"So, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him, rooted in him and built upon him and established in the faith as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving." (Colossians 2:6-7)
What does it mean to walk in Christ Jesus? How are we built upon him, and how do we join in his work of building and nurturing faith in our own time and for the future? The Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, our parish planning groups, and all of those who have been involved in Together in Faith, Phase Two have given a great deal of prayer and thought to these kinds of questions, sacrificing countless hours and immeasurable personal energy in the service of our local Church. We owe these dedicated men and women our gratitude, of course, but we also ought to try and understand the work they have so zealously undertaken.
I believe that with the benefit of Together in Faith, Phase Two... we have a much clearer sense about where the Lord is leading us that we did before we began the process.
Together in Faith, Phase Two was shaped from the beginning by a clear set of pastoral priorities. In formulating this list, my co-workers and I have tried to identify the most important priorities in the life and work of our local Church. To understand these priorities is to understand a great deal of the "why" concerning the concrete actions we will take in the coming weeks, months, and years. Here in Metropolitan Detroit, we know all too well the fragility of institutions, whether they be governments, schools, businesses, or non-profits, and the dangers to which they can be exposed when they lose sight of their mission. In the life of the Church, we also need to maintain a clear focus on our mission, and these pastoral priorities have helped us to stay focused on the most important goals we need to achieve through Together in Faith:
Evangelization and Catechesis: The Catholic Church performs many important services to the world, but first among them is making Christ known as widely and deeply as possible. When we evangelize, we share in Christ's work of salvation. In his 1975 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, Pope Paul VI teaches, "Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ's sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of His death and glorious resurrection." (EN, 14)
Christian Service and Outreach: The Catholic Church is well known for her loving service to our brothers and sisters who are the "least among us" - such as providing food and clothing, counsel and support, for our parish family members and neighbors in the community. In our efforts to offer the corporal and spiritual works of mercy we need to build upon this rich legacy by creating stronger relationships between the newly-founded Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan, our parishes, and other organizations, providing complementary services in order to maximize the positive impact our personal and material resources will have on those in need.
Youth and Young Adults: I believe it is clear to all of us that we need to redouble our efforts in these two distinct forms of ministry. In the contemporary world, our youth and young adults face innumerable threats to their faith, but many of them have also demonstrated a remarkable resilience and an ardor in the practice of their faith. These are gifts we need to treasure, develop, and incorporate into the life of the larger Catholic community.
Lay Leadership: Together in Faith is itself a testament to the vital role lay leaders play in our parishesand in the life of the whole Archdiocese of Detroit. We need to be engaged together in an ongoing discernment in order to identify which people God has blessed with the particular gifts needed to assist our pastors in various forms of Church leadership and ministry. We also need to offer solid formation to our leaders so they will be able to collaborate effectively in the Lord's vineyard, doing their part in the mission of sharing Christ in and through the Church.
Stewardship and Administration: God has so richly blessed us, and stewardship calls us to respond to God's gifts with the hearts of disciples _ hearts of love, sacrifice, and generosity. Of course, we are all familiar with the resources of "time, talent, and treasure." Christian stewardship and administration involve both producing an abundant harvest of these resources and putting them to the most effective use possible. Today's economic situation compels us to continue taking concrete, often difficult, steps to ensure that we are completely faithful to the Lord's call in this important dimension of our common life.
Catholic Schools: Since I first began to serve as Archbishop of Detroit three years ago, I have emphasized the importance of our Catholic schools. Catholic schools are uniquely suited to advancing the evangelizing mission of the Church, offering a privileged opportunity for the formation of our children in Christian discipleship. We must all be committed to strengthening our schools, both in their Catholic identity and in the financial resources we commit to Catholic education. What a marvelous blessing it would be if we arrived at a time when all of the parents who wanted a Catholic school education for their children could provide it!
Vocations: I have no doubt that God is calling enough men to follow Jesus Christ as priests. But it is also painfully clear that not enough men are hearing or saying "yes" to this call for a variety of reasons that are closely related to the obstacles Christians are facing in discipleship and in other vocations, including marriage and consecrated life. Fostering vocations is not a specialized work entrusted only to a few priests or select lay people. All of us need to pray and work to foster vocations, keeping in view those graced moments when we recognize God has asked us to give voice to Christ's call, offering personal invitations to men who seem well-suited to the priesthood.