A Pastoral Letter from Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., D.D., to the Clergy, Religious and Faithful of the Diocese of Fall River
“Now, more than ever, God is calling us to move forward and not stand still. My hope in this pastoral letter is to offer you a vision for how we can do this and how you can join us in moving forward into the future as a diocese.”
– Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha
JOURNEYING TOGETHER: THE WAY FORWARD
Just like Jesus, we need to be aware of those around us, to extend invitation, and be a welcoming community. Now is the time for courageous, creative outreach.
- Take a deeper look at your personal gifts and talents to engage in our faith communities.
- Continue to learn about the faith by participating in ongoing catechesis and spiritual formation.
- Partake in person-to-person engagement, inviting those in your life to encounter Christ and the Church community
- Focus parish efforts on greater hospitality, invitational awareness, and create opportunities to invite others to come to church. Imperative to this is the role of the laity in inviting others to Mass, as well as offering newcomers opportunities to connect with the parish community.
- Evaluate parish faith formation and sacramental preparation for all ages. To this end, parishes are asked to give special attention to the family, exploring ways to engage in intentional parent and family formation. As a resource, I recommend the new Directory for Catechesis (cf n. 232) The Secretariat for the New Evangelization is also a helpful resource for this evaluation.
- Improve outreach: parishes are asked to ensure they have functioning communications to the parishioners, social media, and a web presence, leveraging these items for evangelization and to help unify members of the parish.
- Consider making use of the votive Masses for the evangelization of peoples or for the Church during this year so that we may better approach the work of evangelization through a spirit of prayer and reliance on Divine providence.
“Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19) Jesus calls each of us the same way, there is no more extraordinary way to encounter Jesus than in the Eucharist.
- Regularly attend Mass
- Share with the others, especially those away from Mass, the importance the Eucharist holds in your life.
- Set a time for regular Eucharistic Adoration daily or weekly to increase Eucharistic devotion. Each parish should offer expressed devotion to the Eucharist, especially with its great tie to fostering and birthing priestly and religious vocations.
- Intentionally reach out to the faithful to help them recognize the importance of attending Mass. It is not about full pews or collection baskets, but of experiencing the mystical Body of Christ—the Eucharist.
- Help young people in our parishes and Catholic schools encounter the Real Presence by ensuring that they have ready access to the Eucharist and through evangelizing with the examples of saints, such as Bl Carlo Acutis, and through Eucharistic miracles.
- Help individuals refocus on the Real Presence by initiating specific study, preaching and devotional practices, with special attention to inviting those who have been away from the Eucharist. Each parish should look foropportunities that will work best in their community.
- Plan for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Eucharistic Revival Project, which our Diocese will be participating in. The diocesan phase will begin June 2022, with the parish phase set to begin June 2023.
Let us all embrace our baptismal mission by mirroring the holiness of Christ in how we live our lives. All of God’s people need to work together, ordained clergy and the lay faithful, embracing their universal and specific vocations.
- Regularly pray for the gift of discernment and that individuals may hear and respond to God’s call.
- Champion a renewed sense of lay service by re-engaging Catholics in parish ministries. Grow parish ministry opportunities that allow for various individuals to participate in their faith more actively, through service to their parish and community at large.
- Foster a culture of vocations, with parishes and Catholic schools planning ways to pray, discuss, and help individuals discern the topic of vocations at all ages. To this end,parishes should consider the development of a vocations ministry.
- Nominate “parish ambassadors” in each parish to aid in ongoing evangelization and revitalization efforts at the parish level. These can be parishioners already working on revitalization efforts or individuals interested in getting more involved. Parish ambassadors will be supported by our Diocesan pastoral teams.
- Improve support for our clergy. As a Diocese, we recently hired a Director of Clergy Support to provide more assistance for the health and wellness of our priests. To this same end, as a Diocese, we are introducing Chancery Workshops for the recently ordained.
- Support parish revitalization efforts. As a Diocese, we formed the Secretariat for the New Evangelization to offer expertise, services and evangelizing opportunities to aid parishes.
- Create diocesan resources and trainings for parishes to support and equip parish staff, leadership, and parish ambassadors to accomplish these pursuits.