ARE HIS PEOPLE
PASTORAL LETTER FROM BISHOP HOWARD J. HUBBARD
Dear friends in Christ, I take this opportunity to share with you
some reflections on my vision of the Church in the Diocese of Albany
after a year and a half of serving among you as your Bishop.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the warm welcome
and willing cooperation you, the people of the Diocese, have afforded
me since my Episcopal Ordination. Leaders can fulfill their task,
which is a responsibility of service, only in an atmosphere of openness
and respect. This I have experienced in superabundance. Your responsiveness
has been a constant source of joy, hope and strength.
Leadership Role among you flows from the mystery we call the Church,
that divine reality inserted into human history through which God
reveals to us and shares with us the riches of His life.
the Church is a mystery, 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.
involves a sharing of beliefs, experiences, ideals and values. "Those
who believe share all things in common." (Acts 2:44)
Community leads one to put aside selfish goals and private interests
for the sake of the common good. It is based upon the willingness
of all community members to accept responsibility, individually
and corporately, for the way each lives, uses his or her talents
and gifts, and responds to the needs and rights of others.
early Christians celebrated their identity as a worshipping community
in word and sacrament. "They devoted themselves to the apostles’
instructions and communal life, to the breaking of the bread and
prayers." (Acts 2:42)
the fruit of this sharing of word and sacraments was service to
others. "None of their members was ever in want, as all those
who owned land or houses would sell them and bring money from them
to present it to the apostles; it was then distributed to any members
who might be in need." (Acts 4:34-35)
Challenge for us today is to rekindle within ourselves, within our
Diocesan and Parish communities, and within the larger society,
that spirit of worship, love and service that existed in the Apostolic
some, such a challenge may seem overwhelming given the complex nature
of the world and society in which we live today. While it is true,
however, that we can’t recapture fully the pristine simplicity
of the Apostolic Community as described in the Acts of the Apostles,
and while many of the structures of the early Church are no longer
relevant to our contemporary setting, nevertheless the same divine
call beckons us, the same Spirit forms us, and the same activity
of worship and service must be at the heart of our response.
Second Vatican Council has given us, I believe, a principle that
enables us to respond to God’s call and to fulfill His mission
in our time. That principle is the concept of shared responsibility,
a principle that is truly scripturally based, theologically sound
and pastorally oriented.
simply, shared responsibility (which also has been described as
collegiality, co-responsibility and participatory involvement) means
that each member of the Church, by reason of Baptism, has the right and the duty to participate in the Church’s mission
to make Christ present here on earth and to spread the liberating
truth of His Good News. All members of the Church - clergy, religious
and laity - are thus called to be "Servants of Christ and stewards
of the mystery of God." (I Cor. 4:1)
seeking to understand this concept of shared responsibility, focus
must be placed on the mission that is given to each member of the
Church in the Sacrament of Baptism.
Baptism, every Christian is brought into an intimate, personal and
abiding union with Jesus and with all other Christians. The Church,
then, comprises a multiplicity of members who share a common sacramental
dignity and equality. "We are brought in to the one body of
Christ by Baptism in the one Spirit, whether we are Jews or Greeks,
slaves or freemen." (I Cor. 12:13)
sacramental dignity and equality unites Pope, bishops, priests,
deacons, religious and laity in the one Body of Christ which is
responsibility, then, means that, since the laity as well as the
clergy and religious are all configured to Christ by Baptism and
the other Sacraments, they all have the responsibility and opportunity
of participating in the saving mission of Christ in the world.
Second Vatican Council in its "Dogmatic Constitution on the
Church" makes the point his way:
together in the people of God and established in the one Body of
Christ under one head, the laity - no matter who they are - have,
as living members, the vocation of applying tot he building up of
the Church, and to its continual sanctification, all the powers
which they have received from the goodness of the Creator and from
the he grace of the Redeemer."
this concept of shared responsibility is neither new nor revolutionary
from a scriptural or theological perspective, practically, it is
one that needs to be relearned and experienced.
are emerging from a period in Church history during which the responsibility
for the mission of the Church was projected to be that of the hierarchy
was thought that the role of the Pope and bishops (and by extension,
in popular understanding, priests and religious) was to preach,
to lead and to sanctify, while the laity were to be taught, to be
led and to be sanctified.
laity, in other words, were looked upon as having a more modest,
passive role to play in the Church, helping out only on a temporary,
standby basis, when specifically called upon.
the Second Vatican Council gives us an enriched understanding of
the role each member of the Church is to have. In its "Constitution
on the Church," the Council declared:
pastors, indeed, know well how much the laity contribute to the
welfare of the whole church. For they know that they themselves
were not established by Christ to undertake alone the whole salvific
mission of the church to the world, but it is their exalted office
to be shepherds of the faithful and also recognize the latter’s
contribution and charisms that everyone in his own way will, with
one mind, cooperate in the common task. For all must ‘practice
the truth in love, and so grow up in all things in him who is the
head, Christ.’ "
then - laity, religious and clergy - are obliged to offer time,
talent and resources so that the mission of Christ in His Church
might be fulfilled. This basic responsibility rests upon each one
of us regardless of state of life or the differing roles we exercise.
this obligation of participating in the Church’s mission
is marked by an interdependence which comes from the very nature
of the Church as a community in Christ. St. Paul, in the twelfth
chapter of his First Letter to the Corinthians, liked us to one
body, each member dependent upon the other.
body is one and has members, but all the members, many though they
are, are one Body; and so it is with Christ. It was in one Spirit
that all of us, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, were baptized
into the body." (12,13)
eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you,’ any
more than the head can say to the foot, "I do not need you.’
depend upon the Lord Jesus as the foundation of our Christian lives
and we depend upon each other as members of the body of Christ.
While we have differing roles and responsibilities, we are all under
one head, Jesus Christ, and, through Him, we need and depend upon
each other as brothers and sisters.
put this another way: Every member of the Church has certain God-given
gifts or talents that are to be used for serving Christ in building
up the community around us.
St. Paul states it very precisely when he says:
is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit, there are all
sorts of services to be done but always to the same Lord: working
in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the
same God who is working in all of them." (I Cor. 12:4-7)
message is clear. However humble our gift may be, it is needed.
And while our gifts may be different, together, in their variety,
they build up a Christian community by contributing to the sanctification
and growth of others.
responsibility is the proper discernment and exercise of these gifts
in and through our worship of God, the proclamation of His message
to others and our service on behalf of humankind.
sum up: Responsibility for the mission of the Church is shared by
all the baptized - ordained and non-ordained, vowed and non-vowed,
teacher, carpenter, housewife, businessman, young and old, resigned
priest and religious, parent, single person, child - all bound together
by a variety of gifts and ministries, and all serving the one mission,
the mission of our Lord Jesus.
responsibility, then, is neither a luxury nor a concession. Rather,
it is a necessary and perennial dimension of the life of the Church,
exercised by those who are rooted in a living and loving relationship
should be noted that the concept of shared responsibility fully respects
the fact that the Church is a unique community established by Christ
into a hierarchic structure. The deacons, priests and bishops, joined
with the Bishop of Rome as successor of St. Peter, have the specific
responsibilities of their offices described in the laws of the Church.
hierarchical structure, however, is to be exercised, not in a unilateral
way, but in a collegial way with opportunities for the various members
of the Church, in accordance with their gifts, talents and charisms,
to participate in policies, decisions and mission.
Pope is the head of the Church, but he acts in consultation with the
body of bishops throughout the world.
Bishop is the chief shepherd in his Diocese, but to fulfill his responsibility
he needs the counsel and assistance of his priests, deacons, religious
and laity in giving shape to the work of the Church, hence the formation
of Priests’ Senates; Brothers’, Sisters’ and
Deacons’ Councils; and Diocesan Pastoral Councils, to consult
with and advise him on pastoral matters.
this principle of collegiality to the grass-roots level, parish members
are to have responsibility for the mission of the Church through the
formation of Parish Councils and Regional or Deanery Councils.
all members of the Church are called to join in harmonious action
with the Pope, their bishops and pastors, sharing with them their
knowledge, talent and other resources for the development of God’s
Episcopal Motto, "Rejoice, we are His people," seeks to
affirm this truth and to invite all the faithful to make it a lived
reality in our Diocese.
is never easy, especially change that affects our self-image, our
roles and our ministries. To embrace this challenge and opportunity
of shared responsibility will demand a certain shift in attitudes
and practice on the part of all our people.
me address the major groupings within our Diocese and the special
role I envision for each as this concept of shared responsibility
becomes viable for our day.
Priests of the Diocese have been a special blessing to the Church
of Albany. Over the years, you, my brothers, have labored with pastoral
zeal and enthusiasm to promote the Christ life within our midst.
love and support for one another, your loyalty to the Pope and bishops
of the Diocese, and your devotion to the people entrusted to your
care have been the source of great inspiration and major factors contributing
to the vitality of our Diocese.
past fifteen years have in some ways been particularly difficult for
you. Accustomed to one model of Church, you have been called not only
to adapt to a new understanding of Church and ministry but also to
be leaders in implementing it. Your patience, enduring zeal and willingness
to face these new challenges have been and continue to be special
graces and reasons for profound gratitude.
the days ahead I need your continued cooperation. As the Second Vatican
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." (The Church, 28)
your role is unique and indispensable, however, it is not and cannot
be self-contained. Especially as we look to the future, you must be
willing to share with the deacons, religious and laity of our Diocese
many of the roles and ministries you have traditionally been required
other persons entering the sanctuary as lectors, acolytes and ministers
of the Eucharist, or assuming responsibility for religious education,
health care, social services and financial matters related to the
life of the parish or diocese (many of which responsibilities were
often viewed as your exclusive domain), there can well emerge questions
about the proper role of the priest. As a result, there can develop
the natural human reaction to cling to one’s own identity or
vested interest. But, in point of fact, what is emerging, I believe,
is not a challenge to your role or identity but an opportunity for
greater service, an opportunity to explore the interrelatedness of
all ministries of the Church and to facilitate their development.
and more, then, I envision your role to be initiators, coordinators
and facilitators of ministries, to help others to discover the unique
gifts, talents and charisms with which they have been endowed by the
Lord and to put these at the service of the whole body of Christ.
leaders in the Church, in other words, you must have a deep respect
for the gifts that the Spirit bestows in great variety and must strive
tirelessly to unify this variety of gifts for building up the Kingdom.
is pointed out in "As One Who Serves", the excellent contemporary
commentary on the priesthood. "Your task might be compared to
the conductor of an orchestra, trying to translate the vision of the
composer into harmonious blends of sounds coming from a great variety
of instruments, many of which you can’t play yourselves. For
the truly effective leader is one who can develop the talents of others
and coordinate their efforts so that they complement each other and
produce a superior collective effort."
would probably be easier and more convenient, both personally and
ministerially, to continue to operate as in the past. But if this happens,
the Spirit will be stifled, gifts will be unused or abused, and there
will be perpetuated a model of the Church that is not in accord with
the Gospel spirit or the mandates of the Second Vatican Council.
special role, then, is to be enablers and facilitators of all the
gifts and ministries within the Christian community so that the Church
in all its richness and multifaceted dimensions may be more visible
in our Diocese. This special role complements the uniqueness of your
role at the Table of the Lord. At the Table, you gather God’s
People in all their variety together. Your role as enablers and facilitators
is seen, thus, as the extension of your liturgical ministry.
Religious of our Diocese, both women and men, have made an invaluable
contribution to the mission of the Church. Your magnificent legacy
is evident both from the various apostolates in which you are engaged
and from the diversity of gifts that you exercise, in our elementary
and secondary schools, in our social service programs, in the hospital
and nursing home field, in parish ministry, in religious education,
in the retreat/prayer movements and in many other apostolates.
your response to the call for renewal extended by the Vatican Council
has been superb. I would venture to say that no group within the Church
has responded more enthusiastically or seriously to this concept of
shared responsibility enunciated in the Council documents that communities
of women and men religious - at times with pain and tension, at times
with confusion and groping, and at times with resistance and conflicts
but always with the desire to be open and responsive to the Spirit
moving in our times and with the goal to serve and to make the Church
and your own communities the alive and vibrant instruments of faith,
love and service that they are meant to be. For all of this, you have
the profound gratitude of the whole Diocese.
the immediate future, I would envision three special ways in which
you can contribute to developing this concept of shared responsibility.
I would encourage you to continue to explore ways and means of inter-community
cooperation. One of the great problems in today’s Church is
regionalism and parochialism. We have to get away from an exclusive
notion of "our school," "our parish," or "our
community" and focus on common needs and mission. Each community
has an individual charism which should be preserved and respected.
At the same time, the blending of these charisms for the good of the
total mission of Christ’s Church is essential in our times.
inter-community planning and staffing, you can set a tone or climate
that will enrich the whole Diocese, and truly foster mutual cooperation
if people are to realize their gifts and exercise their talents on
behalf of the Church, there is need for them to break from the depersonalization
and life-style of excessive consumption, of wasteful depletion of
resources, and of the affluent use of service and leisure that abound
within our society today so that they can place themselves freely
and selflessly at the service of the Lord and His people.
Vowed Life you as religious embrace enables you to offer an irrefutable
witness against consumerism and depersonalization by a life-style
that is genuinely frugal and austere as evidenced by your disdain
of money and power; by your simplicity of diet, clothing and transportation;
and by your personal and communal work among the spiritually, physically
and psychologically poor.
ability to be an effective counter-witness to the dehumanizing and
debilitating trends of the times has always been a special charism
of religious communities. Such a dynamic witness is imperative today
if people are to be moved from lethargy, indifference, and excess
to embrace the full implications of their baptismal commitment to
be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God.
I would suggest that women religious in particular can play a leadership
role in advancing ministerial and decision-making positions for women
in the Church.
Role of all women, religious and lay alike, must be upgraded in the
Church. We need to acknowledge the invaluable contribution women have
made and are making in our Diocese, in our homes, schools, religious
education centers, day-care centers, parishes and in various diocesan
departments and agencies; and to make available additional leadership
roles in education, pastoral service, liturgy and administration.
who are women religious, by background and training, have a distinct
role to play in forging the way for increased participation of women
in the parochial, deanery and diocesan mission of the Church at Albany.
in doing so, I would caution that you not focus exclusively or possessively
on the role of women religious or on the question of ordination for
women, but that you be first and foremost advocates for new and expanded
opportunities in the Church for all women.
restored order of the Permanent Diaconate has been one of the most
exciting and fruitful ministries to emerge in our post-conciliar Church.
You who have accepted this call - and your families - have given generously
and selflessly of your time and talent in preparing for ordination
and in pioneering the implementation of this ministry in our Diocese.
a very brief time, you have made your impact felt in our jails, hospitals,
nursing homes and parishes, and in ministry among the poor, in rural
areas, and to various racial and ethnic groups.
ministry flows out of your family life and work experience, and, in
a unique way, bridges the false but all too frequent distinction that
is made between the sacred and secular, between the sanctuary and
developing the concept of shared responsibility, you have a role to
play in witnessing to that ministry of service that is at the heart
of the charge you received at ordination - to imitate Christ, "Who
came not to be served but to serve and to offer His life as a ransom
for many." (Mark 10:45)
and your families are living examples of the type of participation
and involvement that is called for in today’s Church. You demonstrate
publicly and in an extraordinary fashion the possibility of blending
family, work and community responsibility with a deep service-oriented
commitment to the mission of the Church.
hope that you will continue to expand your ministry in the days ahead
into new areas of service that respond to the every-changing needs
of God’s people, and in ways that avoid a new clericalism which
would rob your ministry of its fresh character and belie the concept
of shared responsibility.
Laity of our Diocese have been outstanding in their loyalty and fidelity
to the Church and its work, responding generously and courageously
to the many demands that are made of them to be the Church in action.
the laity, through your life of prayer, solicitude for your family
members and friends, and generosity to the needs of the Church and
the community around you, are a never-ending source of inspiration
openness to change, your hunger and thirst for things of the Spirit,
and your willingness to sacrifice personally and financially for the
demands of the Gospel have been truly remarkable.
in a particular way, are the target of this call to shared responsibility.
As the Second Vatican Council explicitly states:
lay apostolate, however, is a participation in the saving mission
of the Church itself. Through their baptism and confirmation, all
are commissioned to that apostolate by the Lord Himself. Moreover,
through the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, there is
communicated and nourished that charity toward God and man which
is the soul of the entire apostolate. Now, the laity are called
in a special way to make the Church present and operative in those
places and circumstances where only through them can she become
the salt of the earth. Thus every layman, by virtue of the very
gifts bestowed upon him is at the same time a witness and a loving
instrument of the mission of the Church herself, ‘according
to the measure of Christ’s bestowal.’ (Eph. 4:7)."
(The Church, 33)
call to shared responsibility is both a privilege and a duty, the
privilege of being an integral part of God’s redemptive plan
for humankind and the duty of revealing His love to others.
being Church, being a member of God’s people is an amazing
grace and gives to each of you no matter what your call or state in
life a great dignity and empowerment. I ask you to reflect frequently
world is filled with lonely, frightened, hurting people who feel lost,
who need someone to share with them the joys, hopes, blessings and
consolations of our Christian faith. The Lord is counting on you to
mirror His kindness, His fidelity, His tenderness and His love to
our sin-wounded world where alienation, disaffection and disillusionment
has guaranteed through the Spirit that His ecclesial presence in the
world will continue, but this does not prevent the light of His Gospel
from going dim in a particular area, for example, in a local parish
the challenge is clear. You must work in cooperation with me and the
priests, deacons, and religious of our Diocese to advance His Kingdom.
You must be willing to pledge that which is mot dear to you - your
personhood, time, talent and resources - and to invest these to make
your life and the life of your parish and our Diocese a true reflection
of Jesus and His way of life.
pray that you will embrace this challenge zealously and enthusiastically,
and that you will be patient with me and our priests and religious
as we continue to implement this collegial model of Church in our
all transitions, this move to shared responsibility for the Church’s
mission will have its ups and downs, its successes and failures, but
I am convinced that this is what the Spirit is calling us to, and
that your willingness to accept this challenge is the key to our future.
this concept of shared responsibility applies to all aspects of the
Church’s mission, in our Diocese I would suggest three immediate
areas of focus for its implementation: in the parish, in the family,
and in the whole area of reconciliation and evangelization.
parish has been and will continue to be the center of the Church’s
life. It is the spiritual descendent of the early Christian community
that was described at the outset of this pastoral letter.
parish is meant to be a group of Christians who pray and worship together
and who extend that worship in their lives by helping each other with
spiritual, emotional and financial support.
with the isolation of the family, massive mobility, alienation and
loneliness, there is less structure in our society for people to come
together and to support each other through interdependence. Yet, the
basis of Christianity rests on the requirements of mutual interdependence.
The parish is where this interdependence would happen, where support
systems for Christian living and Christian service must constantly
be developed. Father Eugene Mainelli puts it this way:
is ultimately in the parish where God’s revelation and love
and people’s efforts touch in a special and supportive community.
All the movements of Christian life today - ecumenism, spiritual
renewal, community action and social service, and Church reform
itself - will take root and flourish if at all in the local communities
of faith, the parishes." (Social Thought, Fall, 1975, Vol 1,
some predict the demise of the parish, I am convinced that the parish,
be it territorial, ethnic, or by commonality of interest will remain
the normal and usual way we as Catholics organize ourselves for Christian
life and work.
does not mean, of course, that all parishes must function in the same
manner or that the style of parish life for the future must be predicated
on the past. Forms of parish life must change and be ever-responsive
to the changing communities they serve.
will always be need, however, for tangible structures wherein people
can experience the loving presence of the Lord and build community
by sharing His redemptive and liberating love with others. That structure
is the parish.
achieve its purpose, the parish must provide a climate of mutual acceptance
and support. The unique gifts possessed by every member must be promoted.
The parish must demonstrate a collaborative relationship among all.
parish council is the instrument or vehicle for insuring this collaboration.
The parish council is both a ministry and the sign of a true Christian
community. It is a partnership that gives witness, not only to what
the parish is, but especially to what the parish is called to be.
It shares in setting directions and it calls the people to walk in
the way of the Risen Lord.
in our Diocese, we have many active and fruitful parish councils.
I hope these will continue to grow and flourish. I encourage members
of existing parish councils constantly to review their purposes and
their manner of functioning. At times, councils can tend to function
routinely, doing what has been done in the past without evaluating
the effectiveness of existing activities or looking to new challenges.
Continuing needs-assessment, evaluation of programs and activities,
and accountability for areas of responsibility are essential for an
effective and alive parish council and parish community. I ask our
Office of Pastoral Planning and our Diocesan Pastoral Council to be
of assistance to parish councils that are seeking to grow and to revitalize
themselves through goal-planning and evaluation.
also ask that, in those parishes where councils do not exist, some
process begin to insure the establishment of such. I strongly encourage
that every parish of the Diocese have a functioning, truly representative
parish council or its equivalent by 1981. Again, our Office of Pastoral
Planning and our Diocesan Pastoral Council are requested to give leadership
in this regard. A thorough process of education and parish wide consultation
is the best way to begin this effort.
councils are not intended to undermine or to usurp the role of the
pastor or the parish staff. The pastor exercises a key role of leadership
in the parish in the name and by the authority of the Bishop. together
with the parish staff, the pastor has the responsibility for overseeing
the development of the parish’s growth and implementing policy
decisions emanating from the Church universal, the Diocese and the
parish. But the pastor and his staff can best fulfill this responsibility
when a well-informed, spiritually-alive, truly representative parish
council can offer its best counsel and advice.
I pointed out previously, the pastor’s leadership role is more
and more that of enabling and coordinating. He must facilitate the
sharing of decision-making and the delegation of leadership for various
parish responsibilities, services and activities. He should do this
in consultation with his brother priests and with the religious and
the laity of the staff. Through the convening of regular meetings,
joint planning and evaluation, and regular sharing of information
and experience, the parish staff under the guidance of the pastor
can be a real model of shared responsibility and leadership for the
parish council and the entire parish.
ultimate purpose of every parish is to foster the development of the
Christ life and to promote the mission of the Church. This mission
has many aspects; no one of them may be isolated from the other, and
every one of them serves to form and complement the others. For purposes
of organization and communication, in our Diocese, we suggest that
all parish activity be grouped under one of four areas of mission:
Prayer and Worship, Christian Education, Christian Service, and Church
and Worship. The whole Church, baptized in Jesus, shares His priesthood
and therefore has the privileged responsibility of worshipping God
and joining in the celebration of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.
baptized member of the Church is part of the holy people. When we
join together for the celebration of the Eucharist and the other sacraments,
we do so not only as individuals, but also as a people joined in faith
to our brothers and sisters. To become a prayerful, worshipping community
is a most essential goal for every parish.
this worshipping parish community, different liturgical roles are
performed. The laity are called to exercise various ministries, such
as reader, cantor, choir, musician, artist, usher, server and minister
of Communion. They are coordinated and led by the ordained priest
who has the unique responsibility of providing prayerful celebrations
that evoke a response of faith. It is his responsibility to pronounce
the Eucharistic prayers at Mass, to absolve in the Sacrament of Reconciliation,
to administer the other sacraments and, along with the deacon, to
proclaim the Gospel and offer fitting homilies.
Liturgy itself is to be expressive of the needs in the parish community,
the size of the congregation, age level, cultural or ethnic backgrounds,
resources of the community, and much more. Parish liturgies must be
responsive to people’s needs and reflective of their lives.
Otherwise, the heart of parish life is severely crippled.
is why liturgical planning is so important. It is essential that the
priests, deacons, lectors, cantors, musicians, organists, artists
and other liturgical ministers be well trained in their roles, and
that the celebrations themselves be well planned and carefully coordinated.
This is best achieved by an ongoing parish liturgical team which seeks
to develop a climate of prayerful and joyful celebration.
urge formation of such a team in each parish under the auspices of
the parish council and I pledge myself to form a Diocesan liturgical
team to be a resource and guide for local parish communities.
Parish Liturgy team must concern itself not only with the Eucharistic
liturgy, "the source and summit of the Christian life,"
but also with the fostering of other forms of prayer as well since,
as St. Paul admonishes, "We must pray always."
noteworthy in today’s Church is the growth of t he Charismatic
Renewal throughout the world and in our Diocese. This movement, which
highlights the presence of the Spirit in our midst, and the centrality
of Jesus in our lives, has much to teach all of us about the alive
sense of praise, joy, hope and thanksgiving that we need to express
in our prayers and worship.
also applaud the efficacious prayer experiences fostered by the Apostolate
of the Suffering in our Diocese. This apostolate provides a visible
witness to the type of vital contribution that can be made by shut-ins
and by those confined to hospitals and nursing homes.
rich and reverent prayer life must be at the core of every Christian’s
existence. Otherwise our life will be empty and our activity futile.
Rahner has expressed the idea that, in a world with few institutional
supports for religion, the only Christians in the future will be those
who have an experience of God. Prayer, however, one may define it
and of whatever style it may be, is the only way to gain that experience
and to lead others to Him.
Education. The foundation of every parish is faith in God. The growth
and maintenance of that faith is the responsibility of every member
of the parish community. Unfortunately, faith formation or religious
education has been too often reserved only for children or students
and for those who have the responsibility for formal teaching, namely
priests, deacons, religious and teachers of religion.
no one of us ever stops developing. No one of us ever reaches total
assurance on deep and troubling questions. No one of us grows so mature
that we do not need reflection to renew once again our commitment
to God, self and fellow human beings.
is why our approach to religious education must be total - directed
to the total person in his or her concrete life circumstance and to
the total parish community.
is also why I consider continuing religious education for adults -
clergy, religious and laity - to be of critical importance in striving
to implement the concept of shared responsibility.
Bishops of the United States stated it well in their pastoral letter
"To Teach as Jesus Did" when they defined the continuing
education of adults as being "situated not at the periphery of
the Church’s educational mission but at its center."
the past, the parish has tended to concentrate its religious education
efforts on one or two approaches - a school, a religious education
program for public school youngsters, an annual or semi-annual adult
discussion course or seminar. These approaches have served, and continue
to serve, the ends of Christian education. But, good as they are,
they constantly need to be re-assessed to ascertain if they are really
still preaching the Good News effectively and exciting people to a
love for the Lord and each other.
varied and flexible programs must be developed. It has become very
clear that there are teachable moments in each person’s life.
We must seize upon those moments to address the person in the name
of Jesus and His message.
liturgy, for example, can be a prime source of deepened faith understanding
through message and worship. Sacramental preparation programs provide
a similar opportunity.
communities must also search for ways to provide religious education
and faith-sharing in each apostolate and ministry. Youth groups, fold-music
ensembles, prayer groups, altar boys, lay ministers, senior citizen
groups, PTAs, parish council sessions, Altar Rosary and Holy Names
societies, Cursillo groups and Marriage Encounter circles, all provide
fertile opportunities to share the meaning of religion in the life
of their members.
of faith formation such as Search, PET, days of renewal, retreats,
Engaged, Marriage and Family Encounters, also offer great opportunities
for growth and development.
would note, too, the superb contribution our Diocesan newspaper, The
Evangelist, makes in providing for our people up-to-date news and
commentary about trends, developments and movements in the life of
the Church. I cannot recommend highly enough regular reading of this
weekly as a major tool for one’s continued religious education.
must be more than informed about our faith, however; we must also
realize our responsibility to share it with others. People have this
responsibility on different levels:
Each one of us must be willing to search out opportunities for ongoing
formation through reading, study and courses, and to share with family,
friends and neighbors our own convictions of faith.
Parents have a special and inalienable responsibility to share their
faith with their children. Although Catholic schools and parish schools
of religion exist to help fulfill this responsibility, they cannot
substitute for it. This responsibility will be most fruitfully filled
by lives in Christ.
The pastor, parish staff and parish council have the responsibility
to see that a variety of formal and informal faith-formation programs
such as are described above are available for all segments of the
parish community. In this regard, I am especially grateful to the
religious and laity who teach in our parochial schools and parish
schools of religion. Their willingness to update themselves and to
bring the teachings of Jesus to others is one of the precious treasures
of our contemporary Church.
The Bishop and his offices for schools and religious education must
provide overall direction and guidance. Regional boards for religious
education and school boards participate in this responsibility in
a special way. So, too, do those who teach in Diocesan and private
Catholic high schools, our Catholic colleges and in our campus ministry
programs, brining the Gospel message to these special settings.
assist in developing that total approach to education, parochially,
regionally and Diocesan wide, mentioned earlier and envisioned in the
Bishops’ pastoral "To Teach as Jesus Did." I have
commissioned a task force to study and propose potential models for
total education and I have asked our planning office to assist the
task force with this study.
recognize the crisis that confronts our Catholic schools today. They
have had a very special place in nurturing the faith of our people
and in transmitting Christian values. Increasingly, however, inflation,
declining religious personnel and dwindling enrollments have necessitated
the closing of some schools and the consolidation or reorganization
is obvious that the cherished ideal of a Catholic school education
for every Catholic child is not and cannot be a reality. But it is
also obvious that there is need in our pluralistic society, an increasingly
secular one at that, for a system of education that seeks to integrate
religious truths and values with life. Our Catholic schools provide
encourage our people to support our Catholic schools by enrolling
their children and by personal and financial sacrifices required to
ensure that the vitality of our schools is not a faded dream but a
pledge for the future.
also ask our Diocesan School Board and Office and all regional and
parochial school boards to continue the exploration of concepts, such
as negotiated tuition, grants in aid, clustering and shared facilities,
so that the most prudent use may be made of our financial and personnel
resources. In particular, I ask that ways be developed to insure that
financial criteria do not exclude the poor and disadvantaged from
sharing the rich heritage of a Catholic school education.
Service. In addition to being a community of faith and worship, the
parish must also be a community of service, a community of caring
and sharing, made up of people who seek to reach out to the poor,
sick, aging, isolated and alienated.
Synod of Bishops in 1971 reminded us that efforts on behalf of justice
are a constitutive element of the Christian life, as much a part of
it as the proclamation of God’s word and the celebration of
service dimension of the Christian life needs to be strongly emphasized.
Many of us grew up with the notion that political, social and economic
issues had little, if anything at all, to do with living our faith.
Social involvement and efforts on behalf of justice were looked upon
as either unrelated or peripheral to the core of our faith, as something
optional that could be accepted or rejected at one’s pleasure.
in our times, we have been reminded that our personal and communal
lives, like the life of Jesus, must be characterized by a profound
concern for people in their concrete human situation, a concern rooted
in a response to the Father’s love that finds its full expression
in our love for and involvement with our fellow human beings.
have been told, in other words, that a ministry of service and justice
must be an integral and essential part of every Christian life, and
part and parcel of the life of every Christian life, and part and
parcel of the life of every parish community. The Vatican Council,
for example, stated that, "The joys and hopes, the griefs and
anxieties of all, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted,
should be the hopes, griefs, anxieties of the followers of Christ."
(Church in the Modern World, 1)
the popes of this century, as well as statements of the National Conference
of Catholic Bishops, have reminded us repeatedly of needed programs
for peace, respect for life, civil reform, responsible use of the
world’s resources, disarmament, the elimination of drug abuse,
care for the mentally and physically handicapped, legislation safeguarding
the rights of the family, neighborhood preservation and many other
concerns that flow from our social involvement. These programs must
be directed not only toward the alleviation of human misery, but also
toward changing those forces that cause such misery; toward what is
referred to as "systemic change."
Diocesan Office of Health and Social Services and our Commission for
Peace and Justice have given visionary leadership in this area. But
these efforts will be effective only insofar as they are translated
into tangible programs and actions in the lives of our people, especially
at the parish level.
parish community, then, should have a committee or group to deal with
these social needs in cooperation with others parishes, other churches
and synagogues, and the Diocesan and community agencies established
to deal with such issues.
is the responsibility of a parish social service or social action
committee to call critical social needs to the attention of parishioners
and to facilitate their participation in programs to alleviate them.
In all this, we must affirm our resolve to serve not only the needs
of the parish but also the needs of the larger Diocesan, national
and world communities.
the years, members of parish-based organizations, such as the St.
Vincent de Paul Society, the Legion of Mary, the Rosary Society and
Holy Names Society, and other Church-related groups such as the Knights
of Columbus, the Knights of St. John, the Catholic Daughters of America,
the Ladies of Charity and the Catholic Women’s Service League,
have responded personally, compassionately, and productively to human
recently, however, given the antiseptic, computerized society in which
we live, with its greater emphasis on governmental and Church bureaucracy,
there has been the trend to a pocket-book mentality toward service
and charity, with as little personal involvement as possible. The
government, professionally-staffed Church organizations or United
Fund agencies have increasingly been looked upon to do the job in
the field of human services, relieving the individual and the parish
community of their responsibility for Christian service.
an approach has been well intentioned; in practice, however, it has
far too often contributed to polarization and alienation. It has isolated
young from old, the well from the ill, the mentally stable from the
emotionally troubled, the incarcerated from the free, the affluent
from the poor, the well-housed from those in slums, the favored majorities
from the depressed minorities. There have been notable exceptions,
but, for the most part, each group has grown a universe apart from
its opposite, with the comfortable segment increasingly isolating
itself physically and mentally from getting involved beyond writing
a check or paying taxes for welfare appropriations.
a result, people at all social and economic levels, I believe, are
fed up and disillusioned with our social condition. They yearn for
and are willing to invest themselves in a thrust that will involve
individuals, families, parishes and the Church as a whole in a truly
personal ministry of love, concern and help wherever it is needed
- in our hospitals, nursing homes, jails, inner cities, rural communities,
and local neighborhoods, and among young and old, rich and poor, black
and white, brown and red, educated and uneducated.
I challenge all our people to do this type of personalized service
and selfless utilization of their time, gifts and talents on behalf
of others. I ask that this service thrust be parish-based even when
it is ecumenically or regionally oriented.
I call for the development of a Diocesan Service Corps composed of
individuals willing to give from one to three years of their time
to volunteer for a service commitment in one of our parishes or parish-oriented
am commissioning a task force composed of members from the Diocesan
Office of Health and Social Services, Campus Ministry, Chancery and
Stewardship Office to address the issues of recruitment, placement
and finances, and to establish a model to be operational by 1980.
I believe that the need for such is pressing, that people, especially
young adults, will volunteer, and that such a corps will be a dynamic
stimulant to all our people to exercise the call to service that is
addressed to each of us.
am convinced, especially given the dehumanized and depersonalized
climate that prevails in our society today, that the more visible
and viable our ministry of service becomes, the more credible and
attractive our ministry of word and Sacrament will be.
Administration. If there is one area of Church life that we may tend
to underestimate or even belittle, it is the ministry of administration
- that ministry which deals with the proper management of finances,
property and resources so that the worship, education and service
ministry of the Church might be fulfilled.
in his first letter to the Corinthians refers to administration as
one of the gifts given to the Christian community, along with prophesy,
teaching and others (I Cor. 12:28). The prudent exercise of this gift
or charism is of critical importance if the overall mission of the
Church is to be accomplished.
administrative task in every parish grows larger and larger each day,
as aging buildings need repairs, as new ones must be constructed,
as mandatory personnel benefits change, as Church and governmental
structures demand more accountability, as schools and religious education
costs rise, and as parish giving and fund-raising activities struggle
to keep pace with soaring inflation.
a consequence, more and more effort and energy must be directed to
these pressing matters. Unfortunately, the pastor and other parish
staff increasingly find themselves devoting their labors to these
efforts, detracting proportionately from their other pressing responsibilities.
is unfortunate because pastoral staff frequently become demoralized
when so much of their energy is consumed in administrative and fund-raising
matters to the detriment of other vital areas of parish life, and
because most parish staffs do not have training or expertise in the
fields of budgeting, building maintenance and administrative procedures.
then, is a crucial ministry which must be shared, especially with
competent lay people. It requires a commitment of people with expertise
in planning, finances and management to lend their gifts to the fulfillment
of the parish mission. Also to be considered is a willingness to share
resources, personnel and other advantages on an interparochial, regional
and ecumenical basis.
should be stressed that the administrative component must be harmonized
with Gospel values and overall diocesan and parish goals so that administrative
concerns do not themselves set priorities but are addressed within
a context of the parish’s overall mission.
I seek to underscore is that the parish must be the hub and center
of the Church’s life - a life that is shared with all members
of the community whose unique and indispensable gifts and talents
are essential to the mission of the Church.
highlight my concern for, and commitment to, the vitality of parish
life, I pledge myself to visit the parishes of the Diocese over the
next four years, apart from the regular cycle of Confirmation. I will
seek out the opportunity to discuss with the pastor, parish staff,
parish council members and the entire parish community their views
about the vision of parish life herein proposed, and to assess and
evaluate the implementation of such at the local level.
to insure ongoing action and communication between the Bishop’s
office and the parishes, and to stimulate interparochial planning
and cooperation, I ask that, in addition to the formation of parish
councils, regional (or Deanery) councils be formed. I request the
Diocesan Pastoral Council to oversee the development of this concept.
believe that my role as chief shepherd will be only as effective as
the advice and counsel I receive. The Diocesan Pastoral Council is
designated as the chief advisory board to the Bishop in his Diocese.
But this collegial body will function adequately and responsibly only
insofar as it is in dialogue with and truly representative of active
parish and regional councils.
is called for, then, is shared responsibility at the parish, regional
and diocesan level, so that we - Bishop, priests, deacons, religious
and laity - are truly a people on pilgrimage together who cooperatively
and collaboratively seek to advance the kingdom of God here on earth.
this is involved in the term stewardship: the use of one’s
time, talent and treasure on behalf of the Gospel. That is why our
recently created Office of Stewardship is so important: to assist
parishes, in conjunction with our Office of Pastoral Planning, in
assessing needs, recruiting people and developing the financial resources
to fulfill the ministry of word, sacrament and service.
are two other special emphases I would envision for the immediate
future to enhance parish life and to spark this concept of shared
responsibility, namely, family life, and reconciliation and evangelization.
the parish is the foundation of the Church, the family is the cornerstone
of the parish. As a matter of fact, there is a reciprocal relationship
between the natural family and the parish family; these two basic
units of our Church and society are called to be in ministry to each
family is the Church in miniature. Therefore, the Church, especially
at the parish level, must try to minister to families with renewed
understanding, compassion and competency to help family members grow
and serve others. In so doing, the Church herself will be revitalized
Call to Action Conference, sponsored by the United States Bishops
in 1976 as part of the Church’s Bicentennial observance, revealed
that family-related issues were the foremost issues surfaced from
among thousands of pastoral and social concerns that were identified.
Our people, then, are looking to the Church as the preeminent institution
in our turbulent society to help couples and family members deal with
the challenge of family life such as divorce and separation, premarital
and extramarital sexual activity, out-of-wedlock activities and juvenile
Church's primary responsibility in this regard is to help families
experience God's love through a prayerful, spirit-filled parish community
of faith and charity - and to encourage the involvement of families
in Christian service to other families in the parish and to the entire
Church, in other words, must articulate the message of Jesus as revealed
in the Scriptures and as shared through the Church's tradition and
sacramental life. But, at the same time, the Church must recognize
that ministry to and for families must essentially involve a ministry
of the laity - a ministry by families.
key to family life, them, is to be found in the family itself becoming
aware of its Christian mission. The family must become an active agent
within the Church for renewal and change; it must foster caring and
sharing among its own members which then spills over into the same
type of loving, caring concern in the wider community.
this way, there is a true complementarity between parish and family
- the parish supporting families spiritually and sacramentally in
their efforts to live in fidelity and peace, and challenging families
to heroism and grater holiness by becoming centers of apostolic service;
and families, in so responding, making the message and the mission
of the parish more credible and attractive to others.
the years, our church has had a rich heritage of support for family
life. Our parishes, our schools and religious education programs,
and our system of social service and health care, have served many
important purposes but none more important than that of supporting
the family, enriching it through contacts with other families, affirming
it through preaching and sacrament, and bolstering it through programs
we face new problems and new challenges. We don't have all the answers,
but we do have the framework, the value system and the faith-dimension
within which viable, creative options can be developed.
I ask our Family Life Commission and those vital movements such as
Marriage Encounter and Cursillo, which have proven so effective in
strengthening marriage and family life, to assist our parish families
with resources and programs that will promote personal, social and
spiritual family growth and that will combat those utilitarian, materialistic
and hedonistic forces that challenge the integrity of marriage and
we need to offer comprehensive programs providing long-range as well
as immediate marriage preparation for young people, fostering family
activities in parishes, ministering to hurting families, advocating
public policy that will enshrine the family as a cornerstone of society,
affirming the ethnic and racial character of various families, and
encouraging greater experiences for married couples, single parents
and functioning family units.
special ministry to separated and divorced Catholics must also be
developed. Too often, these members have been neglected by the Church
causing them to live painful, lonely lives, sometimes alienated from
their spiritual home when remarriage has occurred. Renewed efforts
must be made to assist these suffering brothers and sisters in their
pains me to learn how many Catholics are misinformed about the status
of divorce and separated Catholics, and how many myths exist about
the grounds for a Church annulment, the cost of pursuing such and
the length of time for the process.
ask our Diocesan Marriage Tribunal to continue its efforts to assist
those who seek annulments. I further ask all those in pastoral positions
to be sensitive to the divorced and remarried, to acquaint them with
the rights and opportunities available for them, and to create among
all our people a climate of understanding.
also ask our Family Life Commission to develop support groups for
the separated and divorced at the parish or regional level, especially
for single parents, to provide them with the spiritual and emotional
assistance they need to cope with their particular problems.
focusing upon family life, I don't mean in any way to ignore or downplay
the vocation of those who lead single lives. Theirs, too, is a unique
vocation within the Church and a witness to the Christian life in
a special way. Most single persons, however, are part of a family
system in which they can use their gifts and receive love and support.
Parishes, nonetheless, must be sensitive not to exclude singles from
their programs and activities, and must have a special concern for
widows and widowers. I am most pleased by the renewed activity of
our singles group in the Diocese and encourage the growth of this
type of movement throughout our Diocese.
are two special contributions I would ask families to make to the
larger Church. The first is for parents and family members to pray
for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and to encourage
family members to consider these indispensable vocations in the Christian
community. The family is the domestic Church. It is in the home that
the Christian life is most fully lived and experienced. It is from
this context that vocations must emerge.
I believe that the family is the place where the Church's concern
about respect for human life can most effectively be taught and appreciated.
The loving interaction of family members can best convey the inherent
value of every human life and underscore that this value is determined
not by what a person does or produces, but rather by the simple fact
that each person has been called into existence by God and is loved
the life cycle of family members, there is an unparalleled opportunity
to give living witness to our belief in the sacredness of human life:
in the unborn, the young, the sick and the aging. Yes, the family
is the best school for conveying information about sex, communicating
caring attitudes toward the poor and disadvantaged, and showing respect
for life that is less than perfect.
our families can communicate this respect for human life at each stage
in the life spectrum, then the problems of abortion, illegitimacy,
and injustice at all levels will be substantially reduced.
other major emphasis I envision permeating parish life and making
the concept of share responsibility come alive in the immediate future
is the call to reconciliation and evangelization.
are thousands of Roman Catholics in our Diocese who need to hear anew
or afresh the Good News of our Lord, Jesus Christ. They differ widely
in their degree of commitment to, and living of, their faith. Those
Roman Catholics actively living and practicing their faith need to
hear a message of hope and encouragement; they need to be nourished
in their living out of their faith commitment. Those who are tepid
in their faith need an invitation to come and know the Lord in a more
intimate and personal way. And those who are alienated from their
faith, for whatever reason, need to hear a word of welcome and healing.
are many within our community who have fallen away from the practice
of faith. This could be for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they find
themselves in a situation which they believe separates them from the
Roman Catholic community. Perhaps they feel they were insulted by
a priest, or religious, or lay person. Or perhaps they have difficulty
in understanding some of the Church' moral, doctrinal or social teachings,
or in accepting the changes which have come about. We, as a community,
need to reach out to these brothers and sisters in a gentle, loving
addition, there are untold numbers in our Diocese who are totally
unchurched, belonging to no ecclesial community, never having heard
the message of Jesus. They need someone to share with them the hopes,
joys, blessings, consolations and challenges of our Christian faith.
is needed is both reconciliation within our own membership, and evangelization
to the unchurched who so desperately need to hear the saving message
firmly believe that the time is ripe for such a thrust. Some may argue
that we should wait for the day when our own house is in better spiritual
condition, when all our Diocesan and parish communities are models
of what has been outlined in this letter, before reaching out in such
a fashion. However, the Christian community has never been in perfect
order and never will be until the Parousia. We are pilgrim people
who are always on need of reform, who always fall somewhat short of
the mark as we wait for the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Until that day, we must live in joyful hope, sharing as best we can
the Good News of His Kingdom.
launch this approach, I designate Lent of 1979 as a time for reconciliation
within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany. I propose to reach out
to as many members of our Diocesan community as possible by conducting
a Diocesan retreat during the week of March 26, using the medium of
specifics of this program will be explained at a later date. But I
envision this to be a program directed to and involving all our people,
priests, deacons, religious and laity, practicing and alienated. My
role as Bishop will be to set the tone, to offer the call to reconciliation
and recommitment. But the response to this call must be at the parish
or regional level. This is absolutely essential for impact and follow-through.
such a program is to be a success, it will require the application
of the concept of shared responsibility. Our priests, with the aid
of deacons, must present the program in their parishes and be available
for discussion, counseling and sacramental ministry. Our religious
must prepare those whom they serve in their apostolates to hear this
call and be ready to assist them in making their response. Our laity
must minister to one another in a peer-to-peer approach to arouse
interest and enthusiasm. And all of us must be willing to prepare
our hearts to receive God's word and to respond to the movement of
the Spirit among us.
ask, then, that our people begin immediately to pray for the success
of this program and that all cooperate fully so that, personally,
we might become better followers of our Lord and that, communally,
we might be more ardent evangelists in a world that is hungering and
thirsting for His message.
detailed and specific treatment of our relations with other churches
and ecclesial bodies does not fit within the scope of this letter.
Where it was appropriate, however, I have alluded to the possibilities
of ecumenical and interfaith collaboration. It is my abiding hope
that all our efforts will be exerted as much as possible in the spirit
of ecumenism, that is, with concern for Christian Unity and with attention
to cooperation with all persons of good will.
conclusion, I express the hope and prayer that the directions presented
in the Pastoral Letter will serve as the basis for prayerful reflection
and constructive reaction on the part of all our people.
Pastoral Letter is presented, in the spirit of shared responsibility,
not as the final word but as a direction and as a stimulus to discussion,
dialogue and action. Some may think that the considerations presented
here are moving us ahead on our pilgrim journey too quickly; others
may think that the directions presented do not move us forward quickly
enough. We must remember, however, that the Church is not and cannot
be the community any one of us wants it to be. Rather, through our
honest and prayerful interaction with one another, we hope it will
become that community of faith. Love and service described in the
Book of Acts, and which the Spirit, in His own inscrutable ways, is
guiding it to be.
us rejoice, then, that we are His people.
yours, in Christ,