Mass to Open Synod Process
Last Sunday, I opened the diocesan phase of the Synod —For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission—in the Fall River Diocese in the context of Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral. A synod indicates the way that the members of the Church—clergy and lay—travel toward communion with Christ, together. A process of listening to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, and to each other, to fully participate in the mission of the Church.
This special votive Mass of the Holy Spirit sought the guidance and inspiration of the Spirit for a fruitful synodal experience and outcome. I will highlight a few points from my homily from Sunday’s Mass below and invite you to watch it in its entirety on the Fall River Diocese YouTube page.
I have a dream for our Diocese—to see it rise from the ashes of the coronavirus pandemic as a renewed Church, as people, centered on Jesus and the Eucharist, with the synodal process as its main character. A united Church with active participants focused on the teachings and Real Presence of Jesus. Do you have a dream for our Church today and for the future?
On the road to Emmaus, two disciples encounter Jesus and everything changes. The disciples prayed, “stay with us,” this is a simple prayer we can all make daily. “Stay with me, Jesus,” in both challenging and joyful times. We can pray together, “stay with us, Lord, during the synod and lead us.” This time of walking with each other and recognizing Jesus within us and among us.
What helps the disciples in Luke’s Gospel determine it was indeed Jesus among them? It came at the moment Jesus took the bread—blessed, broke, gave it to them. Our eyes, too, can be opened in the breaking of the bread as we recognize Jesus’ presence in the Holy Eucharist. His Real Presence—body, blood, soul, and divinity.
After this astounding moment, the two disciples asked each other a poignant question. “They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:32). When Jesus speaks to us—through the Scriptures, in our prayers, or through others, do our hearts burn within us? I love that image of the ‘burning heart’ and acknowledge the need to have our hearts set on fire. We need a renewed heart now more than ever to turn from the ashes of the pandemic to the glory of God.
It is time for us to reset, rekindle, reconnect, restrengthen, revitalize, and renew our Church and our parishes. The synodal process is a time for us to walk together as a listening Church, a time for every Catholic across the world to take responsibility for where the Church is going. Sunday’s Liturgy was the perfect start to our coming together, calling upon the Holy Spirit and beginning this incredible journey together. May God bless our Diocese, this process, and the fruits that will come from it.
Vianney Group of Priestly Support
A new initiative of priestly support has been launched from the Diocesan Office of Clergy Support. I invite you to prayerfully consider signing up to be a member of The Vianney Group of Priestly Support (VGPS). The VGPS exists to support the priests of our diocese primarily through prayer and fasting. What is asked is, to the best of your ability, commit to one day a month (typically the third Thursday of the month) to join in the prayer and fast of the entire VGPS for the health, happiness, and holiness of our priests.
On the assigned Third Thursday, which for this month will be tomorrow, October 21, a Rosary and Divine Mercy chaplet will be prayed at 3:00 PM via a virtual zoom webinar led by Matt Robinson, who is our Director of Clergy Support. To take part or to learn more about the VGPS and other priestly support initiatives in our diocese, please visit www.fallriverclergysupport.org.
World Mission Sunday
World Mission Sunday, an annual worldwide celebration for the Missions and missionaries of the world, will take place on Sunday, October 24 this year. It includes a special collection in parishes to provide for the building up of over one thousand local churches in Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands, and parts of Latin America and Europe. Through the work of these churches, and their witness to Christ, the poor receive practical help and experience God’s love, mercy, hope, and peace.
On Sunday, parishes throughout the Fall River Diocese join with those around the world to observe World Mission Sunday. We are called through our Baptism to be part of the Church’s missionary efforts, through prayer, self-sacrifice, and support of the Mission Church through material aid. Participation in World Mission Sunday helps make possible the work of mission priests, religious Sisters and Brothers, and lay catechists who are Christ’s witnesses to a world so in need of His healing, love, and peace.
Presbyteral Ordination of Father William S. Gural, ss.cc
Last Saturday, October 16, I was honored to ordain Brother William (Bill) S. Gural, ss.cc, to the priesthood for service in the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Father Gural did his pastoral year and diaconate ministry at St. Joseph’s Parish in Fairhaven, where his Ordination took place. The Sacred Hearts community has a long and strong presence in the Diocese of Fall River, especially in Fairhaven. Their priests, staff both St. Joseph and St. Mary Parishes in the town, as well as Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in New Bedford.
Many of the faithful attended the ordination along with 26 priests, 3 deacons, Sacred Hearts Brothers and Sisters, and Fathers Lane Akiona, ss.cc, and Robert Charlton, ss.cc, Provincial Superior and Vicar Provincial, respectively, of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts USA Province.
During my homily, I reminded Brother Bill, as I do all the men I am privileged to ordain, that they are there because God called them to this vocation. The priesthood is not a career or professional choice they make for their lives. Rather, it is a response to God who did not call them because they were perfect or even could become perfect, but because he saw enough goodness and generosity in the depths of hearts to make them his servant to shepherd his people.
Father Gural celebrated his first Mass of Thanksgiving in St. Joseph Church the next day. I extend my prayers to him and wish him the best as he begins his priestly ministry.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha