On Sunday, February 28, in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fall River, I celebrated the Rite of Election for men and women from throughout the Fall River Diocese, preparing to become members of the Roman Catholic Church. The Rite of Election marks the beginning of the final phase of preparation for those participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults –better known by the acronym RCIA- the process through which adults enter the Catholic Church. It is always a great honor to welcome the newly elect into our Church and faith community.
As we welcome these men and women, who heard the voice of the Lord calling them into faith, the sacraments, and the Church, it was good to spend time reflecting on the Gospel recounting the Transfiguration of the Lord. In the Transfiguration, something extraordinary takes place. God was made visible and manifest in the person of Jesus. The disciples had an experience of seeing the Lord in a way they never had before. On some level, our Catechumen can relate to this extraordinary encounter with Jesus, which allowed them to hear the voice of God and to accept his invitation to the faith, the Sacraments, and the Church.
After witnessing the Transfiguration of Jesus, St. Peter responds, “it is good that we are here!” St Peter discovered God’s presence, and he didn’t want to leave that moment. He suggests erecting three tents: one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. However, Peter forgets to include tents for himself, James, and John. Perhaps Peter reveals a profound truth in his actions. When we encounter God in the way that Peter did, when we experience the presence of God, seeing God manifest before our very eyes, we become free of our self-centeredness and see the good in others. We become open to truly encounter God, hear his voice, and listen to him.
We hear things all day long, but how often do we really listen? When we choose to listen, we commit ourselves to focus and be present. It means we accept what we hear and create a response on our part to it. We choose what we want to hear and listen to, and often those choices are what is comfortable, affirming, and pleasant—not what is challenging or asking for a change in us. To listen to Jesus is the challenge of the Gospel, as it causes conversion and leads to a transformation.
When we encounter Jesus, we are never the same again. It is not easy and often takes a lot of work. Jesus brought Peter, John, and James from the valley of darkness to the mountain of light to experience the extraordinary. Each of us who has chosen to answer the invitation to be Jesus’ disciple has likewise journeyed with him from the valley into a great light. Every day we must fight the temptation to go back to the valley of darkness and ignore what promises and experiences we have from Jesus. Don’t allow the winds of despair, fear, or doubt to lead you back into the valley of darkness. My friends, hold on to the faith and promises of Jesus. Hold on to your commitment to him, so your lives are never the same again, so you may continue to walk faithfully with God for the rest of your lives.
National Catholic Sisters Week
Catholic Sisters Week, March 8-14 2021, spotlights women religious, who bless our Church with their commitment to tirelessly pray and serve. During this week, according to the Catholic Sisters Week website, others are encouraged to offer a wide range of campaigns and events that invite all who follow Jesus to:
- expand and support their gospel witness
- grow the service networks they have seeded
- share their spirituality, charisms, and community
- encourage young women to consider a vocation to religious life
- support their pastoral, teaching, and prophetic works
- and focus on the new world they call into being.
We are grateful to Sister Paulina Hurtado, O.P., who serves as the Episcopal Representative for Religious in the Diocese, and who does wonderful work with vocations. She is encouraging participation in a nationwide online Prayer Service to honor and celebrate Catholic Sisters as part of this week’s observance. It will take place at 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday, March 10. Please click to register.
Transitional Diaconate Ordination
On Saturday, March 6, I was honored to ordain to the Transitional Diaconate Brother WiIIiam GuraI of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. The ordination took place in St. Joseph Church in Fairhaven. Congratulations to Deacon William. Please join me in praying for him as he continues his preparation for the priesthood.
St. Joseph Novena and Mass
In honor of the Year of Saint Joseph, the USCCB has composed this novena to the foster father of Jesus and patron saint of the universal Church, to be prayed daily from March 10-18, 2021, the nine days that precede the Solemnity of Saint Joseph on March 19. A downloadable brochure in English and Spanish is available. The USCCB website will feature a reflection video from bishops across the United States each day of the novena. Copies of the prayers, along with a link to the reflection videos, will be shared each day on the Fall River Diocese Facebook page.
I will be celebrating a Mass on March 19th, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which also opens the 2021 Women & Men’s Conference sponsored annually by the Fall River Diocese. Learn more and register to attend here.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha