As I travel around the state for my first Confirmation season, I’m thinking of the importance of Unity in our Catholic Church. Also very much on my mind and in my prayer is this year’s Bishop’s Annual Appeal. Also, the mere fact that I am a new bishop means I spend a fair amount of time thinking and praying about what that means. I will simply share some of my thoughts around each of these realities.
Before one of the Confirmation Masses began this week, there was some “friendly banter” before Mass between myself and the 4th degree Knights. There was a jovial reference made to one of the guys “being out of line”, and I offhandedly said: “There is a reason the Pope gave me this staff.”, referring to my crosier. Certainly the role of the bishop is to “keep the flock together”, to gather the People of God on a regular basis for prayer and an experience (with the bishop) of the broader, universal Church that we are all a part of.
As I walked into a room of youth this week, the pastor introduced me. Since the youth remained seated, the pastor asked: “What is the proper stance in the presence of a successor to the Apostles?” I do not think much of this reality, but a reality it is, and this too says something about the unity of the Church. The bishop in every diocese is a living link to the Successor of Peter, the Holy Father in Rome, and a living proclamation of the unity that our local churches have with the Church throughout the world.
With the approach of our Bishop’s Annual Appeal, I’ve had the occasion to make this appeal in a few parishes already, and it is a wonderful opportunity to remind everyone in our local parishes that as much as the lived experience of church for most people is at the parish level, it is good to remember that we are a part of something much bigger. We are a part of a broader diocesan Church, Universal Church, and ultimately, a Church eternal, in the eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ.
In this Easter Season, we continue to give thanks for the new life shared with us through Christ’s resurrection. We are renewed in the reality of the new and eternal life shared with us here and now through the Church, as well as in the hope of the perfection of that new life in the life to come!