The preparation for my ad limina visit to the Holy See is well under way.
In July, I submitted to Rome a 137-page report, which covers the activity of the Diocese of Jefferson City since the last report by Bishop John Gaydos in 2010.
The Latin phrase “ad limina” refers to one of the primary reasons for the visit, to pray at the tombs (the “thresholds”) of Saints Peter and Paul.
The other primary purpose for the trip is to honor the Holy Father’s responsibility of calling us to be in union with the Pope and the rest of the Church.
To do that, I will be meeting with the heads of various offices in the Holy See and Pope Francis in January to report on the state of our diocese.
While my report includes quite a bit of statistics, it is also informed by the four listening sessions we conducted in the diocese last April and May.
In reflecting on those listening sessions and in reviewing the material compiled by the diocesan staff, I will be reporting several key observations to Pope Francis and his officials.
I could sum up these observations in two words: Better Together.
In other words, in facing the challenges before our local Church, the Diocese of Jefferson City, it is my firm belief we can overcome attitudes of scarcity and decline by increasing our collaboration and encouraging a missionary mindset among our Catholics.
It’s been my experience that if we think change is something negative and to be delayed or avoided, we often assume resources are scarce and no one is available to assist us.
For us as a Church, this attitude often results in parishes and dioceses that are inward-oriented, not missionary — or outward — focused.
Mission and renewal
It will take us some time, but I hope to build on the good work begun by Bishop Gaydos to strengthen the ecclesial culture of our diocese.
How do we go about doing that?
First, we consider the realities around us. There are many benchmarks to consider, but the ones highlighted in the ad limina report are most relevant to our efforts to become “better together” as a missionary diocese, including:
How do we address these realities?
Scripture tells us “without a vision the people will perish” (Proverbs 29:18). We can’t move forward unless we know where we want to go.
My vision for our diocese includes four priorities:
Any renewal in the Catholic Church must include the parish. As Pope Francis explains so eloquently in his encyclical, “The Joy of the Gospel,” the parish is where people experience God and His people.
In response to God’s generous blessings, the intention is that we — clergy and laity — embrace our responsibility to witness the Gospel and thereby increase our parishes’ presence as centers of charity and mercy in the local community.
The promotion of all vocations beyond baptism (matrimony, religious life, diaconate and Priesthood) will be given additional attention to assist our young people to discern how they are called to a life of sacrificial love.
Everyone is called by God to love; it is the responsibility of the Church to provide an environment in which our young people can hear God’s call to a specific vocation and to help them respond joyfully to their call.
This year, I have asked our communication team to integrate our communication platforms and networks, within the diocese and between our parishes and schools. This will allow us to be more responsive to the expectations of digital natives, leverage the economy of scale, and eliminate duplicate tasks by our staffs.
This is an enculturation process, reaching out to those immersed in the digital culture.
A Diocesan Pastoral Council has been established to assist me with the development of a new pastoral plan, which will entail the participation of all the clergy and faithful through periods of recollection and discernment in the liturgical seasons of Advent 2019 and Lent 2020.
“The Joy of the Gospel” will serve as a principal guiding document for that process.
I believe the present difficulties of the Church, both local and universal, provide an opportunity for everyone to reflect anew upon the pastoral vision of the Second Vatican Council with regard to the active participation of the laity in the life and mission of the Church.
The Lord continues to provide His Church with an abundance of resources, both spiritual and material, to accomplish its mission.
Let us discover together the many ways God has indeed provided us with all we need.