate in the great feast of Pentecost, the sending of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church, which reminds me that next year, Pentecost will be the opportune moment for our diocesan synod. There is much to do before our local Church gathers for this remarkable event. 

      As you know, I released my pastoral letter at the end of February, which serves as an opening reflection on eight principal areas of Church life. The letter outlines some of the blessings, challenges, opportunities and questions in each of these vital ecclesial spaces where we meet the Lord, serve and love in his name and carry forth the mission of our baptized discipleship. 

      Since then, the Synod Commission has been meeting to plan the whole synod process. Between now and this October, when each parish will hold a special time for everyone to gather, pray, reflect and discuss the Church and our future, the commission will be working hard to educate, animate and inspire all of us to engage in this vitally important process.

      Through our diocesan newspaper, social media, parish bulletins and informational meetings, we hope to encourage everyone to read the pastoral letter, reflect on it, pray about the blessings, needs and challenges facing our diocese and come prepared to the parish meetings in October, fully on fire and engaged. 

      To help in this important preparation time, we will focus, in the ensuing months, on the eight areas of Church life in a sequential fashion, plunging deeper into our faith, praising God for the blessings we have received through the Church and asking the hard questions, all in the context of faith and prayer.

      Every few weeks, I will dedicate my newspaper column to the one of the ecclesial areas, information will be offered through all of our diocesan communications and you will see and hear about these themes in your parish in varied ways.

      I would encourage you to do some reading and studying about our Catholic faith. Can you imagine what would happen if every Catholic in our diocese read the four Gospels from start to finish in the ensuing year?  In a few months, we will be launching an on-line presentation to encourage folks to read the Adult Catechism of the Catholic Church; wouldn’t it be amazing if we all read and studied the basics of our faith?  Some of the key documents from the Second Vatican Council, like “Lumen Gentium,” the reflection on the nature of the Church or “Gaudium et Spes,” the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World are foundational sources which ground us in the identity and mission we have received as baptized children of God. The best way we can prepare for the synod is to reflect and learn more about the rich treasure of our Catholicism.

      The world and the Church are in a time of turbulent transformation. In many ways, traditional structures and certainties about politics, economy, religion and values are fading away and it is not yet clear what will replace them. Sociologists call this a fundamental paradigm shift.  We are in a big one! 

      So we can either wring our hands and lament the fact that everything is changing, that fewer people come to Mass or get married in the Church, that the good old days are behind us or we can open our hands in welcome to the power of the Holy Spirit, dare to believe that our best days are still ahead and roll up our sleeves to do the challenging yet rewarding tasks of evangelization, prayer and worship, catechesis, stewardship, social transformation, leadership formation, leading and serving our young Catholics and living and supporting marriage and family life. 

      Are the Catholic Church and our society, as we know them, dying or are they being born? As believers in the Paschal Mystery, the death and resurrection of Christ, as the meaning of human history and our own lives, we know that it is both. 

      If we truly believe that Jesus is Lord, we know that all is well; we can face the storms that break upon our tiny boat because Christ is alive, awake and standing in the stern, calming what torments us. 

      The synod reminds us that we have important work to do, as we build on the legacy of our predecessors, seizing this moment of opportunity to preach the ageless Gospel of Christ and to grow the Church, she who is always youthful and fresh, bearing the saving power of God to the world. 

      Please join me in daily asking the Holy Spirit to energize, renew and encourage us in this remarkable endeavor.

 

+ Donald J. Hying

 

Read Bishop Hying’s pastoral letter, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” online at dcgary.org or nwicatholic.com. And follow Bishop Hying at twitter.com/bishophying.