Friday, September 23, 2016 - Updated: 7:00 am
QUESTION: As I read things about On Mission for The Church Alive!, I think about the changes that will likely be occurring in parishes in the next several years. I wonder what is going to keep us together through it all. Over the past few decades we Catholics have really been hit by a lot.
ANSWER: There is no doubt that the Catholic Church has faced significant challenges in recent years. The scandal of abuse by clerics and others has shaken us to the core. And seeing family members and friends stop practicing their Catholic faith and/or joining other faith communities is deeply troubling.
But what will be asked of Catholics in this diocese is really not one more trauma but rather something rooted in our personal participation in the enduring mission of the church. As I understand it, we are being asked to be part of positioning our diocese to best encounter people with the message of the Gospel, sacramental life and faithful service in new ways and in new contexts. We are being asked to adapt to the changes that we all know have happened over the past few decades.
What will sustain and guide us through it all, I believe, involves two factors: history and the Holy Spirit.
The history of the church of Christ tells us that one thing is certain and that is the absolute need to adapt and change. That occurred countless times in the New Testament era as evidenced by the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of St. Paul. It was all challenging and even frightening, but inevitable if the Gospel was going to take root throughout the world.
This was true also of our Catholic ancestors. Many of them as teenagers left Europe for the New World on the belief that “life would be better there.” They walked into a future that was uncharted, uncertain and challenging. They were joined by courageous priests and laity. Men like Father Demetrius Gallitzin and St. John Neumann as well as the men and women of the Missionary Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. They traveled lonely miles to reach people with the message of the Gospel and the sacraments.
All of these ancestors of faith came to know clearly that to return anger and frustration with the same was not what Christ expected of them, nor was it productive. The value of love in the face of all types of obstacles enabled them to be strong and succeed. History, our history, tells us not to be afraid and never to stop loving, and always to support one another.
Through all of this, our ancestors in faith also believed in the presence of Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When many earthly skills and powers failed, the Holy Spirit was always there to guide them in new ways.
What is to come of the On Mission for The Church Alive initiative is not known in detail at this point. What is known is that what brought us to this moment as a local church will not disappear.
Father Bober is pastor of St. Kilian Parish in Adams and Cranberry townships.