2023 Parish Leader Convocation
Saturday, I was blessed to address the over 160 participants of this year’s Parish Leader Convocation, along with featured speaker Katie Prejean McGrady. My remarks began with a reminder to all that through our baptism—we must be instruments of God’s Word, message, and His peace. The vital work of evangelization and creating missionary disciples throughout the Diocese could not happen without each of us working and using our gifts. I rely on those working tirelessly in our parishes, schools, and communities, leading the way to help people encounter Christ. They have my profound gratitude and appreciation for what they do and my prayers for the catechetical and academic year ahead.
In everything we do, whatever that may be, first and foremost, we must be disciples of Jesus to help make disciples for Jesus. Our goal, although simple—to support people to a life of holiness that eventually leads to heaven—is at the same time quite complex. It is easy to desire but not always so easy to do, especially in today’s secular culture, but God never asked the impossible of us. If we remain on the path that God has given us, we can and will help lead people into holiness.
But how can we do this? Through Word, witness, and sacrament; a simple equation that comes with a lot of work to make happen. We proclaim the Word of God and its power to inspire, guide, and transform lives; if we are not ourselves living in the Word of God, nothing we do will be effective. We cannot give what we do not have; therefore, we must live the faith we hope to share with others.
Our role is to become conduits of wisdom, from which flows all the work God places before us in our lives, and to be instruments and bring God to others. Our tasks must reflect on the lessons Jesus teaches us in the scriptures. We should spend time with scriptures reflecting, reading, and asking the Lord for guidance through his Word. Then, discern how we can bring the Word of God and practical ways into the work we are called to do. To help us answer the essential question, Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?”
In the Blessed Mother, God has provided us with a perfect model of living a life of faith and leading others to an encounter with Jesus. She accepted and embraced God’s mission; people remember her over 2,000 years later, and we will remember her forever for her yes to God. However, it was never about her; it was always about her leading us to Jesus. This is best illustrated by Mary’s last recorded words in the Scriptures: “Do whatever He tells you.” Notice she does not say what I have told you, but for us to listen to her Son, Jesus. She is the light that points us to the Son; we, too, are to allow His light to shine through us in our world.
As the closing prayer for Saturday’s Mass urged us, in addition to being people of the Word, we need to go forth now and be tireless witnesses of God’s truth everywhere. That prayer should always be upon our lips as people of faith; through baptism, we are called to share the faith with others. Imagine if the Apostles kept everything they had seen and heard to themselves. What if they had not passed along the Good News to the next generation; if they had not continued to celebrate the Eucharist, following Jesus’ command to “do this in memory of me?”
What happens for the generations to come if we neglect or choose not to share Jesus with others? What happens to the world and to us, if the church is not here, if there are no sacraments? What will become of our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren, and all who will come in the next 2000-plus years? Can you imagine a world without the Sacraments, without receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, or the gift of healing through the Sacrament of Reconciliation? These wonderful gifts of the sacraments that many of you work to prepare others for. Let us pass on the memories we have shared through our faith, witness what God has done for us, and the grace that has filled our hearts. Let us fulfill our mission to help others get to heaven.
This year, the USCCB has set the theme of Catechetical Sunday as: “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened” ~ Matthew 11:28. This theme reminds us of the invitation we receive from the Lord Jesus to follow Him and the promise that He doesn’t want to add to our burdens; he wants to lighten them.
The Church celebrates Catechetical Sunday this weekend, September 17, 2023; part of the celebration includes commissioning those the parish has designated to serve as catechists for their ministry. To each of you who has answered the call to pass on the faith to a new generation, please know how grateful I am for your willingness to share your gifts and talents across the Diocese as Catechists. Please know of my prayers for each of you and all those you will teach.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha