A Shepherd's Message - Aug. 14, 2013

August 14, 2013

The Catholic Herald looks back and looks ahead this issue. It is a farewell to summer as the paper gives us a report on the excellent Catholic Youth Conference held in July, and it is a welcome to the new school year as our Catholic schools and Religious Education programs gear up for the Fall.

I was privileged to be a part of our Youth Conference. I want to thank Brian Johnson and all the staff of the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization, the Youth Ministers of our parishes and the parents and adult volunteers of our various youth ministries, and above all, our young people for their dedication to and enthusiasm for our Catholic Faith. The Youth Conference weekend was filled with activities, speakers, action and contemplation. It was very serious and it was great fun. The students both reflected upon and celebrated the theme: “Unseen Love.” God’s love and compassion, His call and challenge, His providence and beauty are both manifest to us but also hidden. This is the great mystery of our Triune God, One God in three persons, who is infinitely transcendent yet nearer to us than we are to ourselves. Jesus is the face of God turned towards the world and towards us.

The “young church” of our archdiocese unpacked this all weekend in listening, in skits, in being challenged to live a moral life, in prayer and in sacraments. I was delighted to celebrate the Sunday morning Mass. The readings that Sunday concerned Abraham’s hospitality to the three heavenly visitors who come to announce good news to him, and the beautiful narrative of Martha and Mary welcoming Jesus into their home as recorded in the Gospel of St. Luke. The hallmark of hospitality is certainly service which Martha frantically provides. But the hospitality of listening to the words of Jesus as exemplified in Mary is recognized as the better part of welcoming.

Young people are energetic but must allow their energy to be focused on listening to the words of the Lord and then living them out in personal holiness and dedicated service to others (in which our youth excel). This is the real hallmark of the greatest care and welcome. Our youth are very sensitive to the presence and the needs of the “stranger” in our midst, of those who seem to be forgotten. In this, they are also catechists for us even as we do our part to help form them deeply in their Catholic Faith. I repeat my gratitude to all the people in our archdiocese who work and collaborate with our teenagers and youth. It can be an exhausting ministry, but it is also a great treasure!

As I write these words in mid-August I recognize that school days are fast approaching. I also had the privilege recently of celebrating Mass for principals and teachers of our Catholic Schools and with the Catholic Schools Office led by acting Superintendent George Laird. The energy of those involved in our schools is a great virus that you WANT to catch. I heard teachers speaking about curriculum and innovative ways to create good learning environments for our students. I heard principals speaking about increasing enrollment and quality administration. I heard pastors speaking about their pride and care for the parish schools. Above all, I heard people speaking about our Catholic Faith and the desire to “pass it on” with conviction and zeal. To all of this I say “Amen” and pray for a successful year.

I am off for a few days of vacation (don’t tell anyone). May the remaining days of summer be a time of refreshment and blessing for us all!