Friday I made my way from Cheyenne to Cody for a weekend parish visitation to St. Anthony. One of the roles of the bishop is to visit on occasion with the People of God to hear about their life and experience in the parish. It is also a time to review the internal structures to make sure that both the temporal and spiritual goods of the church are being properly cared and provided for.
Friday evening the parish pastoral council, finance council and trustees gathered along with the priests and deacons to review the many ministries of the parish. Saturday morning, we started the day with a Mass in honor of the Nativity of our Blessed Mother. Following Mass were a few more meetings, with parish staff, priests and deacons, and lay leadership.
It was truly edifying to listen to these people share their experience of faith. And, of course, there is nothing like ‘being with the people’ to make a bishop feel like the shepherd he is called to be…a true ‘pastor.’
We concluded the day with 5:00 evening Sunday Mass. I must say, I am quite pleased, indeed, impressed, with the many ministries, and the many people actively engaged at St. Anthony. They are blessed with a great pastor, Fr. Vernon Clark, and associate, Fr. Dennis D’Souza, a priest from India. Three of our newly ordained permanent deacons are now very engaged at St. Anthony.
The Holy Spirit is clearly present and active here, and there is a great docility and response to the movement of that Spirit. In recent years, people have stepped forward, bringing new programs and energy to the parish, such as Dead Theologians Society, Knights of Divine Mercy, and Mary’s Moms. Each of these ministries are successful in reaching out to meet the needs of various groups within the parish.
As the various members of the leadership gathered and shared of their roles and experience, we also discussed the true mission of the Church. The Church does not exist for itself; it exists for mission. We spend alot of time today working on the ‘internal’ structures of the Church, but ultimately, each of us are to carry Christ and His Gospel to the world. This is not our work, it is the work of Christ. He entrusted this work to us, and we have responsibility in carrying out His will.
We do face challenges both within the Church and in the culture and world that surround us. But we always trust that preaching the Gospel is ultimately all that needs to be done. The Gospel is the power of conversion, not us.
We pray this week that as Christ cured the man who was deaf and mute, that all of God’s people may be ‘opened’ to hear the Voice of God through the person of Jesus and His Church. We pray that all may ‘find their voice’ to praise and proclaim Christ to the world. Finding a ‘voice’ for the Gospel is exactly what the Second Vatican Council encourages of the laity:
Genuine apostles are not content, however, with just this; they are earnest also about revealing Christ by word to those around them. It is a fact that many men [women and children] cannot hear the Gospel and come to acknowledge Christ except through the laymen they associate with. (AA n 13)
I believe the people of St. Anthony are well on their way to understanding and living this instruction of the Church. As the Year of Faith nears, may all of us ‘be opened’ to the ‘Voice of Christ.’ May all God’s people ‘find their voice’ to proclaim Christ to the world!