Reflecting on Renewing Diocesan Ministries
Continuing the sharing of the ten activity points from my Pastoral Letter: Reflections on Five Years – Continuing the Mission today, I wish to discuss “Renewing Diocesan Ministries to Serve Better the Needs of the Faithful.”
One of the essential tasks of a bishop is governing the Diocese in such a way as to promote the whole mission of the Church. He has to be a good steward of the resources in a Diocese. Good administration is a responsibility I take seriously.
I grew up in a poor family of 13 children, and out of necessity, we were always frugal. My siblings and I learned to make our own toys out of sticks and materials we found outside. I learned from my parents how to use gifts responsibly; we never threw anything away that was usable. I have tried to bring that same spirit to leading this family of faith.
At the same time, pondering and preaching on the Parable of the Talents (Mt 25:14-31), I recognize that the Lord wants us to invest His gifts. It’s not enough to keep things status quo.
With prudent boldness, we need to try to make them grow and make money stretch. Good and faithful stewards do their best to make good returns.
I have spent a lot of time and effort over my first five years revitalizing Diocesan administration and finances, properties and buildings, human resources, safe environment policies and procedures, and communications. Among some other things I detail in the pastoral letter, we also needed to address our internal and external communications infrastructure so that we could much better coordinate within the family of faith and share the Gospel with those to whom Christ sends us.
While offering information through the Diocesan website and our storied Anchor newspaper, we were not adequately using modern communications technology to be in contact with our priests and people. A team of communications advisors is now in place, updating our antiquated means of communicating with priests and parishes so that we can be in touch in a much more timely way. In addition, I have started this blog to facilitate direct and transparent communication, along with a strengthened social media presence.
We still have a long way to go, but we are rapidly moving forward. I’m grateful for all those who have contributed their gifts to assist in these various transitions. Our chancery staff is full of people who are not only problem-solvers but also ready and eager to help. We have made a lot of progress. Much more still needs to be done.
We continue striving to accomplish that work together, as good stewards of the blessings God has given to our Diocese —this no more evident than what I have witnessed in the last two months.
Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven
On Thursday, May 21, the Church will celebrate the Ascension of Our Lord, sometimes referred to as Ascension Thursday. Although an ancient celebration in the Church, no one knows exactly its beginning, though St. Augustine mentions in his writings, it is of Apostolic origin. This important Solemnity marks the 40th day after Easter Sunday and commemorates Jesus Christ’s Ascension into heaven from Mount Olivet (Mount of Olives) near Jerusalem before the Apostles.
In the Nicene Creed, we profess our belief in Jesus’ Ascension with the words: “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.” The Ascension is mentioned in the Gospels by both Mark (16:19) and Luke (24:50-53), with a more detailed account given by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles (1:1-12).
The Ascension of Jesus reminds us we are still in the Easter season but that Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, is near. This year, more than ever, both these Solemnities remind us of the Father’s gift of the Holy Spirit’s continual presence with us. Jesus’ Ascension came as a symbol of hope and the glory of God to come for the Apostles, and for us today, more than ever shines a beacon of light into our world as parishes prepare to return to public worship.
A Preliminary Plan for Reopening Parishes
This past Monday, as I am sure you are aware, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker issued directives for the first phase of reopening in the state, including the opening houses of worship. After meeting with the Presbyteral (or Priests’) Council, I communicated plans as we work on guidelines to prepare our parishes for reopening.
In that letter, I explained the clear need for time to ensure that all mandatory safety standards may be met and that all churches may have on hand the necessary supplies. It goes without saying that the governor is not mandating the opening of our churches, but rather declaring that we can resume public worship as long as the necessary safety measures are observed.
After much discussion and discernment among the Presbyteral Council, it was decided that here in the Diocese of Fall River, we will open our churches for public Masses on the Feast of Pentecost, beginning with the Vigil on Saturday, May 30th. For more on this announcement, click here.
These days have been difficult, and as we cautiously move forward, we must still remain aware of the unprecedented territory we continue to navigate. I thank you in advance for both your prayers and patience as our Diocese works through these plans in the coming days. As Pentecost birthed a new day in the Church, so will the coming days, as we prayerfully (and carefully) emerge from these days of crisis and pandemic.
Sincerely Yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha