Today, December 8, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Catechism beautifully summarizes the Immaculate Conception this way: “No sin would touch her, so that she would be a fitting and worthy vessel of the Son of God. The Immaculate Conception does not refer to the virginal conception and the birth of Christ, but rather to Mary’s being conceived without inheriting Original Sin.” (United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, 142-143).
Pope Pius IX declared the dogma of Immaculate Conception in 1854. When the Pope teaches infallibly and declares a Dogma, it means that all Catholics have the obligation to accept that teaching and to believe it. The only other instance when a pope has invoked papal infallibility came in 1950 with Pope Pius XII’s definition of the dogma of the Assumption of Mary.
As this special day is one of the Church’s holy days of obligation, I encourage you to attend Mass as a family. What a beautiful way during this season of Advent to remember the one who gave birth to our Savior. The Diocese webpage offers a directory of parishes to help you locate a Mass with a convenient time near you.
Take Up the Work of Evangelization
Returning to the Pastoral letter series, I’d like to share some additional thoughts on Part II — Presenting the Future, especially in light of the ongoing work of the synodal process. We can continue to confront the challenges of our current times by listening and learning. God chose the Apostles to bear witness to the Gospel, to what they had seen and heard. As St. Peter stated in the Acts of the Apostles, after Jesus’ Resurrection, “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 2:20). Likewise, it is nearly impossible to journey together as Church if we are unaware or uncertain of others’ experiences of faith. The synodal process will provide an opportunity for us to do both—listen and learn.
Once inspired by the Good News, in the same spirit of the Apostles, who did not keep the Good News to themselves, we can proclaim the Gospel and bring people to faith and share the truth. The Synod consultation session will provide unique and exciting ways to extend an invitation to welcome people into our parishes, either those away during the pandemic, those who have been away a long time, or those who have never entered our doors. Currently, discussion and preliminary plans for these sessions are being developed by our Diocesan priests, Parish Ambassadors, and other volunteers in the parishes. Most importantly, these sessions help each of us learn about the synodal process. How we can better open and continue a dialog between all of God’s children—those engaged in the Church, and those who are no longer involved or participating. If you have not had the opportunity to, please visit the Journeying Together web page and read the Pastoral Letter.
Parish Ambassador Update
During this busy time of the year, we are grateful the Vatican has extended the deadline for the Diocese to hold the Synod’s consultation sessions. After the Parish Ambassador formation day on November 6th, we anticipate in the next month for meetings between pastors and other members of your parish that may help organize consultation sessions. It is an excellent time for the parish to tap into the talents of its members. To come together to discern how best to bring people together to listen—utilizing current structures such as parish councils, small groups, or ministries. You may find your parish community better served through either a preaching series, a parish mission, or perhaps a half-day retreat. The Revitalization Committee has put together guidelines and numerous resources to assist your discernment and planning. Find all resources here on the Diocese Synod webpage.
A key phrase around the Synod, the desire of what we are striving to be, is a listening Church. These sessions are not a time for solving problems or formulating answers to any questions but of genuinely listening to people’s experiences of church. Discovering who we are, who we want to be, and how we can support the parish to reach the goals of journeying this path of faith together. Sojourners temporarily walk together in this world in hopes of the greater one to come. How can we bring everyone into the conversation, providing safe and inviting opportunities to be attentive to one another? The one thing each and every one of us can offer to this synodal effort is our prayers to the Holy Spirit, as it is He who will work all things together for good and according to God’s perfect plan.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha