One of the duties of a bishop is to make formal visits to the parishes of the diocese. I must say, this is one of the more enjoyable responsibilities. These visits allow the bishop to meet with the priests and parish leaders to discuss their priorities and ministries. It is also a time to review the sacramental records, finances and generally make sure the administration of the parish is running according to universal and diocesan norms.
These pastoral visits also give me an opportunity to celebrate the sacraments with the people, preach, and generally encourage them in our journey of faith. Mostly, it is a great moment to further build the unity that is so important between a bishop and his people, as well as in the Church in general.
On Friday, I made the journey across the state to Evanston to be there for a weekend parish visitation. Evanston is just three miles from the Utah border, so it is about a five and a half hour drive from Cheyenne. The usual Wyoming winds were up on Friday, so I was battling a 55 mph headwind most of the way. The payoff came Sunday afternoon on my drive home, as a 65 mph wind blew me back to Cheyenne…great gas mileage!
The leadership from both St. Mary Magdalen and St. Helen gathered on Saturday morning to give reports about the work of their various committees and the ministries they offer. I was very pleased with the enthusiasm of both the pastor, Fr. Jaime Bueno and the parish leaders. They are making strong efforts to minister to the youth as well as the substantial Latino community. Fr. Jaime is from Columbia, and so is very comfortable in ministering in both English and Spanish. Clearly, the community is flourishing under his leadership.
As the leaders were sharing their experiences, I was reminded of the reality that all our ministries are an expression of faith. So, I highlighted for those present that as much as we tend to get focused on ‘things’ such as our efforts and the finances and facilities, we must never forget that every aspect of our parish life is an expression of faith. St. James reminds us that faith without works is empty. (see James 2:14-21)
These parish visitations are such a blessing for me as a bishop. It allows me to truly be with the people. It is a great privilege to preach the Gospel, to strengthen the People of God in their faith, and to lead others to Christ and His Church. The reality that there is no separating Christ from His Church revealed itself so beautifully to me once again this weekend.
Of course, these visits involve a lot of eating as well! Just about every meal time of the day is an opportunity to gather with parishioners. St. Helen hosted its annual St. Patrick’s Day auction and dinner. After Mass Saturday evening in Evanston, Fr. Jaime and I drove to Ft. Bridger to enjoy the meal and a brief visit. The weekend concluded with Mass and lunch at St. Helen as well. There is such joy and faith present among these people, and I am humbled and pleased from my time spent with them.
Thanks again to all the fine people of St. Mary Magdalen and St. Helen. To you and to all this readership, keep living the Faith!