ARE GOD'S PRIESTLY PEOPLE
Vision for the Church of Albany for the 1990's
By Bishop Howard J. Hubbard
DEAR SISTERS AND BROTHERS IN CHRIST,
years ago at the conclusion of my first year of service as Bishop
in our Diocese of Albany, in response to a number of requests that
I record my hopes and dreams for our Diocese, I developed a pastoral
letter. In We Are His People, consequently, I shared with you my
vision for our Church as we journey together as a people of faith.
vision, based upon the concept of shared responsibility, has served
as the foundation of efforts in our Diocese of Albany to meet the
manifold spiritual, pastoral, educational and social needs of God's
people. The seriousness with which this pastoral letter was received
and studied, the enthusiasm and commitment with which it has been
implemented and the ongoing way in which it has stimulated constructive
interaction between the Diocese and local parish communities have
exceeded my fondest expectations and have been for me personally
a source of great joy, hope and strength.
wish to take this opportunity, therefore, to thank you both for
your reception and implementation of that pastoral letter and for
the many ways in which you have been so supportive of my episcopal
ministry among you. Words cannot express adequately my profound
gratitude and appreciation for all of the cooperation, assistance
and affirmation I have received in our mutual venture of advancing
God's kingdom in our day.
the ten years since the publication of We Are His People, much has
happened in our Church and society. We have had two Popes and a
new President. One Pope is dead; our current Pope and President
have been the victims of attempted assassinations.
have experienced, furthermore, new major social problems such as
the emergence of AIDS and the growing phenomenon of homelessness;
an economic recession and recovery with all the attending social
problems this has created; the insurance crisis; growing environmental
issues; and critical international problems in Central America,
the Mid-east, Poland, Afghanistan, the Falkland Islands, Granada,
South Africa and Northern Ireland, just to mention a few.
of these new issues, coupled with the major unresolved social problems
we have been experiencing for some time, such as the scandal of
abortion; the rising rates of divorce, family breakdown, teenage
pregnancy, substance abuse, mental illness; and the lack of adequate
education, employment, housing and health-care opportunities for
too many of our citizens, have had a profound impact on the way
in which we live and act as a people of faith. These problems are
symptomatic of something deeper; their roots are grafted in the
breakdown and rejection of the core values of our Judeo-Christian
the Church, we in the United States have been the beneficiaries
of two pastoral visits by our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II. To
date, our Holy Father has issued seven major encyclicals and has
presided over Synods on the Family, Reconciliation and the Laity
as well as over an Extraordinary Synod to evaluate and reaffirm
the values of the Second Vatican Council. Our Holy Father has also
promulgated the revised Code of Canon Law which has harmonized Church
law and discipline with the various norms and forms of the Second
Vatican Council. The recently completed Marian Year has given a
renewed focus to the role and place of Mary in Catholic spirituality.
the Bishops of the United States reflected on the role of the laity
in the Church in a pastoral statement entitled Called and Gifted
and have authored important pastoral letters on the need of the
Catholic community to develop adequate pastoral outreach to the
Black and Hispanic communities. The Bishops have engaged furthermore,
in extensive processes of consultation leading to major pastoral
letters on peace and the economy and to a forthcoming pastoral response
to the critical concerns facing women in Church and society. These
efforts have sought to bring the gospel message to bear upon contemporary
realities and to give tangible expression to the ringing affirmation
of the Second Vatican Council that "the joys and hopes, the
grief's and anxieties of the people of this age, especially those
who are poor or in any way afflicted, these too are the joys and
hopes, the grief's and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Nothing
that is genuinely human fails to find an echo in their heart."
(Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, par. 1).
our Diocese, we conducted the Always His People program of reconciliation
and engaged in RENEW, a three-year process of spiritual development
based upon prayer, scripture study and faith sharing. Seventy-five
percent of our parish communities participated in this process in
which over 20,000 adults were involved in the weekly small faith-sharing
groups. Many parish councils have been initiated or revitalized.
New and expanding roles for the laity have been fostered and a two-year
lay ministry formation program has been developed.
Diocese has joined the Catholic Television Network of America (CTNA),
thereby expanding immensely our opportunities for teleconferencing
and communications as well as local programming and tape production.
The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) and other programs
of evangelization, moreover, have begun to take root in our parishes.
Diocesan School Board and Office have developed an overall strategic
plan as well as regional planning for the future. Our Diocesan Office
for Religious Education has worked to formulate a comprehensive
religious curriculum for our schools and parishes with a special
new curriculum on human sexuality. This office has also initiated
a new commission to address the special needs of the developmentally
Catholic Charities network has been expanded to all fourteen counties
in our Diocese, serving over 140,000 people annually with an amazing
$ 3,033,216 of donated services provided last year alone by caring
volunteers. New initiatives have been launched for persons with
AIDS; boarder babies; the homeless; children in need of day care;
the elderly; the homebound; the incarcerated; the victims of domestic
violence; the separated and divorced; and women who are experiencing
the trauma of abortion. As a concrete response to the pastoral letter
on the Economy, the Employee Ownership Project has been established,
designed to empower the unemployed or underemployed to operate their
and interfaith relationships have been deepened, especially through
our recovenanting with Christians United in Mission and through
the special celebrations or dialogues we have had with the Lutheran,
Reformed, Orthodox, Methodist and Jewish communities.
these years, we have experienced problems and difficulties as well.
Despite concerted efforts by our Diocesan School Board, pastors,
parents, and local school boards and parish councils, our Catholic
schools continue to be plagued by fiscal and enrollment problems.
Vocations to the ministerial priesthood and religious life have
dwindled with great implications for both the configuration and
staffing patterns of many of our parish communities. Our Diocesan
Service Corps, initiated by the 1978 pastoral, while making a significant
contribution during its ten-year history, has not been able to survive
because of the lack of volunteers and finances. Catholic contributions
to the parish and Diocese have not kept pace with the Cost of Living
Index or the level of giving of our Protestant or Jewish neighbors.
This has created deficits for our diocesan budget and for the budgets
of many of our parish communities, deficits which can only be addressed
by increased giving or by the reduction of vitally needed pastoral
the light of all the aforementioned and other developments in our
Church during the past decade, at the universal, national, diocesan
and parochial levels, I felt that it would be an appropriate time
to review my initial pastoral vision as expressed in We Are His
People and to revise this pastoral vision on the basis of these
lived practical experiences and of the consultation conducted this
past Spring with our pastors, diocesan staffs and representatives
from our parish, deanery and diocesan councils. I invited these
representatives of our local Church to offer their reflections on
the 1978 Pastoral, after having lived with this vision for ten years.
am pleased to say that many constructive criticisms have surfaced
and numerous creative and far-reaching insights have emerged as
a result of these consultations. The two major themes of the 1978
pastoral letter We Are His People, moreover, have been reaffirmed
and reinforced wholeheartedly and enthusiastically:
that the concept of shared responsibility and collaborative
ministry, based upon the baptismal call given to each member
of the Church, must serve as a foundation of the Church's efforts
to advance the mission and ministry of Jesus in the world; and
that the parish community has been and will continue to be the
center of the Church's life.
writing this updated pastoral letter, then, I seek to build and
expand upon these two foundational themes and request that this
revised version, if you will, be read not as a new and different
initiative but rather in conjunction with and in light of the initial
vision and of our successes and failures in pursuing that vision
over the past ten years.
IS THE CHURCH?
our consideration of both of these themes of shared responsibility
and of the centrality of the parish community in the life of the
Church, it is necessary to reflect first upon the nature of the
Church itself, because our vision of the Church and its mission
conditions our understanding of ministry and shapes its development
in the parish community.
we speak of the Church, we are dealing with a living mystery. As
the Second Vatican Council expressed it, the Church is a mystery
prefigured in creation, prepared in the history of Israel, initiated
by the Holy Spirit and reaching its fulfillment only at the end
of time (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, par. 2). The Church
is that mystery in which is made visible God's saving presence in
Christ Jesus. It is Christ's mission that the Church is about; it
is Christ's message it strives to communicate to others and it is
His ministry that it extends into the world.
the Church is a mystery, therefore, it cannot be totally understood
or fully defined. But from its very beginning the Church has been
revealed to be a community of people formed by the word of God,
animated by the creative power of the Holy Spirit and sustained
by the worship and service of its members. Its mission is both to
proclaim the message of Christ for the enlightenment of the hearts
and minds of people and to provide a place where His healing presence
can be experienced. As such, the Church must always understand itself
as not existing for itself but for the world. The Church can never
be a mission or ministry to itself; rather it is to be a community
of ministers charged with the task of bringing the healing presence
of Christ to a wounded humanity.
who belong to the Church today, then, are called to be the community
described in the New Testament where all things were held in common;
where Paul urged that competition should be in giving service; where
Jesus said that those who would be great should be the servants
of all people.
1978, I suggested that the Second Vatican Council had given us a
concept that enables us to be the Church, the community of God's
people in our day: the concept of shared responsibility. Put succinctly,
shared responsibility means that each of us, by virtue of baptism,
has the right and the duty to participate in Christ's mission of
praising and worshiping the Lord, of teaching His word, of serving
His people and of building a community here on earth in preparation
for the fullness of life together in the kingdom of heaven.
baptism, in other words, every Christian is brought into an intimate,
personal and abiding union with Jesus and with all other Christians.
This sacramental dignity unites popes, bishops, priests, deacons,
religious and laity in the one body of Christ which is the Church.
It also serves as a mandate to each of us to use his or her talents
so that the mission of Christ and His Church may be fulfilled.
responsibility of being about the work of Christ's Church is ours,
regardless of our state in life or the differing roles we may actually
exercise. We are all called to be co-creators with God, advancing
His kingdom in our day. Every person's contribution is vitally needed
so that together in a rich diversity we can build up the Christian
community by enhancing the sacredness and growth of others.
this letter I would like to reiterate the vital importance of this
fundamental concept of shared responsibility for the life of our
Diocese but to do so from a slightly different perspective, the
priestly ministry which is given to the entire people of God.
a recent pastoral letter on ministry entitled You Are a Royal Priesthood,
Archbishop William Borders of Baltimore articulated in a concise
and meaningful fashion the idea of the priestly ministry which belongs
to the entire Church. The Archbishop writes:
as the mission of the church is rooted in its identification with
Christ and the continuance of his mission, so too the ministry
of the church is a sacramental continuation of the ministry of
Christ to the world - a continuation of the way Jesus sought to
touch the hearts and minds of people to open them to the experience
exercise of this ministry is essentially a priestly task. As the
Letter to the Hebrews tells us, there is one high priest and mediator
of grace, Jesus Christ (Heb. 5:7-10). In the New Testament the
term priesthood refers first and most fully to the one priesthood
the community of the church, as Christ's sacramental presence
in the world, is constituted "a royal priesthood, a holy
people set apart" (I Pt. 2:9) for a mission and ministry
to the world. It is through our baptismal relationship with the
person of the risen Christ that we are formed into a people and
are given a share in what St. Paul called the priestly ministry
of spreading the Gospel (Rom. 15:16).
understanding of the priesthood of all the baptized is most important
for our understanding and approach to ministry. Many of us have
come to identify the term priesthood with the ordained priesthood.
Yet in the New Testament the primary application of the word priesthood
(after the unique priestly role of Jesus Christ) is to the priesthood
of every baptized man and woman" (Origins 18, No. 11:167).
share this quotation from Archbishop Borders' pastoral letter; and
I highly recommend a careful reading of his entire pastoral because
I believe it amplifies more fully the concept of shared responsibility,
which was a major theme of We Are His People, and because it offers
a fresh approach for exploring that concept in the life of our local
Church. For your convenience and interest. I have included additional
quoted material from Archbishop Borders' letter in the Appendix
of this pastoral letter.
Archbishop's pastoral letter emphasizes that the Church is not a
stratified or clerically dominated society but a community of persons,
all sharing in the priesthood of Jesus Christ and all called equally
to be the people of God.
letter stresses, furthermore, that the Church is a community of
collaborative ministry. That is a community in which each member
is challenged to see his or her baptism as a call to holiness and
ministry; a community which seeks to help its members to discern
the personal charisms given them by the Spirit and to enable them
to employ their gifts in the mission the Church; a community whose
ordained and vowed ministers see the fostering of greater participation
in the work of the Church as essential to their responsibility as
understanding of the priestly ministry which belongs to the entire
Church and this emphasis on collaborative ministry have profound
implications for ordained ministers, religious and the laity.
priests and deacons, for example, must recognize and appreciate
that their ordained ministry arises from the priestly call that
is given to the entire Church and exists for the purpose of enabling
the whole Christian Community to be a priestly people. Again, as
Archbishop Border states:
ordained ministry does not exist by or for itself, but only in and
for the church. It exists to offer the service of leadership and
sacramental nourishment through which it acts as a catalyst to enable
and empower the whole community of the church to realize its mission
in the world. Thus the theology of holy orders arises out of the
theology of the church and not vice versa, and the apostolic responsibility
inherent in the sacrament of orders does not stand apart from the
responsibility and mission given to the entire priestly people of
who are called to the ordained ministry fulfill their role through
the service of leading God's people in the fourfold ministry of
the church - in proclaiming the Gospel, in worshiping, in building
community and in offering healing service to human needs."
priests and deacons, therefore, have a serious responsibility to help
all the members of the Church discover, develop and use their God-given
talents and charisms for the well-being of our Church and society.
Furthermore, this expansion of ministries within the Church, which
ordained ministers are called to foster and promote, must not be perceived
as a practical necessity imposed by the current shortage of priests
nor as motivated by some kind of American desire to democratize the
Church; but it must be viewed as the consequence of the rights and
duties which belong to every baptized member of God's priestly people.
men and women must see their vowed life not as a superior state to
other ways of Christian living or as a means of withdrawing from the
harsh realities of Christian living in the world but as a specific
mode of consecration to Christ which seeks to offer a public witness
that reminds all Christians of the radical claim that Christ makes
upon them in the circumstances of their daily living.
witness and ministry of religious, then, also must be catalytic in
nature, namely, designed to help all the members of the Church to
develop and then use the gifts of the spirit with which they have
been endowed so that they can take their full part in advancing Christ's
mission to the world.
laity must rediscover that biblical fact of the priesthood of all
the faithful and the common vocation to holiness and ministry which
is theirs by virtue of baptism and confirmation. This sharing in the
priestly ministry of the Church and this call to holiness and service
to others must challenge the laity to see that faith is not passive
and requires more than attendance at Mass. They must recognize that
ministry is not something which can be left solely to the ordained
and religious or to professional lay Church staff members. Rather
the laity must appreciate the dignity and empowerment they have to
be the Church, to be the people of God, called to exercise their gifts
and talents both within the Church itself and within the wider community.
we truly believe with the Second Vatican Council that the Church exists
to carry out the priestly ministry of Jesus and if we believe with
the Council that the laity are joined with bishops, priests, deacons
and vowed religious as enactors of that mission, then what we have
is a Church of ministers: some of them bishops, some of them priests,
some of them deacons, some of them vowed religious, but most of them
lay men and women. Such an understanding of the Church allows for
the richness of varied ministerial roles and encourages all the members
of the Church to contribute the wonderful gifts each has.
vision of a universally ministering Church was the foundation of the
pastoral letter We Are His People, and it remains the sustaining vision
in this updated pastoral We Are God's Priestly People. Whether expressed
in terms of shared responsibility or in terms of the priestly ministry
which is given to the entire people of God, it can be summarized in
the following way.
for the mission of the Church is collaborative and is shared by all
the baptized - ordained and non-ordained, vowed and non-vowed, carpenter,
housewife, businessman or woman, young and old, rich and poor, parent,
child, single person, black, white, red, yellow and brown - all bound
together by a variety of gifts and ministries and all serving the
one priestly mission of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I did in 1978, let me address the priests, deacons, religious and
laity within our Diocese and the role I envision for each as we seek
to make a collaborative model of ministry a vital reality in our Diocese
in the 1990's and into the third millennium.
priests of our Diocese serve the Church and its people with great
zeal, dedication and enthusiasm. Their personal holiness, their openness
to renewal and their willingness to explore new approaches to serving
God's people have been a source of great blessing for our local Church.
Permit me to share with you an assessment of the challenges which
I believe our priests have experienced since the Second Vatican Council
and the splendid manner in which they have responded to these challenges.
At our annual priests' retreat I told my brothers:
is no group within the Church which has had greater responsibility
for coping with these problems and for birthing and nurturing these
changes than you priests.
as priests, stand at the cutting edge of Church and society. You have
been pained by the departure of close friends and classmates from
the priesthood. You have been abused by dissatisfied liberals and
recalcitrant conservatives. You have faced the challenge of working
with couples who are more concerned about the place of the wedding
reception than about the nature of the marital bond, and couples who
unthinkingly accept a contraceptive lifestyle.
have been disappointed by those who would abort the unseasonal or
unwelcome human fetus, or by Catholics who are Republicans or Democrats
before they are Catholics and who consequently reject those teachings
of our Church which conflict with the tenets of their political parties.
have been pioneers, blazing new pathways, forging new frontiers, developing
new approaches to ministry often without role models or tested programs
upon which to fall back. Many of you were prepared to serve in a Church
which, in a sense, from 1965 on no longer exists; those ordained since
1965 were prepared for a Church which as yet has not arrived.
other words, you have been the pivotal figures who have had the responsibility
for learning, teaching and implementing the norms and reforms of the
Second Vatican Council. While in a sense this has been very exciting,
challenging and energizing, it has also at times been very discouraging,
frustrating and disillusioning - especially when your best efforts
have been taken for granted, gone unappreciated, been misunderstood,
ignored or rejected outright.
if there is one message that I would like to share with you at this
Eucharist, it is how important you and your ministry are and how grateful
I am for the manifold ways in which you continue to serve the Church
with fidelity and creativity, and as instruments who foster spiritual
growth, healing, reconciliation and renewal among your people.
all of the challenges which confront us as a Church and society, and
all the pressing demands that are placed upon you as priests, demands
which are often contradictory and unprecedented in the history of
the priesthood, you have responded magnificently, and you have served
with a courage, loyalty and fidelity of which you can be justifiably
proud, and which, I am convinced, historians in the future will judge
to be one of the outstanding accomplishments of this, or indeed, of
be assured, then, that you and your ministry are desperately needed
and absolutely critical for the future of our Church.
role is unique and indispensable. As the Second Vatican Council states:
prudent cooperators with the episcopal order as well as its aids
and instruments, are called to serve the People of God. They constitute
one priesthood with their bishop, although the priesthood comprises
different functions. Associated with their bishop in a spirit of
trust and generosity, priests make him present in a certain sense
in the individual local congregations of the faithful, and take
upon themselves, as far as they are able, his duties and concerns,
discharging them with daily care. As they sanctify and govern under
the bishop's authority that part of the Lord's flock entrusted to
them, they make the universal Church visible in their own locality
and lend powerful assistance to the up-building of the whole body
of Christ (cf. Eph. 4:12). Intent always upon the welfare of God's
children, they must strive to lend their effort to the pastoral
work of the whole diocese, and even the entire Church" (Constitution
on the Church, 28).
however, the Council which speaks so positively about your priestly
ministry has also created a certain ambiguity about the role of the
priest. For example, the Council addressed itself extensively to the
role of the Bishop and the laity but offered few new insights about
the role of priests.
other words, while the Council said some fine things about the priesthood,
its document, On the Ministry and Life of Priests, was definitely
among the minor ones and the Council did not develop a contemporary
theology of priesthood. In fact the Council fathers seemed to take
the priesthood somewhat for granted and did not see the necessity
to discuss the matter at great length.
and unwittingly, however, the Council fathers may have severely undermined
the traditional role you priests have played in the Church. By insisting
that the Bishop is the primary minister in the Church and that the
priest is the helper of the Bishop, the Council demoted the priest
from an alter Christus to an alter Episcopus. And by emphasizing the
priesthood of the laity and deemphasizing the sacred power which sets
the priest apart from the laity, the Council deprived the priest of
his traditional identity and clear self-image.
hindsight, as Father Edward Hussey suggested in a recent Conference
on "U.S. Catholic Seminaries and Their Future," and it is
only in hindsight, the recent decline in the number of priests and
the present straits to which we are reduced are the natural and, perhaps,
even inevitable result of the documents of the Second Vatican Council.
What is needed today, then, is a more fully developed theology of
the priesthood in light of this Second Vatican Council's emphasis
on the Church as the entire Christian community, on the priesthood
of all the baptized, and on the pastoral ministry of Bishops.
that theology of the priesthood emerges, you, my brother priests are
faced with the critical task of contributing from your practical pastoral
experience to the development of that theology and at the same time
of being leaders in fostering a collaborative model of ministry in
I realize is not an easy challenge. Deep down in your hearts, I suspect,
you are haunted by the question "Am I important?" If, for
example, deacons, religious and laity can exercise roles like those
of spiritual director, of leaders of scripture study groups, of liturgical
planners or of pastoral administrators, areas which were previously
your exclusive domain, is it any wonder that your identity may be
blurred and your confidence shaken.
despite this personal and ministerial ambiguity that you may experience
and the natural defensiveness such can engender, you priests must
be in the forefront in facilitating the development of new ministries
in the Church, especially on the part of the laity and in particular
on the part of women. You must seek to learn and to exercise skills
of coordination, collaboration, and community building, and you must
search for creative ways to try to attract, empower and support others
in their various ministries on behalf of God's people.
a special way, I look to you to help me in the critical task of preparing
our people for the changes in parish life which must take place in
light of the current and projected critical shortage of priests and
religious. Our dwindling numbers necessitate that our Diocese develop
in the immediate future different parish configurations and staffing
patterns. Your leadership is key to the acceptance of what must occur.
you deny the problem, if you become defensive because your own particular
pastoral position may be threatened, or if you have not helped your
people realize the rich ministerial potential they have and can develop,
then your people will not be ready for the transition which must happen
and consequently will suffer needless trauma.
on the other hand, you approach this challenge in a positive and constructive
manner, and if you are able to assist your people to see the current
crisis not so much as a problem but as an opportunity, an opportunity
indeed for collaborative ministry, then I am convinced we can develop
new models and approaches to parish life and ministry which can be
exciting, enriching and future-orientated.
religious through the living of their vowed life of poverty, chastity
and obedience offer a rich treasury of spiritual gifts for the life
of the church.
women and men religious have made an enormous contribution toward
promoting the renewal envisioned by the Second Vatican Council. Indeed,
I would suggest that there is no group of persons within the Church
that has taken more seriously the Council's call to conversion and
renewal than communities of religious. You have gone back to your
roots and recaptured the spirit of your founders and foundresses.
You have reexamined seriously and prayerfully how the vows of poverty,
chastity and obedience can be lived meaningfully in our contemporary
church and society. You have reviewed your constitutions and governing
structures in accordance with the principles of collegiality and servant
ministry. You have reassessed your apostolates in light of the needs
of the times and discerned continually how your members might best
serve God's people as we prepare to enter the twenty-first century.
this, I believe, has enabled you to become more prayerful, more spiritually
alive and more deeply committed to the mission of Jesus. You have
been at the forefront of liturgical renewal, of a scripture-based
spirituality, of developing creative new apostolates and of linking
prayer and worship to global and national issues of peace and justice.
am deeply grateful, therefore, for your presence among us and for
your evangelical witness to the countercultural life style that all
members of the Church must seek to embrace. The recent overwhelming
response to our appeal for retired religious is a tangible evidence
of the affection and esteem with which you are held by our entire
we look to the future, I envision two specific ways in which you can
help develop the concept of collaborative ministry.
many of you have been in the vanguard of fashioning collaborative
models of ministry within your own religious communities. You
have developed creative patterns of participatory governance which
rely less upon authoritarian dictates or majority rule and more
upon consensus building. You have fashioned patterns of effective
communication which allow maximum grassroots input and which facilitate
sharing, understanding, ownership and empowerment. You have also
developed personnel placement policies which have allowed members
to explore more fully their particular gifts, talents and charisms.
All of these experiences, both positive and negative, as the recent
dialogue conducted in our country between Bishops and religious
revealed so well, are a rich legacy from which the entire church
can benefit in our pursuit of collaborative ministry. I urge you,
therefore, to share your communal experience of governance, communication
and placement with us in the Diocese so that we can reap the ripe
harvest which the seeds of renewal you have sown have made possible.
I encourage you to share with the wider Church the varied prayer
experiences which are so much a part of your religious life. It
is frequently stated that the crisis of our age is the crisis
of spirituality. We have lost a sense of the transcendent. We
have lost the art of contemplation. We have failed in our attempts
to integrate liturgy and work, prayer and service, faith and action.
are struggling to move away from the monastic spirituality which
has been predominant in the Church for centuries and to develop
an authentically apostolic spirituality; a spirituality which
enables us to harmonize our prayer and our work; a spirituality
which enables us to be doers who contemplate; a spirituality which
enables us to reflect upon the wonders of the Father's creation,
the beauty of the Redeemer's love and the pulsating presence of
the Holy Spirit and then to translate that prayerful reflection
into words and deeds which speak clearly, meaningfully and persuasively
to contemporary realities.
challenge for spirituality today, in other words, is to avoid the
heresy of activism on the one hand and escapism on the other. You,
as religious, I believe, are in a unique position to help us address
that challenge. You have had the experience of integrating daily prayer
with the hectic demands of your apostolates in education, health care,
social work and pastoral ministry.
blending of the active with the contemplative in a meaningful daily
pattern of prayer, which is at the heart of religious life, is something
the whole church needs to experience. Indeed, prayer must be the foundation
and sustaining motivation of collaborative ministry.
religious, then, can render a real service to God's priestly people
by sharing with the whole Church your time-tested and time-proven
apostolic approach to prayer and by helping the members of the Church
develop a style and pattern of prayer applicable to the diverse circumstances
in which each finds oneself.
restored order of the permanent diaconate is among the greatest gifts
which the Second Vatican Council has given to the Church. Our own
Diocese has been blessed by the ordination of eighty-one men to this
revitalized ministry. Deacons by virtue of the public and permanent
character of their ordination commitment offer a shining example of
that servant ministry to which every Christian is called.
deacons, your spouses and families provide a fresh image of what ministry
is and can become. While retaining your family relationships and work
responsibilities, you have forged liturgical and pastoral roles which
enhance the life of the Church and which bridge the gap that frequently
exists between the sacred and the secular, the sanctuary and the pew.
have done this at great personal sacrifice. Many hours away from family
have been devoted both to ministerial formation and to ongoing education
as well as to direct service to God's people in a wide variety of
parish, diocesan and community-based apostolates.
have been real pioneers, breaking new paths, navigating uncharted
courses, learning from doing and from sharing with others. Not infrequently,
however, your role has been misunderstood, ignored or rejected by
priests, religious and laity alike as people's fear of the unknown,
mistrust of the unfamiliar or outright resistance to newness and change
have often thrown up barriers to acceptance and support of your role
you have persevered with dignity, courage and patience. You have moved
forward step by step by maintaining the sense of what is possible
and a sensitivity to the pace of others. In so doing you have given
a dynamic witness to what servant ministry is all about.
we move to make the vision of a universally ministering Church a lived
reality in our Diocese, I would suggest that you have several distinctive
contributions to make.
you must be careful that you not foster a new clericalism wherein
you transfer from the ranks of lay parishioners to clerical professionals
and seek to carve out roles that solidify your own position, responsibility
and authority in the hierarchy of the Church, but at the expense
of lay initiatives and lay involvement. If this happens, the diaconate
will be robbed of its fresh character and promise and will belie
the concept of collaborative ministry which is so crucial for
the future of our Church
deacons, then you must see the empowerment of the laity as one
of your prime responsibilities. For example, in your function
as a staff member you should seek to insure that whenever possible
the role of the laity is included in liturgies, programs and activities;
and you should be an advocate for the laity where they mare
unable to speak for themselves. Otherwise, your efforts can be
very self-serving and as discriminatory towards the laity as some
clergy and religious have been and still tend to be.
you must seek to be sensitive to the growing pains clergy and
religious may experience coming to grips with our expanded concept
of ministry. Priests and religious can tend to resent the intrusion
both of deacons and laity in those roles which traditionally and
historically have been reserved exclusively to themselves. In
light of these new opportunities it may seem that their role in
the Church is blurred and that their ministry has been downgraded
or has lost some of its luster.
I believe, because of your unique relationship with the clergy
and religious on the one hand, and with the laity on the other,
can help bridge this gap by enabling priests and religious to
see these new ministerial opportunities for laity not as a competition,
nor as an usurpation of their power or as a threat to their authority,
but as an opportunity to explore the interrelatedness of all the
gifts and ministries God has shared with His People and to facilitate
the development of such.
you might discuss with priests and religious ways in which you
or the laity might free them from some of the responsibilities
nonessential to their specific ministry, but with which they have
become burdened, so that their time for prayer, study, planning
and direct pastoral ministry can be maximized.
as deacons you can discuss with the laity the reluctance they
often manifest in assuming new roles in the parish or in the Christian
community because "that's not my place"; and you can
interpret for them the true sense of the call, empowerment and
responsibility they have as baptized Christians so that the laity's
gifts might be fully galvanized and utilized.
you deacons and your families have a special contribution to make
toward strengthening family life and toward assisting the family
itself to be a ministering community.
your homilies, for example, by drawing from your own family experience,
you have a unique opportunity to relate the Scriptures to the
challenges of married life and to the demands of daily living
in a way that can be stimulus for the whole community. Along with
your spouse you can also be leaders in the development of family-life
ministry within the Church, a ministry which foremost and essentially
should be a ministry of the laity, a ministry exercised by families.
key to family-life ministry, in other words, is to be found in
the family's becoming aware of its Christian mission. The family
must foster caring and sharing attitudes among its own members
which then should stimulate the same type of loving care and concern
within the wider community. You deacons, your wives, and children,
then, can be examples par excellence of how family, work and community
responsibilities can be blended in a deep commitment to the mission
of the Church and service to the world.
laity of our Diocese constitute a splendid mosaic of God's priestly
people in action.
enthusiastic commitment to the life of your parish as lectors, extraordinary
ministers of the eucharist; catechists; evangelists; music ministers;
ushers; and ministers of service to the poor, sick, developmentally
disabled, elderly, youth, hospitalized and imprisoned--as well as
your caring involvement in the host of activities related to your
family, neighborhood, workplace, and community--are a never-ending
source of inspiration and edification.
loyalty to the Church, your participation in our new lay ministry
formation program and your sacrificial generosity in response to financial
appeals from the parochial, diocesan, national and universal Church
have been nothing short of extraordinary.
openness to change, your life of prayer, your eagerness to learn and
grow in the ways of the Lord are daily reminders of God's presence
in our midst and of your zealous responsiveness to that presence.
are the most numerous members of God's priestly people. As the Bishops
of the United States stated in our 1980 Pastoral Reflection on the
American Catholic Laity, you are truly "Called and Gifted." Each of you by virtue of baptism is incorporated into the people of
God and each of you has a vocation to serve God's people in a way
that is characterized by adulthood, holiness, ministry and community.
you look to how you might collaborate with bishops, priests, deacons
and religious in fulfilling your priestly call, I would suggest that
you consider how we Bishops organized the ministerial section of Called
stating that baptism and confirmation empower all believers to share
in some form of ministry, we go on to speak first about the laity's
call to ministry in the world:
whole Church faces unprecedented situations in the contemporary
world, and lay people are at the cutting edge of these new challenges.
It is they who engage directly in the tasks of relating Christian
values and practices to complex questions such as those of business
ethics, political choice, economic security, quality of life, cultural
development, and family planning...in those areas of life in which
they are uniquely present and with which they have special competency
because of their particular talents, education and experience, they
are an extension of the Church's redeeming presence in the world."
is not until after your normative secular ministry is affirmed that
we bishops speak about the call 0f laity to ecclesial or Church ministry.
Here the ministry of catechist, parish and diocesan councilor, eucharistic
minister, spiritual director as well as of full-time professional
minister is acknowledged with gratitude. What Called and Gifted offers
then is an inclusive view of lay ministry. As laity, your Church service
is ministry, but so also is your everyday life and work, and preeminently
in Bishop Raymond Lucker's address to the assembled National Catholic
Conference of Bishops at Collegeville in June 1986, entitled "Linking
Church and World" and related to the vocation of the laity, the
pointed out that we have reversed the order. We have tended to call
you the laity first to ministries within the Church and then secondarily,
or at least with far less emphasis, to ministries for the transformation
is important, therefore, that you, the laity, take responsibility
for correcting this imbalance. Not that you should downplay or ignore
in any way the creative new Church or ecclesial ministries which have
been available to you in recent years. These have been vitally enriching
for the whole Church and must continue to flourish and expand. However,
you must give equal attention to developing your ministries to the
world, in the marketplace, in the area of work, family, leisure and
in all your ministries for the transformation of society.
is especially in the family and society, in marriage and work, in
human sexuality, and in economics that this transformation takes place.
Consequently, it is vitally important that lay men and women appreciate
the call you have in the home, on the job, in the neighborhood or
community to be about the transformation of society; to make the message
of the Gospel real in your family, social life, business transactions
and world of politics.
your must strive to make the connection between faith and work, between
weekend liturgy and weekday responsibilities, between seeing God's
presence at the altar and at the desk, the sink, the farm, the labor
union hall, the P.T.A. meeting, the political caucus and the legislative
the past, in other words, the Church encouraged or seemed to have
encouraged you to find holiness by leaving the world instead of finding
holiness in the world. Now you must take the initiative to recapture
and to develop practical ways to implement that sterling insight of
the Council that your unique role as laity is to make Christ present
in society and to transform political, economic and social institutions
in light of the Gospel.
more than anything else on the part of you, the laity, I believe,
are not only your participation and involvement in the life of our
church and society, but a participation and involvement which flow
from your keen awareness and appreciation of the dignity you have
as baptized members of God's priestly people and
from a firm conviction about the indispensable ministry you exercise
both in Church and society.
is only where your priestly mission and ministry are fully understood
and appreciated that your life as a Christian can be transformed from
a rather dull, routine and perfunctory fulfillment of specific tasks
and burdensome obligations to an exciting, challenging and spirit-filled
adventure which will deepen your relationship with the Lord and which
will redound in loving and selfless service to God's people.
second major theme of the 1978 pastoral letter We Are His People is
that the parish is the center of the Church's life, the place where
Christians gather to hear the Word, to celebrate the Eucharist and
other sacramental rites of the Church, to support one another in faith
and in the face of personal and social challenges and to become energized
for mission both to the Church community and to the wider society
the letter stressed that the mission of the parish is the same as
the mission of Jesus, namely to bring the Good News of God's unconditional
love to His people and to enable the members of the parish community
to witness to a common faith, love and service which they share in
union with Jesus and with one another.
the letter expressed the conviction that the parish council is a vehicle
which best enables the members of the parish to become a community
of collaborative ministry.
parish council is that coordinating and unifying body which seeks
to harmonize the efforts of the parish with those of the Church universal
and the diocesan Church and which strives to empower the members of
the parish to exercise their gifts and talents so that the parish
itself is a truly vibrant expression of God's loving, healing, liberating
and redemptive presence among us.
parish council is a practical means of achieving the full participation
of the whole parish in its mission. It does this by giving all a voice
and by encouraging, guiding and enabling the various aspects of the
parish council, then, is both a ministry and a sign of what an authentic
Christian community is all about.
parish council, in other words, is meant to be a partnership on the
part of the pastor, the parish staff and the parish representatives
which gives witness not only to what the parish is, but especially
to what the parish is called to be.
parish council shares in the critical task of setting directions and
of calling people to walk in the ways of the risen Lord Jesus.
is why in 1978, when We Are His People was issued, I asked each parish
to establish or to revitalize a parish council, because, I believe,
an effective parish council is the best way to insure that the parish
becomes a community of collaborative ministry. At that time, less
then half of our parishes had functioning parish councils. Presently,
however, 90% of our parishes have a parish council or some form of
effective advisory group which embodies a participatory or collaborative
model of parish life. This, indeed, is testimony to the leadership
of our pastors and parish staff and to the enthusiastic and cooperative
response of our people.
assessing our experience with the parish councils in the Diocese of
Albany I would make four general observations.
The very existence of the councils is a testimony to the flexibility,
determination and faith of all the people in our Diocese. Any change
comes about with a certain wrenching, a certain resistance, a certain
pulling away from the comfortable, the tried and the true. So it takes
great risk and trust to launch forth into the unknown. Yet the people
of our Diocese have done this boldly and enthusiastically.
The growth and development of councils have demonstrated a deep willingness
to become involved by learning a seemingly "radical way of being
church," a style of functioning as a parish that necessitates
more self-initiative, more creativity, more independence, more discernment
and greater personal investment.
We have had our casualties as a result of this new experience. There
have been misunderstandings and hurts, frustrations and disappointments,
false starts and failures. There have been evenings, I am sure, when
pastors, staff and council members alike have wondered why in the
world they had chosen to be a part of this so-called shared responsibility
or collaborative ministry.
stating my fourth general observation, I call your attention to some
of the problems encountered in efforts to encourage growth in effectiveness
of the parish council.
Bishop in the Diocese, I am well aware (both from surveys and personal
interaction), of the problems which have arisen in initiating or revitalizing
our parish councils. From the pastor's perspective or that of the
parish staff there are the problems of getting people who will be
active, enthusiastic contributing members.
are the problems of motivating council members to assume or to fulfill
responsibilities without having to be present themselves at every
committee meeting or every parish function. There is the ongoing problem
of orientating the ever-rotating council membership to a sense of
where the parish as a community has been, is, and is going to be.
There is the problem of avoiding narrow parochialism and of envisioning
the parish community within the context of the Diocesan, national
and universal Church. And there are the frustrating problems associated
with collegial decision-making when it might be easier, quicker, and
perhaps more effective to do things oneself.
the other hand, from the laity's point of view, parish councils are
often perceived as an exercise in futility. Some councils are looked
upon as paper tigers which meet infrequently, if at all, and then
only to ratify or to confirm what the pastor and parish staff have
already decided. Others are perceived as debating societies where
various factions air their complaints and grievances, hoping to win
a favorable hearing for their pet projects or their vision of the
Church, but showing little interest in fostering an authentic Christian
other councils are viewed as dull, stodgy groups devoid of any purpose
beyond insuring that the parking lot is paved, the annual fundraising
events are established and staffed and the budget is balanced.
there is the problem created when a new pastor has an entirely different
vision of Church or differing expectations of council members than
those of his predecessor.
pastor, staff, and council members alike, moreover, there is often
the tension over power, authority and control which depletes people's
energies and enthusiasm and creates only frustration, cynicism, bitterness
all these problems and many more which are frequently associated with
the establishment and development of parish councils are, I believe,
part of the pain associated with any change or transition. But people
can grow only if they are given the chance. I am convinced that if
we strive to promote, affirm and support parish councils, then, even
in our failures we will grow; and, in the final analysis, we will
have stronger, healthier, more spiritually alive parishes because
of the struggle and pain experienced in such growth.
That brings me to my fourth and final observation, namely, that we
do indeed have many outstanding parish council models throughout the
Church at Albany to substantiate my optimistic convictions about parish
I indicated previously, there are presently some 90% of our parishes
which have some kind of active advisory body whether or not it be
termed a parish council. This is not to say that every council is
functioning to its full potential, but the vast majority are doing
well and some are serving exceptionally well.
our councils have matured, I have seen exciting movement and growth
from a strictly business board to a community of servant leaders;
from a decision-making group that happens to pray to prayerful communities
that have to make decisions; from crisis management to long-range
planning and stewardship of gifts and resources; from parochialism
to outreach; from rule by an elite group to participation and ownership
for decisions by many parishioners; from "we have always done
it that way" to creative recentering; from damaging conflict
situations to a recognition of the need for healing; from a dualism
that assigns spiritual matters to the priests, deacons, and religious
and the temporalities to the laity toward a shared responsibility
for the total mission of the Church by all.
our councils have begun to assimilate these concepts and others, quite
frankly, are backsliding; but when our councils are trying to root
themselves in the message and mission of Jesus, they are devoting
as much time and effort to being, as they are to doing--with the result
that the doing is so much more effective and the council experience
itself so much more enriched.
reflecting upon those parishes which are most vibrant and most successful,
I believe there are certain ingredients which are common to them all
be they in larger or smaller parishes, in low, moderate or high-income
parishes or in urban, suburban or rural communities. They are, in
fact, the very qualities or characteristics identified by the National
Conference of Catholic Bishops Parish Project as contributing to healthy,
mature, spiritually alive parish communities. These characteristics
are four in number:
parishioners enjoy good liturgy and preaching. People earnestly
desire worship services which help them to pray well and preaching
which gives meaning to their faith lives.
they value the ability of the parish to help people deal practically
with their life concerns, such as those of alcohol and drug abuse,
poor schools, crime and safety issues, unemployment versus job
stability, and especially their life concerns about family and
parishioners need a feeling of ownership on their part; a feeling
that they belong, that their concerns are being listened to and
that they can have the opportunity to affect parish policy and
the people appreciate an active quality in the parish, a sense
that something is going on and that there is something happening
would like to propose that these four characteristics be the realistic
goals for which the parish councils in our diocese strive in order
to facilitate and enable further growth and vitality in their respective
regarding parish councils, I would note that both in our diocese and
throughout our nation and world the greatest single problem that has
arisen with councils is in the realm of the tension which frequently
develops in the relationship between the pastor and the council membership.
tension arises, I believe, from two very important theological principles
which coexist in our Vatican II Church. On the one hand, the Second
Vatican Council emphasizes the common dignity and the equality that
exists among all of God's priestly people. All, therefore, are called
to the same holiness of life and all are entitled to become actively
engaged in exercising the Church's mission in the world.
the other hand, the council also highlights the hierarchical nature
of the Church. We live as believers within a Church that has an appointed
structure with predetermined ranks of authority.
two notions so evident in the documents of the Council and of the
revised Code of Canon Law are not contradictory, but they do create
a tension when it comes to such practical things as how decisions
get made in the Church. This tension is real at the level of the universal
Church and it also affects our local Church or Diocese and our parish
are faced, therefore, with the challenge of living with this tension,
with these two differing principles. One stresses our unity with Christ
Jesus and with one another. The other stresses the need for organization,
structure and authority. One acknowledges the gifts of God which exist
within individual believers; the other stresses the diversity of functions
and roles which must be lived out within the Christian community.
Somewhere between them we are expected to govern and to be governed;
to minister and to be ministered to.
challenge, then, is to recognize the authority of those who hold pastoral
office within the Church without diminishing the value of those who
recognize their call to shared leadership responsibility arising from
baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist.
specifically, the pastor, by Church law, has ultimate responsibility
for the spiritual care of the parish. He is directly accountable to
the Diocesan Bishop for all parish matters. However, it is neither
wise nor based upon sound Church teaching if the pastor operates without
consultation from others.
is why, in accord with Canon 536 of the revised Code of Canon Law,
I have asked that each parish have a parish council. It is interesting
to note that the Code calls this body a Pastoral Council. The idea
behind the term employed contains a subtle hint: pastoral parish councils
should be dealing with comprehensive pastoral ministry in the parish
and not just the finances or temporalities.
pastoral or parish council, however, according to the code, is of
a consultative or advisory nature. But do not let these terms diminish
or dilute the important, and indeed indispensable, role of the council.
The real purpose of any consultative or advisory body is the pooling
of the gifts of the group so as to influence the decisions to be made.
The decision itself may lie ultimately with another (e.g. the pastor),
but the really controlling element of the decision is the group's
influencing the decision by having done their homework and by having
shared their combined wisdom. In this way the persons consulted in
many respects determine what the decision will be.
very pragmatic terms, then, the pastor continues to bear the final
responsibility for the total parish ministry. For sake of accountability
to the Diocesan Bishop whom he represents and to the people of God
whom he serves, the pastor must ratify the recommendations of the
parish council before they can be implemented.
the pastor must guard against the parish council's endorsing proposals
which would be contrary to universal church law, diocesan policy or
the other hand, the pastor is expected to exercise his pastoral responsibility
not as the only minister of the parish, but as the presider over the
variety of ministries that the people have, and as a sharer with the
people in those ministries. Rarely, therefore, would it be envisioned
that the pastor override or veto the advice of the parish council;
or if such be the case, then normally an explanation of his decision
would be in order. Hopefully, too, the advice given the pastor from
the council would not be by majority rule but by consensus among the
the final analysis, councils will work better once pastor, staff and
council members realize that there will probably always be some creative
tension between the executive function and the wisdom or advisory
function. Each has its own vantage point and needs to be understood
in that light. The more, however, pastor and council members clarify
their mutual expectations of each other and of how decision-making
is formulated, the better off we will be.
should never be forgotten, however, that the parish council is not
an end in itself but a means to facilitate an end, namely the mission
and priestly ministry of Jesus in the parish and to the wider Church
MISSION AND MINISTRY OF THE PARISH
upon the life and ministry of Jesus, I perceive four aspects of his
work and mission.
Jesus was a herald. In His person and in His teaching, He revealed
to us, in profound yet understandable ways, God's love for each of
us and the nature of God's Kingdom now among us.
Jesus was a servant. He was a person who came to give sight to the
blind, speech to the mute, hearing to the deaf, health and wholeness
to the sick and the Gospel to the poor.
Christ was a sanctifier. He created and left with us sacred signs
which enable people of every generation to encounter the living God.
These, of course, are the sacraments, which help us become what Jesus
called us to be - a loved and loving people.
Jesus was a community builder. He formed a group of people who were
to live together in love and peace, to insure that the Eucharist was
celebrated, and to see that the needs of the brothers and sisters
were met. To achieve this, leaders were chosen, roles and responsibilities
were delegated. Hence the social and institutional characteristics
of the parish community as we know it today gradually took shape.
parishes can focus their own activities around the same four-fold
priestly mission of Jesus through specific actions:
Prayer and Worship - Through these we fulfill the sanctifying
mission of Christ.
Christian Education - Here we fulfill the mission of Christ the
Christian Service - In this way we fulfill the mission of Christ
Church Administration - In this way we fulfill the role of community
builder. We attend to all the material, financial and organizational
concerns that enable parishes to maintain their community of faith,
love and service.
four areas represent a simple, yet comprehensive means that allows
each of us to be part of Christ's mission, to extend His priestly
ministry into the world and to be a part of Him today. Carrying out
these areas of mission in our parish requires participation and cooperation
me then offer some challenges which I would suggest parishes must
address in each of these areas of mission and ministry.
Prayer and Worship
whole Church, baptized in Jesus, shares His priesthood and therefore
has the privileged responsibility of worshiping God by joining in
the celebration of the Eucharist and other sacraments and by personal
has already been indicated, increasingly our Catholic people have
been assuming liturgical roles in the Church. Many priests, parish
staff and parishioners have responded positively and creatively to
my request that each parish have a liturgy committee or team which
seeks to plan meaningful liturgy in which each person is well prepared
for the role he or she is called to exercise.
my 11 years as Bishop I have witnessed significant improvement in
the quality of liturgical celebrations throughout our diocese. I would,
however, make certain recommendations for improvement.
encourage our priests and deacons to make the Sunday homily the focal
point of the week and the priority in their ministry. People earnestly
desire well-prepared preaching which is both scripturally based and
applicable to contemporary realities. It is important, then, to read
the Sunday scriptures early in the week and to pray and meditate over
part of their preparation, some homilists have found it beneficial
to meet with a group of parishioners during the week to discuss the
readings from their perspective, as well as to receive constructive
feedback as to how well the content and the delivery of the homily
are accepted by the congregation.
method the homilist employs, my point is that there is no more important
responsibility that the ordained minister has than to break open God's
word in meaningful and relevant ways to the weekend worshiping community.
also underscore the importance of the fundamentals in liturgy, of
those essential ingredients whose absence will vitiate the most creative
liturgical planning. For example, there should be greeters or ushers
at each weekend liturgy who truly communicate a sense of welcoming
and a spirit of hospitality. This quality of welcome and hospitality
should also be reflected in the attitudes and the demeanor of all
the other liturgical ministers.
liturgy itself should be well choreographed with each person knowing
the role he or she has, the time to exercise that role and the way
in which his or her role is coordinated with that of others. It is
imperative that ordained ministers not assume or usurp liturgical
roles and responsibilities which properly belong to the laity.
music is critically important for a meaningful participatory liturgy.
This requires musicians who are well rehearsed and cantors who are
well trained in leading the congregation in song. Lack of congregational
participation in song remains the most glaring deficiency in the liturgies
throughout our Diocese.
this is due in some degree to people's lack of appreciation of the
communal nature of our worship and of the value of song as prayer,
it is more attributable, I believe, to the failure to facilitate congregational
singing by choosing quality music appropriate to the congregation;
to inadequate music rehearsal with the congregation before the celebration;
to the lack of trained cantors to lead the congregation; and to the
tendency the choir has at times to dominate, and thus discourage,
believe, too, that the quality of music in parish liturgies could
be improved if professional musicians were adequately compensated
for their services. Just renumeration would do much to attract and
retain trained musicians.
would note further that many of our parishes have too many weekend
liturgies. This unnecessary multiplication of masses often contributes
to a rushed celebration and to a diminished sense of community. It
is frequently the reason why there cannot be musicians and a sufficient
number of trained liturgical ministers at each Eucharist. I would
urge every parish, therefore, to review carefully the need for each
weekend liturgy and to schedule Eucharistic celebrations in a way
that will insure fuller congregations and a less hurried and more
participatory observance or worship.
am also afraid that at times we rely too much on the Eucharist as
the only form of prayer in our Church, When we Catholics plan any
type of communal celebration, invariably the Eucharist is the first
and often the only option suggested.
the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christian life and always
will be such. There are, however, the other rich forms of liturgical
prayer and devotions which are appropriate for gatherings of the faithful.
In particular, I commend the Prayer of the Hours as a magnificent
treasury of prayer for the entire parish community.
I stress that our parish liturgical celebrations can be meaningful
prayer only to the extent that they are nurtured and fueled by the
personal prayer of each parishioner. Liturgical celebrations, in other
words, are not and cannot be a substitute for the responsibility each
Christian has to develop a deep, intimate personal relationship with
the Lord through regular and frequent personal prayer.
nature and style of that prayer, I believe, are relatively unimportant
-- be it meditative or charismatic, be it reflecting on the sacred
scripture or communing with nature, be it reciting the rosary or making
a novena. What is absolutely essential, however, is that we pray frequently;
otherwise our lives will be empty and our action futile.
are unable to be heralds of the Good News they have received unless
they reflect on that faith which is theirs and explore how that faith
can be lived appropriately in their own lives as well as communicated
effectively to others. This reflection and search to live out faith
is an ongoing process and it requires education and formation throughout
the entire life-cycle.
the day I was appointed Bishop of Albany, in response to a reporter's
inquiry, I stated that "religious education, at all levels, particularly
among adults, is the greatest need we have in our Diocese."
years later, I reaffirm my assessment that there is no task which
is more vital, critical, or urgent today than that of imparting religious
truths and transmitting religious values not only to our children
but to all. In this secularistic age where fundamental beliefs, values,
and traditions are being questioned, ridiculed or rejected outright,
all within the Church need updated teaching or instruction and ongoing
formation which make God's living word relevant and meaningful for
our everyday lives.
for too long our Church religious education programs have been perceived
as an activity or thrust designed primarily, if not exclusively, for
the young. Yet, just as our relationship with the Lord must be an
ever growing, ever evolving, ever maturing one, so too our interaction
with the religious education and faith formation which nurture this
relationship also must be a dynamic one, open to new information,
to creative approaches and fresh insights.
each member of the Church has the responsibility to seize opportunities
to learn and understand more about the teaching of Christ and His
Church and its implications for the life situations in which we find
ourselves. Otherwise our faith understanding will remain fixed largely
at the catechism level of our childhood. Such a level, while sufficient
for a younger age or a different time, is hardly adequate to cope
maturely with the complex faith and moral problems of the present.
a matter of fact, it may be precisely because so many adults have
not kept pace with the changing ways, forms and symbols for expressing
our faith in the light of contemporary realities or because we have
not developed a comfortability in discussing or sharing our faith
experiences with others that so many of our young today have not found
in the Church meaningful answers to their probing questions or have
not observed in its members spirit-filled role models who speak and
witness in ways which challenge, inspire and invite emulation.
in particular, have a special responsibility for continued faith formation
and education because children learn their fundamental faith insights
and religious values in the family. That is why our religious education
programs today strive to be parent-centered. The classroom instruction
or the formational experiences offered by the school or parish can
at best complement or supplement that which is learned from the parents.
recent study of 200,000 religiously educated children, for example,
concluded that the most significant factor in determining religious
and social behavior is not that of their formal religious instructions
as such, but that of parents' discussing religious and moral matters
with their children in the home.
primary role which parents have in faith formation is also the reason
we place such great emphasis upon parental involvement in baptism,
Eucharist, penance and confirmation programs. Without parental understanding,
cooperation and reinforcement the good seed sown in the classroom
will not receive the nurture it needs to grow and flourish into mature
the parish is to address adequately the faith-formation needs of all
its members, then it must have a comprehensive approach to religious
education - directed to the person in his or her concrete life circumstances
and to the total parish community.
Catholic school and religious education program are vital means of
educating and forming our young in faith but they cannot be the sole
religious education and faith-formation opportunities which the parish
other formal programs like adult religious education and scripture
study courses at the parish or regional level, or extra-parochial
programs like Marriage Encounter, Pre-Cana, Cursillo, as well as opportunities
to build religious education and faith-formation programs into parish
organizations like the parish council, the home-school organization,
the Rosary society, the Legion of Mary, the St. Vincent de Paul Society
or various youth and senior citizen groups, must be utilized to impart
to parishioners the ever-relevant teaching of Christ and His Church
and its applicability to their daily lives.
we look at the specific challenges in religious education which confront
our Diocese, I would cite five critical areas which must be addressed
Our own experience in the Diocese with Renew and the Rite of Christian
Initiation for Adults as well as the experience of other Dioceses
and parishes throughout the country reveal that small faith communities
within the larger parish community can be an excellent means for fostering
adult religious education and faith formation.
smaller communities break down the depersonalization which is so prevalent
in our society at large. They create a sense of belonging or esprit
de corps and provide the opportunity for people to explore their faith
in a warm, caring and supportive environment.
am convinced that such small faith communities are the wave of the
future. Whether organized in neighborhoods, or around people having
particular interests like those of the elderly, young adults, professionals,
business persons, housewives, single parents, the separated and divorced,
families with special children etc., these small communities become
a powerful vehicle for stimulating faith, for fostering spiritual
growth, for providing support and affirmation, for developing leaders,
for promoting evangelization and for outreach to serve the needs of
the wider parish and community.
encourage parishes and parish councils, therefore, to view the formation
and support of small faith communities, as a basic style of parish
life. I ask our Diocesan Office of Religious Education to continue
its efforts to provide training and resources for parish staffs, council
members and parishioners in their efforts to develop and sustain small
Our consultation leading to this updated pastoral letter revealed
that parents, pastors and concerned Catholics throughout our Diocese
are deeply troubled about the failure to transmit our faith heritage
to the younger generation. Many expressed the fear that today's youth
seem to lack an understanding of the foundations of our faith and
in particular that many youth drift away from the Church after confirmation
or grammar or high school graduation.
expressed the concern that the faith formation offered in our Catholic
schools and parish religious education programs is not sufficient
to combat the messages about human dignity, self-worth, sex, alcohol
and drug usage, the value of possessions, the purpose of life, the
foundation for morality and the very existence of God which our youth
receive constantly from peers, the media and society at large, messages
which frequently are contrary to our Catholic Christian values.
is needed, it seems, is greater outreach to youth beyond our formal
programs of faith formation in Catholic schools and parish schools
of religion. The problem, however, is that most do not know how to
approach the issue. Some people say we need a youth minister or a
parish youth committee to address the pressing needs of teen and young
adults in a way that will help them better understand and interpret
Christian values. But what the committee will do and who is equipped
to undertake the task remain a puzzle.
with bare-bone budgets and other liturgical and educational priorities,
many parishes are unable to meet the need to hire staff for the task.
Furthermore, there is a dearth of trained youth ministers even if
the finances were available. There exists, too the very real problem
of finding the time to hold parish or regional programs for youth,
given the competing demand of after-school activities, athletic events
and job responsibilities.
problems, both real and perceived, deserve our immediate attention.
I ask our Diocesan Office of Religious Education to help parishes
in their efforts to develop feasible programs for youth which can
be conducted by the parish itself or in the region. I also charge
this Office with the task of continuing and further developing its
programs of training adult and peer leaders for this important ministry.
youth ministry, in particular, has been too long neglected; yet it
holds great promise for the future. Young people need to know that
they are the Church, not the Church in training but the Church here
and now with great gifts to offer. Youth too are part of God's priestly
people and should be invited and challenged to share in the collaborative
ministry to the Church.
I encourage administrators of our Catholic high school and parish
high school programs to take advantage of the training process and
programs offered through our Diocesan Office of Religious Education
and through other groups which facilitate and support peer youth ministry.
If our parishes are to meet the faith-formation needs of their people,
especially adults, we must utilize modern communications more fully.
Our Diocesan Office of Catholic Communications now has the capacity
for developing local video tape recordings which can be used in schools,
religious education programs, adult education sessions and ministry-formation
ask the Communication Office to prioritize their efforts in video
tape production with a particular view to serving the adult education
needs of our parishes. This should be done in close coordination with
our Diocesan Resource Library and other diocesan departments which
serve the formational needs of parishes.
Evangelist" remains a prime source of up-to-date news, information
and commentary about events, trends, developments and movements affecting
the life of the Church. It is a major tool I have as Bishop to communicate
with the entire Diocese and to present a unified vision to our local
"The Evangelist" is the best bargain of any Catholic newspaper
in the State, with an annual subscription rate of $10.00. For 50 weeks
a year, "The Evangelist" is available to every Catholic
home providing 10 to 12 pages of Catholic news, all for less then
the price of a postage stamp.
however, cannot or, in most cases, choose not to pay the annual subscription
fee. Since I consider the newspaper a prime means of faith formation,
especially for adults, I have continued the practice of my predecessors
which requests that each Catholic home receive "The Evangelist."
Where the subscription is not cared for by the parishioner, it becomes
the responsibility of the parish community to subsidize this expenditure.
I envision this subsidy as part of the parish responsibility of adult
faith formation and in many cases of evangelization. Often "The
Evangelist" is the only link between the recipient and his or
her faith community.
make three requests regarding "The Evangelist":
ask each recipient to pay the annual subscription fee.
ask pastor and parish council members, especially members of the
finance committee, to look upon the parish subsidy to "The
Evangelist" not as a burden to be endured and perhaps abandoned
or deferred in light of other parish fiscal restraints, but as
an opportunity for proclaiming the Good News. I ask people to
write to the editor or to me to share constructive criticism as
to how "The Evangelist" may better serve its readers.
I want our Diocesan newspaper to continue to be an effective vehicle
of communication and adult education. This goal will be assisted
greatly by grass-roots input.
Our Catholic schools are in great difficulty as a result of spiraling
education costs, declining enrollments and fewer religious personnel
to staff the schools. Many schools have been closed or consolidated.
Many of our remaining schools are in dire need of repairs, maintenance
projects or renovation. Our school buildings, along with all school
buildings throughout the country, are subject to new and very costly
and stringent asbestos regulations. Fewer of our grade schools are
any longer parish schools but are schools serving students in a given
region of a city or county. Many parents find that the Catholic school
tuition is beyond the means of their pocketbook.
harsh realities have created a crisis of confidence about our Catholic
schools and have left many wondering if, indeed, there is a future
for our Catholic schools. Despite all these problems besetting our
Catholic schools, I believe that Catholic school education remains
a unique way of forming Christian community, of preaching the Gospel,
of nurturing faith, of transmitting Christian values and of enabling
our young and their parents to appreciate their baptismal call to
be a priestly people.
I contend that there is no other current institution within the Church
that can do more than can the Catholic school toward accomplishing
the priestly mission of Christ and more toward establishing a Catholic
identity and shared values system in a secular society which so often
rejects the influence of God and religious values.
as our Pastoral Letter, Economic Justice for All, points out so well,
Catholic schools have and must continue to have a special role to
play in educating the poor and disadvantaged. Our schools also offer
built-in opportunities to accomplish the work of evangelization. They
enable us to reach persons who might not otherwise have contact with
the Church or who have strayed away from the practice of their faith.
is why I indicated in the pulpit letter read in each parish last Spring
that I have a firm commitment to the Catholic schools in our Diocese.
At the same time, I cannot ignore the fact that a major influx of
new money will be required to provide competitive salaries for our
teachers, to offer tuition assistance for elementary and high school
students so that more families can send their children to our Catholic
schools and to offset capital expenses for repairs, maintenance, and
renovation of our school facilities.
charge our Diocesan School Board and Office, therefore, with the urgent
task of implementing both the strategic action plan and the regional
plan which were developed recently after broad-based consultation
throughout the various regions of our Diocese. In particular, I ask
our School Board and Office to formulate tuition, parish subsidy and
budgetary policies which reflect the growing regional nature of our
schools and to develop, in conjunction with local school boards, a
comprehensive public relations and recruitment program which will
enable us to present the Catholic school
story in the best fashion possible.
ask our pastors and parish staffs to be supportive of Catholic school
education and to encourage parents and students to avail themselves
of the incomparable benefit of a quality Catholic school education.
a special way I ask our parents to remain committed to Catholic school
education. Your belief and confidence in our Catholic schools remain
the key to their continued existence. If you do not appreciate their
value or if in your fear for their future, you fail to enroll your
children, then whatever efforts we make at the parish or diocesan
level will be in vain. I cannot guarantee that every school which
presently exists will remain intact, but I am convinced that with
parental commitment and involvement we can maintain a system which
will insure that the precious heritage of a Catholic school education
remains a possibility for a large number of our young people in the
Our parish religious education programs are a vital vehicle for faith
formation in those areas where there are no Catholic schools and for
those students enrolled in public or private schools. Our religious
education directors, coordinators and catechists, as well as the teachers
in our Catholic schools, are doing an outstanding job of imparting
the core teaching and values of our Catholic faith, of preparing young
people for the sacraments of Eucharist, reconciliation and confirmation
and of forming young people and adults in an understanding of faith
which can enable them to live their faith in our modern world.
are faced, however, with a critical shortage of professional religious
education personnel. Some parishes, moreover, especially in the rural
areas of our Diocese, do not have the fiscal resources to hire professional
personnel, to train volunteers or to provide adequate facilities and
I ask our Diocesan Office of Religious Education to continue developing
and implementing their comprehensive plan for catechist formation
and for the establishment of regional catechetical centers which can
assist our smaller parishes with their training and resource needs.
I also ask this Office to develop an evaluation tool or instrument
which will enable parishes to assess the quality and effectiveness
of their religious education programs and to make necessary improvements.
Conversely, I ask our parishes to take advantage of the many fine
training programs offered through our various diocesan offices.
address the challenges facing our Catholic school and parish religious
education programs as well as the pressing need for ongoing adult
education and formation in our Diocese, I have commissioned a study
of possible funding options which will assist in determining how we
can best meet the extraordinary funding requirements which are necessary
if the Church is to provide quality faith formation and Catholic school
programs for the 1990's and beyond. I ask your prayers for a beneficial
outcome of this study process.
Christ himself the Church's approach to the human family must be holistic,
that is, concerned not only about people's faith or spiritual needs
but also about their social needs and the conditions and social environment
which affect their human development or lack thereof. As Pope John
Paul II points out in his magnificent encyclical Sollicitudo Rei
Socialis, through its social mission and ministry the Church needs
to promote the cause of human dignity, to ease suffering and pain,
to advocate for a more just, loving and peaceful society and to help
people to experience God's presence in their powerlessness and suffering.
Catholic Church in the United States and in our Diocese through our
hospitals, social service agencies, parish-based programs and fraternal
or social organizations has had a marvelous track record of bringing
the healing ministry of Jesus to the poor, the homeless, the hungry,
the sick, the elderly, the unwed parent, the addicted, the imprisoned,
the widow or widower, the separated or divorced, the unemployed, the
immigrant, the mentally ill, the developmentally disabled, and to
those at the margins of society. It is an achievement of compassion
and caring concern for human dignity of which we can be justifiably
1978, I asked each parish to form a service committee to address the
growing social needs which can be found in our urban, rural and suburban
communities alike. I am pleased that many such committees were formed
either to initiate or to coordinate or expand the existing parish
services to those in need. Furthermore, many parishes have been cooperating
with the leadership of our Diocesan Office of Health and Social Services,
our Commission for Peace and Justice and our Office for Human Development
Organizing by becoming local sites for their programs or by promoting
and coordinating at the local level advocacy on behalf of state, national
and global issues of social justice.
Catholics, I believe, realize that service to people in need is an
integral part of the Christian life which must be reflected in the
activities of one's parish as well as in one's own personal actions.
Christian service, in other words, cannot be delegated for the most
part to professional social workers and health care providers, but
is the responsibility of each member of God's priestly people. Daily
I see dramatic evidence of that recognition in our parishes and in
the activities of our people.
must appreciate, however, that our direct service on behalf of people
in need, beneficial and indispensable as it may be, is not enough
in the complex world and society in which we live today. Rather these
services must be complemented by a social development thrust such
as that offered by the Campaign for Human Development and Catholic
Relief Services, wherein people are encouraged and enabled to organize
for self-help and by a social-justice thrust which seeks to address
the root causes of poverty and powerlessness in our world and society.
Christians, in other words, we must not merely be content with helping
people in their hour of need by applying band-aids to deep wounds
or with helping people better adjust to their suffering; but equally,
if not more importantly, we must be willing to confront those persons
and those institutions which oppress, manipulate and destroy others
- be it the Church, the government or the business community. This
is precisely what our Holy Father Pope Paul VI meant when he stated:
"We in the Church must shift from a policy which seeks to alleviate
the results of oppression, to one that seeks to eliminate the causes
I realize, are frightened by this challenge because they believe it
may entail becoming involved with politics or because it may thrust
them into the risky area of controversy where they and their ideas
may be challenged, ridiculed or rejected. The fact that this type
of Christian action is threatening for many Catholics is underscored
by the Notre Dame Study of Catholic Parish Life which indicates that
only four percent of Catholic parishioners are engaged in issues of
and more, then, I encourage our parishes and individual Catholics
to put the world on their agenda. Issues such as abortion, the death
penalty, war and peace, racism, sexism, consumerism and the quality
of national and international life are not purely mundane or secular
matters to be left to the politicians or theoreticians; rather they
are issues laden with moral values and ethical dimensions which Christians
individually and collectively have a serious moral obligation to address.
key, I believe, to people being motivated to accept this challenge
is the linkage which exists, and which must be made, between the liturgy
and social justice. Our union at liturgy with the members of Christ's
body the world over demands that we give expression to that unity
by helping the suffering members of that Body who are overcome by
the oppressive conditions and unjust structures which bind them.
a similar vein, when I sent the 1978 pastoral letter to Archbishop
Jadot, the Papal Representative to the United States, for his information
and comment, he responded with a very complimentary letter and a constructive
criticism. The Archbishop observed that We Are His People paid little,
if any, attention to the needs and concerns of the Church beyond our
Diocesan borders. He urged me in the future to have a greater sensitivity
globally to the needs of the Church and suffering humanity.
Jadot's fraternal reminder was right on target. Consequently, I have
been searching for some tangible way to create a greater awareness
of the fact that we are members of a global family and to give concrete
expression to that awareness. An excellent way to do this, I think,
is to follow the example of other dioceses in our country which have
entered into a "sister relationship" with a diocese from
the third world. While such relationships vary from diocese to diocese,
generally they include
sharing of Church personnel, ordained, religious and lay, visits and
exchange programs and support of particular projects or ministries
within the "sister diocese."
the growing presence of the Hispanic community in our country and
the fact that our future as a Church and nation is vitally intertwined
with that of our brothers and sisters in the Southern half of our
Hemisphere, I am suggesting that we pursue a relationship with a diocese
in that part of our globe.
am asking our Diocesan Office for the Propagation of the Faith, our
Spanish Apostolate and our Commission for Peace and Justice to explore
further this possibility, with a view to the selection of a "sister
diocese" and with specific recommendations concerning the nature
of the relationship that would exist.
believe that such a venture would benefit our own Diocese immensely
and would create among our people a greater sense of mission-mindedness
and a better understanding of the pressing social issues of poverty
and injustice which afflict millions of our neighbors in the Southern
half of our continent. I ask the prayers of the entire Diocese for
the development and success in implementation of this important undertaking.
would also expand this theme of "looking beyond our own borders"
by encouraging our parish communities to develop greater linkages
with our Catholic hospitals, nursing homes, child care facilities
and other social service agencies and organizations such as our Diocesan
Commission on Aging or our Diocesan Commission on Criminal
Justice. Too often there is not the networking which should exist
between these various components of our Diocesan family.
relationships could be mutually beneficial, providing more volunteers
and community outreach for our institutions, as well as more concerned
parishioners, knowledgeable about the root causes of the social issues
these institutions seek to address, and, therefore, more likely to
become advocates for social change.
wherever possible, I would encourage our parishes to work ecumenically
and on an interfaith basis in providing services or promoting social
justice issues. There is no specific Catholic, Protestant, Jewish,
Orthodox or Muslim way to combat drug abuse, to alleviate unemployment,
to care for the hungry and the homeless or to reverse the arms race
etc. Hence, for the clarity of their witness and the effectiveness
of their service, in the area of social ministry, parishes should
collaborate on an ecumenical or interfaith basis.
offer one concluding suggestion regarding this theme of "looking
beyond our borders." I would encourage parishes which have volunteer
appreciation events for parishioners who render service to the parish,
to include among those recognized not only parishioners who give direct
service to the parish as such (e.g., teachers in the school, catechists,
lectors, musicians and eucharistic ministers etc.) but also parishioners
who render acts of charity, service and justice through their involvement
with community endeavors not under parish auspices (e.g., activists
for issues of peace, anti-abortion, human rights, scout leaders, little
league volunteers, or fund raisers for community service projects,
recognition, I think, would reaffirm the point I made earlier in this
pastoral letter that the primary role of the laity is in exercising
ministry for the transformation of society. Together with ecclesial
ministries, then, the parish, should be acknowledging and celebrating
these ministries of service to the world and society.
realize that to respond to all the social service and social justice
needs which exist today can seem at times to be an overwhelming task
for the parish community. I ask our Office for Human Development Organizing,
then, to be the lead agent in working with our parishes, diocesan
departments, offices and various commissions, our Catholic Charities
agencies, the wider religious community and the broader community
at large in order to develop, over time, more systematic and coordinated
means of identifying critical issues for action, of promoting timely
and effective responses and of providing the materials, information
and training necessary to sustain and strengthen grassroots service
is said that philosophy is the "queen of the sciences" because
it is the handmaid to all the others. Similarly, I would suggest
that Church administration is the "queen of the ministries"
because it is ordained to provide the ingredients, the personnel,
fiscal and material means, which enable the other ministries to function.
administration is a genuine ministry, one of the few specifically
mentioned in the Scripture (1 Cor. 12:18). It serves to build up the
Christian community and to provide the wherewithal for God's people
to exercise their priestly ministry.
our society becomes more complex, the importance of Church administration
looms larger. Computerization, comprehensive personnel policies and
benefits, professional budgetary and accounting procedures, planning
and prudent management of records, investments and properties are
all an integral part of church life today at all levels. Without these
skills and resources the mission of the Church is severely impaired.
the past several decades, our Diocese and its parishes have moved
from a "mom-and-pop-store" operation, if you will, to an
up-to-date system of management based upon sound business principles
and practices. Lay persons, successful in the world of business and
finance, have been extremely helpful and generous in assisting the
Church to modernize. Often times it has been in the area of Church administration
that bishops, pastors and school principals have at first come to
recognize, to appreciate and to become comfortable with the value
and necessity of collaborative ministry.
I assess the status of Church administration in our Diocese and its
parishes I would make the following observations"
there is the tendency, at times, to allow financial considerations
to become the determining factor in defining the mission or to
become the sole, or at least dominating, criterion in setting
Diocesan or parish goals and priorities. Certainly, finances are
an undeniable reality which must be weighed carefully in developing
programs and services; but the vision and the plans of those responsible
for financial management and administration must be harmonized
with those of the entire faith community and must always be in
accord with gospel values.
many of our pastors and parish staff devote a disproportionate
amount of time to administrative tasks, tasks for which they are
not always well suited or trained, and tasks that detract from
other roles and responsibilities which by virtue of ordination
or ministerial formation are more properly theirs. I encourage
our pastors and other staff persons to relinquish those administrative
duties which can be better and more appropriately performed by
some instances, parishes should consider hiring a full-time business
manager. Where this is fiscally impossible, consideration should
be given to a business manager serving a cluster of parishes.
More thoughtful and creative discernment of how church administration
is exercised in our Diocese and its parishes, I believe, will
improve both the quality of administration and of ministry.
I would encourage those parishes which have not done so to move
towards computerization of finances, record keeping and census
data. Any administrative unit in our society today which is not
computerized is rapidly in danger of becoming obsolete. For some
parishes this may create some short-term hardships, but the long-range
gain is incalculable.
as our Diocese approaches its Sesquicentennial Anniversary, I
believe we need a Diocesan-wide census. Quite frankly, the data
concerning the number of Catholics in our Diocese and other vital
information about their socioeconomic background and specific
needs are at best an off-the-cuff "guesstimate." A more
accurate, in-depth Diocesan census would better enable us to do
planning for our parishes and to develop programs and services
which are better targeted for the population being served.
ask our Diocesan Planning Office, our Vicar for Religious and
the Director of our Stewardship Office to work with our Diocesan
Pastoral Council and Presbyteral Council to assess this issue
and to recommend what method or approach would best serve the
needs both of our Diocese and its parishes.
historically, our Diocese and its parishes have survived on the
weekly offertory collections and donation or pledges made to special
projects like the building or renovation of a church, school,
convent, rectory, hospital or nursing home. Little thought and
effort have been given to promoting planned church-giving wherein
people are provided with opportunities to benefit their parish
or diocese through wills, trusts, insurance, securities and property
gifts, to name just a few. Consequently, unlike the institutions
of many other faith communities, neither our Diocese nor its parishes
and institutions have significant endowment which can benefit
the overall mission of the Diocese, the parishes or specific aspects
of that mission.
years ago we initiated such a planned giving program entitled Planning
For His People. It is designed to encourage people to think about
ways in which they can assist the Diocese, their parish or some church-related
program through a remembrance in a will, or as the beneficiary of
an insurance policy or through some other vehicle which can be mutually
beneficial to the individual, one's family, and the church. To date,
we have had some very generous benefactors who have responded to this
program. I do not believe, however, that this program and its great
potential have been explained and promoted sufficiently.
ask our Diocesan Stewardship Office to revitalize this effort by developing
strategies and materials which will provide our people with the opportunity
to benefit the mission of the church through the vehicle of planned
foundational themes of this pastoral proclaim that the life of the
Church is most vividly experienced in the parish and that the way
to the development of the parish is commitment to collaborative ministry.
If, however, this vision of our parishes as communities of collaborative
ministers is to become a vibrant reality, then I would suggest that
at the Diocesan level we must have two strategic priorities which
facilitate the vision.
first of these priorities is rooted in the recognition that collaborative
ministry is not something that just happens. It must be articulated
clearly, so that everyone understands the vision; it must be prepared
for carefully, so that people, especially in leadership, have the
skills to function in such a model; and, therefore, it must be nurtured
and implemented patiently and sensitively.
ordained ministers and other parish staff, lay and religious, are
the key for promoting this vision and its implementation at the local
level. If they are to do this well, however, they not only must understand
the theology of collaborative ministry but also must learn the skills
of ministering themselves in a collaborative fashion and of enabling
others to do so. If the parish leadership does not function in a collaborative
fashion, in other words, it is most unlikely that the wider parish
community will gain this facility.
I propose the following four steps to lead us toward collaborative
I ask our Consultation Services Center, in conjunction with our Diocesan
Department of Pastoral Formation and Services and in consultation
with our pastoral departments, to offer workshops and other programs
which will help our parish staffs to gain the skills they need to
minister collaboratively and to empower others to do the same.
For the vision of collaborative ministry to be realized, we need to
provide those desiring to minister with the education and formation
resources they will require to serve well. This will necessitate the
development of a broad continuum of educational and formational opportunities
for our people.
minister effectively, some, for example, will need to earn a professional
degree at the undergraduate or graduate level in theology, sacred
scripture, religious education, pastoral counseling or other related
disciplines. Some, to exercise their desired ministry, will need to
take required courses which will enable them to be licensed or credentialed
by some appropriate diocesan body. Some will need to take workshops
or mini-courses to acquire the appropriate theological knowledge and
pastoral skill for fulfilling their ministry.
will need access to ongoing theological and pastoral education appropriate
to their background, experience and ministerial responsibilities.
All will need retreat and other formational opportunities which enable
them to grow spiritually.
of these opportunities, for example, in basic adult religious education
or in training for lectors, eucharistic ministers, ministers of hospitality,
or ministers for marriage preparation can be offered by the parish
or at the deanery or region level. Other opportunities, like formation
to be a lay minister in the parish or certification as a catechist,
youth minister, or pastoral care worker or preparation for the diaconate,
can be offered by the diocese. Still other opportunities, for example,
preparation to become professional teacher, religious education director
or pastoral counselor, can be acquired at the college or university
level. There is also a wide variety of combinations of the above which
may accomplish the goal. Furthermore, many of these programs, can
offer joint formation for priests, deacons, religious and laity, which
in itself prepares for and models collaborative ministry.
point is that to achieve the vision of collaborative ministry will
require the availability of a number of formal and informal educational
and formational programs. Presently some of these opportunities are
available in a piecemeal fashion; others are simply non-existent.
develop, to coordinate and to secure adequate funding for a comprehensive
continuum of education and formation opportunities for priests, deacons,
religious and laity offer a monumental challenge but one which must
be met quickly. I am asking our Diocesan Offices of Pastoral Planning,
Pastoral Formation and Services, and Religious Education to work energetically
to develop a unified plan which both provides for and models or reflects
Although it is implicit in the previous point, we need some overall
diocesan policy or guidelines which will specify who or which church
entity finances these educational and formational opportunities. Historically,
a substantial, if not the entire, portion of funding the education
and formation of our priests, deacons and religious has come from
the Diocese or religious communities. Frequently, lay people have
had to fund their own education or have received some modest subsidy
or assistance from the parish or other church entity where they serve.
we are serious about collaborative ministry, therefore, we must be
equally serious about assisting the laity to meet the expenses associated
with their education and formation. We must also look at patterns
and policies for funding the ongoing education and formation of those
already serving in ministry. This is a complex task which will require
a new way of thinking and the development of new fiscal resources.
ask our Diocesan Comptroller, our Directors of the Offices of Vocation,
Clergy Education, Priests' Personnel, the Diaconate and Religious
Education as well as for our Vicar for Religious and Director of the
Consultation Services Center to serve on a task force to research
this vital issue and to recommend a long range plan and policy guidelines
designed to meet this critical need.
Collaborative ministry will flourish best when our parish and diocesan
staff also operate in a collaborative fashion both among themselves
and in their interaction with collegial bodies (for example, the parish
council at the parochial level, the Presbyteral Council and the Diocesan
Pastoral Council, and the boards of our various diocesan offices and
departments at the diocesan level).
leadership in modeling collaborative ministry is so important, I am
committing myself to undertake an evaluation of my own collaborative
style in working with staff, boards and collegial bodies; and I invite
the directors of our various diocesan offices, departments and commissions
to undertake a similar evaluation of their collaborative relationship
with staff, boards and other diocesan departments. I am asking our
Director of Human Resources to be of assistance to me and to those
diocesan directors who undertake this evaluation.
hope that these recommendations will help to advance the cherished
goal of a universally ministering church in our Diocese of Albany
second strategic priority which must be met if the vision of collaborative
ministry is to become a reality is that of greater linkage between
the programs and services offered by our Diocesan offices and departments
and the felt needs of our parish communities. The Diocese is the sum
of its parishes and our Diocesan offices and departments exist to
serve our parishes, not vice versa. It is in the parish that the Eucharist
is celebrated, that people are prepared for the Sacraments, that faith
formation is offered, that human needs are served and that Christian
community is experienced.
at the diocesan level, this is well recognized and truly respected.
Many of our diocesan staff have served in parishes and will do so
again. They are most sensitive to and appreciative of the realities
of parish life and are most desirous to be of assistance to parishes.
however, a gap can develop between the needs perceived at the diocesan
level and the needs which are experienced at the parochial level.
Several years ago, Bishop Albert Ottenweller of Steubenville addressed
this issue at a meeting of our National Bishops Conference. He suggested
that people at the parish level often feel that they are at the bottom
of a huge funnel. Everyone in the church - the Pope, Cardinals, National
Catholic Offices in Washington, the Chancery office, the Diocesan
agencies - all pour their favorite projects, programs, suggestions
or directives into the parish funnel.
Bishop Ottenweller's image was so compelling that it prompted one
pastor to write his bishop as follows: "Reverse the funnel relationship.
Find out what kind of assistance and programs we need rather then
using us as objects of your pet programs."
suggestion that the Diocese provide the kind of programs and assistance
which the parish needs was an oft-repeated theme of the consultation
among pastors and parish representatives which preceded this updated
pastoral letter. Quite frankly, this is the goal of our Diocesan departments
as well, and overall they do an excellent
job in fulfilling that mission.
fact, it should be noted that many of the programs and services that
people believed should be developed or provided by the Diocese already
exist and are available, but for some reason this information remains
unknown at the grassroots parish level. All of this merely proves
that effective communication is an ongoing problem in society at large
and for every institution including the Church, and that we must work
continually for improvement.
are, I believe, three present efforts which will help to effect this
improvement in communication.
Our Diocesan Offices and Departments have formed a Services to Parishes
Committee which is working to build a common philosophy of services
to parishes based upon the goal of mutual cooperation, support, benefit,
understanding and trust between Diocese and parish. This committee,
in other words, is striving to develop, a better integration of the
various efforts of diocesan offices and departments so that services
can be rendered to parishes in a more creative, coordinated and cohesive
Our Diocesan Pastoral Planning Office has developed a planning process
which now provides an annual opportunity for deans, pastors and representatives
from each parish to surface the pastoral needs which exist in their
parish or region and to articulate the services desired. This input
is then made available to our Diocesan Departments as they develop
their programs and services for the forthcoming year.
Planning Office and Budget Review Committee evaluate departmental
requests for financing in light of their responsiveness to the needs
and services surfaced at the parochial level. Parish needs, therefore,
become the driving force for the development of programs, plans and
priorities at the diocesan level. A summary report of this process
is made each year at the Fall Parish Council Convening of parish councils
so that the parish and diocese have a more unified vision of where
we are and where we are going together.
planning process is still in its infancy stages of development, but
as it evolves, I am confident that it will contribute to greater mutual
communication and accountability between the Diocese and its parishes
as well as to more effective networking among parishes at the deanery
and regional level.
This Fall, I am beginning a program of visitation to each of the 200
parishes in our Diocese. These visits, preceded by prayer and careful
planning at the parish and diocesan level to insure the best utilization
of our time together, will consist of meetings with the pastor and
parish staff, with the parish council and parish trustees, with school
principal, religious education director and key parish volunteers,
where deemed appropriate, and will conclude with an evening parish
forum open to all parishioners.
visits will provide me with the opportunity to share my vision, hopes
and concerns and to learn firsthand the hopes, dreams, problems and
concerns of parishioners and those who serve them. I am asking the
dean and diocesan pastoral council representative in each deanery
to accompany me at the meeting of the parish council and at the open
forum with the parishioners so that they can better understand and
articulate the needs and concerns of those whom they represent on
our diocesan collegial bodies. I am looking forward to this visitation
program with great enthusiasm and ask your prayers for its success.
am hopeful that these three initiatives I have cited will serve to
strengthen the linkage between diocese and parishes and to reaffirm
the important theme of this past year's Bishop's Appeal, namely, that
we are "One Church, One People."
final section of this pastoral letter will address six additional
challenges that demand priority attention in the immediate future.
need for a change in the configuration and staffing patterns of many
of our parish communities is becoming more acute. As we look to the
future of our 200 parishes in the Diocese of Albany, two irrefutable
facts must be faced squarely.
the shortage in vocations into the ministerial priesthood and religious
life is a current reality in our Diocese. Presently we have 262 active
diocesan priests serving the Church at Albany, a net decline of 58
active priests over the past ten years. Since 1982, including both
retired and active priests, we have experienced a total loss of 81
priests, due to death (36), retirement (22), resignations (21), or
transfer out of the Diocese (2). In this same five-year period we
ordained 19 diocesan priests and we have had five priests transfer
into the Diocese. Our net loss, therefore, is that of 57 priests.
we look to the immediate future, the personnel crunch will get even
worse. During the next five years, for example, we will have at least
23 priests retire. This projection does not take into account losses
due to unexpected death before retirement or resignation from priestly
ministry. At the same time our present seminary enrollment projects
only 12-14 priests being ordained in this five-year period. It should
also be noted that religious communities are coping with similar personnel
picture of the dramatic reduction in priest personnel is compounded
by the fact that many of the cities and even some of the smaller communities
in our Diocese are simply over-churched. Some parishes, for example,
were established at a time when travel was a problem or when language
or ethnic needs had to be served, but in many instances these factors
are no longer contemporary realities.
population base has shifted from the city to the suburbs so that many
of our urban parishes are serving much smaller numbers of parishioners.
At the same time, in many instances expanding suburban parishes have
only one priest for 1,000 to 1,500 families..
personnel and population realities, coupled with the aging and under-utilization
of many of our Church buildings, schools, convents and rectories,
necessitate that we rethink the most equitable and economical use
of our personnel and physical resources so that we can best serve
the needs of the Church as we prepare to enter the 21st century.
realize full well that change is never easy and that it becomes particularly
traumatic when change affects one's parish community. There are so
many cherished memories associated with the place where people have
gathered for weekly worship and the rites of passage such as baptisms,
marriages and funerals of beloved family and friends or where people
have attended school and received religious instruction.
people have formed closely knit communities based upon language, ethnic
customs or neighborhood ties, it is most painful to think about closings,
mergers and consolidations or about different staffing patterns and
different ways of rendering and receiving pastoral services.
change, then, must be approached with the utmost sensitivity and with
a view to preserving as far as possible natural communities and established
customs and traditions. All of this, however, must be done within
the framework of what is practically feasible and pastorally reasonable.
It can only be accomplished, in other words, by shedding narrow parochialism
and by becoming receptive to the ministry of others than the traditional
pastoral-care-givers in the Church.
have appointed a special task force coordinated by our Diocesan Office
of Pastoral Planning to gather the data and options we need in order
to face this critical challenge and to make recommendations for the
future. Specifically these recommendations will include criteria for
determining a parish's viability as well as criteria for staffing.
I ask your prayers for this critical undertaking as well as for your
openness, cooperation and understanding as we seek to develop parish
planning that will best serve the common good.
Vocations to the Priesthood and Religious Life
need for greater promotion of vocations to the ordained priesthood
and religious life is obvious. As I have already indicated, vocations
to the presyberate and vowed life have declined dramatically. While
this picture is balanced somewhat by the burgeoning new ministries
of permanent deacons and laity, these emerging ministries, precious
and invaluable as they are, cannot serve as a substitute or replacement
for vocations to the priesthood and religious life because the ordained
priesthood and the vowed religious life are absolutely essential and
indispensable ministries for the Catholic Christian community. Without
priests there can be no Eucharist and without Eucharist the core of
Catholic Christian life is removed. Without religious and their vowed
witness to the values of poverty, chastity and obedience and to the
special charism and spirit of their founder and foundresses, an invaluable
dimension of Christian life is lost to the Church.
and religious, in other words, exercise that catalytic ministry of
leadership and of service which enables and empowers the entire Church
to be a priestly people.
is imperative, therefore, that vocations to the priesthood and religious
life be fostered and promoted vigorously and that we assess with a
sense of urgency what can be done to reverse the recent decline in
vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
must be noted, however, that the task of fostering vocations to the
ordained priesthood and religious life is the task of every member
of Christian community, not the exclusive responsibility of clergy
parents, teachers, catechists, campus ministers, deacons, family members
and parishioners must be alert to call forth vocations to the priesthood
and religious life as we approach the next decade and the next century.
Accompanying that call must be prayer, penance and encouragement on
the part of the Catholic Christian community and an openness on the
part of young people to give careful discernment to whether God is
asking them to serve Him and His people as a priest or religious.
have commissioned our Department of Pastoral Formation and Services
to formulate a comprehensive vocation-awareness program rooted in
the priestly call given to all God's people, but focusing in a special
way on the call to ordained ministry and the vowed life. This program
is presently being pre-tested and once it is finalized I request that
it be implemented in every parish, school, religious education program
and college campus in our Diocese.
am convinced that prayer and creative attraction will yield generous
men and women who will follow in the footsteps of the dedicated priests
and religious who have graced our Diocese so nobly throughout our
vocations to the ordained priesthood and vowed life is just as important
as attracting such vocations. I encourage our priests and religious,
therefore, to draw upon the resources which our Diocese and the various
religious communities provide for support, such as our Diocesan Consultation
Service Center, the Ministry to Priests Program and support groups
for priests and religious.
I urge our laity to be affirming and supportive of present clergy
and religious by avoiding unrealistic demands and expectations and
by expressing signs of appreciation such as offering a word of encouragement,
a smile of recognition, a nod of approval or a note of gratitude.
personal gestures of appreciation and concern for priests and religious
as persons can be an effective antidote to those factors which lead
to anxiety, discouragement, frustration and disillusionment in their
ministry and will be a tremendous source of support and affirmation
contemporary family is under tremendous societal pressure. Today is
a challenging time and the family - in all its diversity - is responding
with flexibility, faith and courage. Some stark statistics highlight
these societal forces and factors which tend to erode or debilitate
the family's traditional role as the prime unit of Church and society.
50% of all marriages in the United States today terminate in divorce
and approximately one million children a year now suffer from
a breakdown in the nuclear family.
is estimated that 52% of all children born today will wind up
living with only one natural parent before reaching adulthood.
out of every eight births are out of wedlock, especially as the
rate of teenage pregnancy borne of loneliness and lovelessness
continues to rise astronomically.
250,000 children living in foster care homes, over a million are
runaways annually and one out of every nine gets in trouble with
the law before the age of 18.
women, the reality of some of those statistics, combined with
growing economic pressures and rising educational costs in many
instances make working, for mothers, a necessity not a choice.
mobility of our society frequently creates a sense of roothlessness,
as grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, who used to play such
an important role in family life, are often but pictures on a
wall or once-a-year visitors.
the fact that we are living in a society whose music, art and
literature communicate hedonistic, materialistic, and secularistic
values, which are so contrary to the gospel message upon which
marriage and family life are founded.
of the above serves to underscore the jeopardy in which the family
finds itself and to confirm the contention of the Bishops of the United
States that "families today are hanging on by their fingernails."
these bleak realities, the fact remains that the family is the primary
community where we discover what it means to be a human being and
where our faith is first learned, experienced and tested. It is the
place where deep interpersonal relationships are formed and lived
out. It is the place where mutual respect, intimacy, fidelity, warmth,
trust and understanding are most likely found. It is the basis of
stability for most people's lives. It is the primary context wherein
people develop their personalities, crystallize their sexual identity
and form those moral and spiritual values which give shape and direction
to their life's journey.
is why the Vatican Council spoke of the family as the "domestic
church," the church of the home, and why our Holy Father Pope
John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio has stated that strengthening
and developing pastoral care for the family must be a priority in
today's church. Indeed, our Holy Father noted that "no plan of
pastoral work at any level must fail to take into consideration the
pastoral area of the family" (Familiaris Consortio par. 70).
however, the Church which should be the prime supporter and advocate
of the family often has devised policies and practices which have
a negative impact upon family life. Paradoxically, the most generous
and religiously active families are often at the greatest risk. For
example, the mother may be called upon to serve as a lector at the
9 a.m. Liturgy, while the father ushers at the Vigil Mass. And the
daughter is asked to be a Eucharistic Minister at the noon Liturgy.
The unintended result can be that of preventing the family from worshiping
together as a unit and from having a family day together on the weekend.
Also, many parish activities are traditionally and properly segregated
by gender, age and status. At times, however, this practice may have
the unintended negative effect of dividing family relationships.
many diocesan and parish programs are geared to serving individuals,
like the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, scripture or faith-sharing
groups and retreat experiences for youth, the engaged, the separated
and divorced. Often, however, these programs fail to take into account
how the individual's participation in such programs can be enhanced
or hindered by family attitudes and reactions.
is important, therefore, that we seek to examine all of our parish
and diocesan policies, programs, services and activities from a family
family perspective is a holistic approach to promoting an authentically
Christian understanding of the family, to addressing the multi-faceted
realities of contemporary family life and to fostering a partnership
between the family and those institutions of Church and society which
should be supportive of families in fulfilling their mission and their
responsibilities. A family perspective asks the Church to minister
to the family as a system, not as a collection of individuals. It
also encourages the view of families as collaborators with other social
institutions, not merely as the recipients of services.
am asking our Family Life Office to develop practical instruments
or tools to assist our Diocesan departments and parishes, schools
and religious education staffs to be sensitive to a family perspective
in the formation of all their policies, programs, services and ministries.
The strength and well-being of the family is essential for a healthy
Church and society, and the Church should be in the forefront of promoting
that well-being through a family perspective.
this regard, I am pleased by the Partners Project which our Family
Life Office is developing in conjunction with other diocesan departments.
The Project seeks to strengthen the partnership between family, church
and society in order to better support the family as the Church in
miniature and to assist the family in becoming an effective agent
of service and justice. Partners seek to inform and educate, to network
and refer, to advocate and respond to social issues while promoting
a family perspective. I encourage the continued development of this
Partners Project and ask our parishes and families to explore its
recent consultation for the development of a Pastoral Response to
Women's Concerns for Church and Society, both within our diocese and
throughout our country, reveals that many women in our Church and
nation, of all generations and socioeconomic backgrounds, experience
gender discrimination and suffer from the evil of sexism.
society there is the growing phenomenon of the feminization of poverty
wherein women of color (Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American),
women who are the sole provider of their children, and elderly women
increasingly find themselves living at the margins of society and
constitute the largest single category of persons living below the
official poverty level. Domestic violence is on the rise. In the work
force women frequently receive unequal pay and unequal opportunity
for hiring and advancement. They are often stereotyped as emotional
and incapable and are denied access to certain professions or educational
the Church, many women feel patronized and undervalued. Although,
as the Notre Dame Study of Catholic Parish Life reveals, the majority
of the staffs and volunteers in our parishes are women, many of these
women do not feel that they and their gifts are fully respected. They
do not perceive that they are "Partners in the Mystery of Redemption"
(the title of the forthcoming pastoral response).
women are amazingly loyal to the Church and its teaching, many do
not feel heard or consulted as members of the priestly people of God,
especially in areas which most affect their lives such as the Church's
teaching on human sexuality and reproduction. They are pained by exclusive
liturgical language and non-inclusive practices in the Church. Many
yearn for expanded opportunities for ministry and ministerial formation.
A significant number do not accept or embrace the Church's teaching
which prohibits the ordination of women to the ministerial priesthood
and are convinced that a change in that teaching is the only way to
obtain full participation in the Church.
believe strongly that these and other social and ecclesial concerns
of women are a major and pressing pastoral challenge confronting us
as a Church. The recent Apostolic Letter of Our Holy Father, entitled
Mulieris Dignitatem, underscores this point. Our failure to address
these issues sensitively, candidly and aggressively will, I believe,
have grave consequences for our Church and society.
responsibility for this challenge belongs to the entire Church, especially
to its ordained ministers who are in the position of leadership and
decision-making and who, consequently, hold the key to change, I am
asking our newly created Women's Commission to be the lead agent in
monitoring our efforts in the Diocese to study and implement at all
levels the pastoral challenges outlined in the Bishops' still evolving
pastoral letter addressing women's concerns.
particular, I think we need to insure inclusive language in our liturgies;
and wherever appropriate and permissible, equal access to all roles
and responsibilities in the Church which do not require ordination;
full representation and participation on our collegial bodies at all
levels; and the development of an authentic Christian feminism which
respects the sacred dignity and fundamental equality of women, as
well as their unique gifts, insights and charisms.
recent diocesan consultation reveals that evangelization (although
often not expressed in that particular terminology) is a major concern
of Catholics in our Diocese. It seems that everyone knows someone,
a family member, a neighbor, a friend or co-worker who is either unchurched
or an estranged Catholic. It is also apparent that the process or
methodology of going about the task of evangelization is foreign or
fearful to many of our people, priests, deacons, religious and laity
the call to evangelization, or bringing the Good News to others is
at the heart of the gospel message and is entrusted to each member
of God's priestly people, our efforts in this regard have tended to
be rather weak, sporadic and woefully inadequate.
Catholics, for example, have interpreted the mandate of Jesus, "Go,
therefore, make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the name
of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:18),
as the exclusive task of the ordained and vowed, and consequently
have absolved themselves of any responsibility in this regard. Others
identify evangelization with the overly aggressive and coercive proselytizing
of some denominations or sects and are quite repulsed by the process.
however, are just plain uncertain about what needs to be done and/or
uncomfortable in doing it. For some reason we Catholics tend to regard
our faith-life as a very private affair. Outside of Mass, religion
class, teaching our young their prayers or formal activities sponsored
by the Church, we have a great reluctance to approach matters of faith.
This is especially true in the United States where the old adage "One
never discusses religion and politics in polite company" is so
deeply engrained in our nation's psyche.
is needed, therefore, is a greater awareness on the part of each Catholic
Christian of his or her call to be an evangelist and a greater comfortability
in sharing one's faith with others, especially in informal settings
like the home, the workplace and the neighborhood.
course, a major component in the work of evangelization must be the
faith life of the individual Christian. A strong commitment to the
Lord Jesus and to the ongoing relationships He has called us to share
with the Father and the Holy Spirit must always be the foundation,
motivation and means of evangelization. There simply can not be a
substitute for this personal faith commitment.
is why during this past decade our Diocese through its parishes sponsored
the Always His People program and Renew. Both of these endeavors were
envisioned as preparatory, if you will, for an outreach beyond our
own practicing membership. Based on the premise that "you cannot
share with others what you do not possess yourself," these programs
were designed primarily to strengthen the faith-life of our Catholic
faithful as a precondition for the ongoing work of evangelization.
task must now be undertaken with zeal, determination and the commitment
of financial and personnel resources. In 1972, Pope Paul VI promulgated
the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) as a way to catechize
candidates for membership in the Catholic Christian community. In
1986, the Bishops of the United States made this Rite normative for
reception of new members into our Church.
RCIA is a major tool of evangelization which by Diocesan policy is
to be initiated in each parish of our Diocese. Not only is it a process
for introducing new members to our faith community and for forming
them in the liturgical and sacramental life of the church, but it
constitutes an ongoing process of renewal for the entire parish.
many respects the parish's commitment to the RCIA will mean a new
way of being Church and will highlight the absolute necessity of the
concept of collaborative ministry which has been outlined in this
pastoral letter. The RCIA requires that many parishioners become involved
in roles as sponsors, catechists, godparents and prayer partners,
and that the entire parish community, as a priestly people, be an
agent of evangelization.
realize that developing the liturgical and catechetical potential
of this Rite is a challenge for our parishes. I ask each parish to
begin, however, or to intensify the efforts that are already underway;
and I charge our Diocesan Task Force on the RCIA in conjunction with
our Diocesan Offices of Religious Education and Prayer and Worship
to provide the necessary direction and resources for this vital undertaking.
Diocesan Committee on Evangelization has also been studying models
to promote evangelization throughout our Diocese at the parish level.
These approaches are directed both to the unchurched and to fallen-away
Catholics. The Committee has been careful to harmonize its efforts
with those promoting the RCIA and I am assured that their work is
complementary. I encourage parishes, then, to avail themselves of
the programs, training sessions and resources offered by our Evangelization
a final reflection on evangelization, I note with deep concern that
membership in our Diocese is increasingly white, middle class and
graying. Blacks, Hispanics, indigent whites and young people are notable
by their absence.
realize the fine efforts our Black and Hispanic apostolates and our
inner-city parishes are making to attract the poor and minorities;
and as was noted earlier, everyone is concerned about how to reach
our teenagers and young adults.
critical need, however, cannot be the sole realm of a few specialists
like youth ministers or the staff of the Black and Hispanic Apostolates
and our inner-city parishes. Rather it is a challenge for the whole
church, especially the challenge of shedding the vestiges of racism
and classism which we often harbor personally and institutionally,
and the challenge of presenting ourselves as an inclusive church where
all are welcome, and all have ownership regardless of race, color,
gender, age or socio-economic background.
the priestly people of God we have the responsibility to insure that
the Church at the parish, diocesan and universal levels has the spiritual,
social and educational resources necessary to fulfill the mission
of Jesus, the herald, servant, sanctifier, and community builder.
The gift of personal time and talent is an indispensable resource
but in today's complex society so also is the gift of money. It becomes
the sine qua non for employing the professional staff who serve our
parishes and other church institutions; for maintaining our churches,
schools, convents rectories and other social and pastoral agencies;
and for providing food, clothing and shelter for our suffering brothers
and sisters in need both at home and throughout the globe.
I communicated this past summer, however, both at the Diocesan and
parish levels we have not kept pace with the growing financial demands
which are being made upon us. Last year, for example, our Diocese
operated with a deficit of $515,000.00 and 15 percent of our parishes
also ran in red ink. While personnel and programmatic cutbacks are
being made at both the parish and diocesan levels to address these
deficits, and efforts are underway to curtail or to eliminate the
duplication of services, I am convinced that in most cases the solution
to the problem is not retrenchment but better communication and accountability.
recent study by Bishop William McManus and Father Andrew Greeley entitled
Catholic Contributions: Sociology and Policy reveals that although
American Catholics earn on the average over a $1,000.00 a year more
than their Protestant counterparts, Catholic financial contributions
to their Church are much less than those of Protestants. For example,
on the average, Protestants contribute $580.00 to their Church annually
as opposed to $320.00 for Catholics. Furthermore, Catholics contribute
only 1.1 percent of their income to the Church while Protestants donate
at the level of 2.2 percent of their income.
strikingly, the study finds that the disparity between Catholic and
Protestant giving is the result of the dramatic change in giving patterns
of contributions to one's Church over the past 25 years. In the early
1960's, Catholics gave the same proportion of their income to the
Church as Protestants contributed. In the last quarter century, however,
the Protestant giving rate remains stable at approximately 2 percent
of annual income while the Catholic rate has fallen from more than
2 percent to about 1 percent.
has this occurred? Is it that Catholics have become stingier or more
miserly? I hardly think so. Is it due to the changing levels in Church
attendance? No, because Protestant church attendance has declined
significantly more than Catholic in this time frame but their level
of giving has not. Is it because Catholics give to our schools rather
than the Church? Statistics reveal that this is not the case because
parents who send their children to Catholic schools contribute more
rather than less to the Church than do other Catholics.
believe that the decline in the pattern of Catholic giving to the
Church is due primarily to the lack of communication and the lack
experience, I am convinced that when our people know the need and
understand the case, they are always most generous. The response to
this year's Bishop's Appeal, as well as to the Sisters' Retirement
Fund, national collections and parish building and renovation projects,
provides ample evidence of such. Unfortunately, I am afraid that I
and many other Catholic Church leaders have not told the story as
well as we can and should tell it. We have been too reticent to share
all the facts, fearing that we may overwhelm our people or may project
the image of being concerned solely about "the almighty dollar."
information, fact sharing and accountability on the part of Church
leaders are critically important for reversing the declining trend
of giving to our Church. But, something more is needed; namely, the
insights and motivation which will enable our Catholic people to see
the connection between their donations and their faith and worship.
nexus, I believe, is the concept of stewardship which is more than
just an approach to fund raising but rather a way of life. It is a
practical and tangible response to the call to be God's priestly people
and to exercise collaborative ministry in the Church.
many Catholics, stewardship is an unfamiliar word but it is an idea
which is biblically rooted. Quite simply it is a commitment in faith
that responds to the scriptural call to work with and through each
other to build the kingdom of God here on earth. It involves the three
T's - the giving and sharing of one's time, talents and treasure in
service to the Lord and to our brothers and sisters in need in the
community about us.
in other words, is an authentic Christian life style. It is not something
you leave at the door on Sunday morning and pick up the following
week. Rather it is something you live everyday. It is a deep commitment
to the person of Jesus Christ and to His call to discipleship. If
we maintain that Jesus is our Lord and that we have committed our
life to him, then we should do what He tells us. And what He tells
His followers is to become involved and to share of themselves totally,
not only of what they possess financially but, equally important,
of their time and of the special gifts or talents they have received
then, is not about money; it is about faith. Money is involved but
only as an expression of faith, only as a way to translate one's relationship
with the Lord, nurtured by prayer and the sacraments of the Church,
into concrete action.
a guide for good stewardship in our Diocese from the perspective of
leadership, accountability and communication in fiscal matters, I
make two specific recommendations.
I charge our Chancellor and Comptroller to continue to work with
the existing Diocesan Finance Council and to oversee the establishment
of Parish Finance Councils where they do not exist.
also charge our pastors to issue a yearly financial report to
their parishioners as required by the Code of Canon Law. I further
urge our Diocesan and local boards for schools, hospitals, nursing
homes and social services to provide similar financial data to
I ask every Catholic family to embrace the concept of Sacrificial
Giving to the Church. Sacrificial Giving is rooted in the belief
that each of us has a responsibility and obligation to give not
the "scraps from the table" but of "the first fruits"
of our labors back to the Lord in Thanksgiving for the blessings
God has bestowed upon each of us. It is only through the Sacrificial
Giving of our time, our talent and financial blessings that we,
the members of the spiritual family of the Church at Albany, can
and will give form to the vision of this pastoral letter as we
look to the 1990's and beyond.
recognition of the fact that most of us have not fully embraced the
concept of Sacrificial Giving as a standard by which to live, I recommend
the following practical and General Giving Guide for consideration
by every family as, together, we move toward a full embrace of Sacrificial
Giving. For the next two years and beginning immediately, I ask every
family to consider contributing, if at all possible, a minimum of
$10 per week in the parish offertory collection and $2 per week to
our diocesan Church through the annual Bishop's Appeal.
such a guide were followed, I can assure you that our financial problems
at the parish and Diocesan level would be greatly alleviated. It would
bring us to the current level of giving in the churches of our Protestant
neighbors. More important, it would double the funds currently available
to support our parish and Diocesan activities and would insure that
we would have adequate resources to expand parish ministries; to maintain
our schools and religious education programs; to bolster family life;
to do the work of evangelization; to pay our employees a just wage;
and to make the Church's "preferential option for the poor"
more than just a pious cliche or a lofty ideal but rather a lived
light of the needs I have articulated, the problems I have cited and
the challenges I have raised in this revised pastoral letter, one
might conclude that I am discouraged, apprehensive or pessimistic
about our Diocese and its future. Quite the contrary, as I assess
where we are and where we are going as a Diocese, I am filled with
hope, confidence and optimism. Already much of what I envision is
happening; and, hopefully, this pastoral letter will encourage and
reinforce these efforts and stimulate others to emulate such.
generation in the Church faces its own unique challenges. We today
are faced with the task of birthing the vision of collaborative ministry
which the Second Vatican Council articulated. We do so in a time of
great social upheaval when the forces of secularization are making
inroads and eclipsing the Christian vision of life which has prevailed
in Western civilization for centuries.
the face of this challenge and the tension and pain it produces, some
become discouraged and disillusioned. They experience only the confusion
and turmoil borne of renewal and change; when age-old moorings have
been cut off and set adrift, they conclude, consequently, that the
situation is hopeless or impossible.
frankly, I do not share that bleak outlook. I am convinced that we
are living in one of the greatest periods of renaissance in the long
history of Christianity. There are certain times in the life of the
world and our Church when the Holy Spirit has been poured forth abundantly,
creating a new vision and a new horizon which give shape and direction
to humankind and civilization for generations to come.
I believe, are living in precisely such an age, in a new Pentecost;
and as a priestly people, we have a golden opportunity to become involved
at the heart of this reawakening, of being forerunners of the Church
of tomorrow, of being molders and builders of new theological language
and ecclesial structures which speak to our contemporary society and
which insure a fresh hearing for the Christian message. It will take
all of the zeal, talent, maturity, vision and love we possess if we
are to respond to this call as God desires and as the challenge itself
so urgently demands.
we stand on the threshold of the new millennium, I hope that we will
accept, embrace and fulfill this challenge for the honor and glory
of God, for the sanctification of our brothers and sisters and for
the transformation of the world and society in which we live.
us rejoice, then, because truly we are God's priestly people.
following provides additional quoted material from Archbishop William
Borders' recent pastoral letter entitled You Are A Royal Priesthood.
As previously noted, I recommend reading the entire pastoral for its
timely and ample treatment of the concept of shared responsibility
in contemporary parish life in the Church.
when we speak of priesthood we must speak first of the priesthood
which belongs to all who have been baptized in Christ Jesus. Consequently,
when we speak of the ministry of the Church, we must speak of that
priestly task and service which is primarily entrusted to the whole
community of the baptized. For we are a priestly people, a community
of priests of the kingdom, set apart for a ministry which is greater
than any of us and which belongs to all of us.
consequences of this understanding of priesthood as our common baptismal
sharing in the life and power of Christ should be highlighted here.
First, true ministry must be understood as being more than human activity
or programs. Ministry is an expression of God's continuing call and
presence in the life of His people. Ministry is what happens when
people open themselves to God's saving power and purposes. As true
priests of the Lord, we His people truly exercise the ministry given
us when we allow our lives and actions to mediate His presence. For
it is of the essence of our priestly role to be the mediator of another's
healing power and not to pretend to be the source of that power. .
a correct appreciation of the priesthood of the baptized serves to
make clear that the mission which Christ has given His people, and
the essentially priestly ministry by which it is carried out, belong
first and primarily to the whole Church. The mission and ministry
of the Church do not belong to any one group within the Church, which
allows others to share in it. Nor is any one group in the Church closer
to the 'full stature of Christ' than any other.
any distinction of roles or offices in the Church, we stand as one
family of the baptized. It is the community as a whole to whom is
given the primary responsibility for the mission of the Church, and
it is the whole community which stands as the first minister of the
kingdom. Thus when we speak of the Church's mission and ministry to
the world, we must be clear that we speak primarily of the whole Church
and not only a part of it. It is the exercise of the collective priesthood
of the baptized that most fully continues the sacramental presence
of Christ in the World." (Origins 18, No. 11: 169-70)