In February 2012, after having received plans for each parish in the Archdiocese of Detroit, Archbishop Allen Vigneron issued a letter to the faithful of the archdiocese. This pastoral letter, titled Forward in Hope to Share Christ, was mailed to every household registered to a Catholic parish within the archdiocese. Along with it, parishioners received plans pertaining to their parish as well as the parishes in their areas.
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
"Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel." (Mark 16:15)
Our crucified and risen Lord Jesus spoke these words to His apostles just before His ascension, entrusting to them the mission of making known the Good News of our salvation to all people. We also find in these words, which do not merely echo down through the ages but are spoken by Jesus directly to us today, the mission Our Lord is giving us to accomplish.
With this letter I introduce the pastoral plan Together in Faith, Phase Two. I want very much to express to all of you—the clergy, religious, and faithful of the Archdiocese of Detroit—my own clear sense that we must understand Together in Faith in the context of the sacred mission the Lord Jesus has entrusted to our local Church. We are called to share Christ in and through the Church. Only with a very keen sense of God’s purpose in bringing us “together in faith” can we understand the intensive pastoral planning in which we are engaged.
Since the first Holy Mass offered in the new settlement established on the banks of the Detroit River in July 1701, our local Church has advanced a long way on its journey of faith, travelling along a road that begins here on earth but ends in God’s heavenly kingdom. At each stage of the Church’s journey, we are called to know where we are on the road, to remember where we are headed, and to judge wisely what actions and resources are required to reach our destination. We make this assessment always bearing in mind our charge from Jesus to bring with us as many companions as we can persuade to join us on our pilgrimage to the heavenly Jerusalem.
I trust that by now we all know where we stand in this moment of history. The Church, here in southeast Michigan and throughout the Western world, is facing an unprecedented set of challenges, from the abandonment of Sunday Mass and confession by a great many Catholics and a sharp decline in the number of our priests, to the secularization of culture and dramatic economic and demographic changes, to name just a few of our more prominent challenges. We live in a world that is not only radically different from the world in which the apostles labored, but one that is very different even from the world that lives in the memories of so many of us who remember the great institutional strength of the Catholic Church in the 1950s. This new situation we face together calls forth from us a new resolve and a new approach to fulfilling our God-given mission of proclaiming the Gospel and helping others to enjoy the great blessing we enjoy—life in Jesus Christ.
The life of the Church here in the Archdiocese of Detroit cannot simply continue without significant changes. Faith and prudence demand that we act now.
The life of the Church here in the Archdiocese of Detroit cannot simply continue without significant changes. Faith and prudence demand that we act now to ensure that we will be able to do God's work effectively in the years to come. Charity demands that we pass on to our children both the gift of faith, which is the "pearl of great price," and Church institutions equipped for the mission God will, in turn, entrust to them.
Of course, such changes are always difficult, but even these difficulties become redemptive when viewed with eyes of faith. God is drawing us more deeply into the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ. The changes we need to make will surely involve moments of personal loss as some parishes are reconfigured into new worship communities, but we move forward always with the hope that God will raise us up and raise up for us new resources to do his work. We need only to trust in the Lord and follow where he leads us. I believe that with the benefit of Together in Faith, Phase Two, and particularly those elements I will offer in the sections that follow, we have a much clearer sense about where the Lord is leading us than we did before we began this process.
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