Fr. Chris, Fr. Michael, and I attended the 2019 Convocation for Priests of the Archdiocese of Portland in lovely Agate Beach last week. It was wonderful for us to spend time with the many priests of the Archdiocese in a relaxed setting, along with Archbishop Alexander Sample, Archbishop John Vlazny, and Bishop Peter Smith. A highlight was our shared conversation about the New Evangelization and how to bring people into relationship with Christ and with the sacramental life of the Church.
At our last session together, Archbishop Sample offered us an inspired address. He began by stating that the Hispanic presence in the Archdiocese is already defining our future, especially the Hispanic youth. Hispanics now comprise 50% of the total members of the Archdiocese. Sadly, he pointed out, they are seriously underrepresented in our Catholic Schools.
He underscored that Catholic evangelization proceeds along three fronts: faith formation and catechesis, liturgy, and the works of charity and social justice.
Catholic families remain critical to the evangelization of young people, given that parents are the primary educators of their children in the faith. In his words, “No matter what we do for our kids in our schools, if a family isn’t living out the faith, our efforts will fail.”
The Archbishop then reminded us that the principal evangelizers are not us priests but the laity of our parishes. He urged us to help form our parishioners to become missionary disciples. It isn’t enough to be disciples who come to church but to be a missionary disciples who on a daily basis reach out to share the faith with others.
In his view it all comes down to relationships. It starts with our relationship with Christ, and then it moves to our relationship with others who share our faith. This is expressed most beautifully in the concept of Communio, which means that a parish is never an island unto itself, but is in spiritual communion with nearby parishes, with the Diocese and its Bishop, and with the universal Church.
He reminded us about the importance of vocation promotion and the need for all of us to ask young men and women about whether they have ever considered a religious vocation. Critical, too, is the role of parents who are able to talk positively about the Catholic faith, and who are open to having their children consider a religious vocation.
I think e all left the Convocation feeling renewed and inspired to carry on our work as shepherds and pastors. We were reminded that the future growth of our faith depends primarily on the efforts of our parishioners to make God known, loved, and served. May God make us together true missionary disciples of Holy Redeemer Parish!
Yours in Christ,