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In 1994, the Great John Paul II wrote about how we, as Catholics, are privileged to, and challenged to, cross the threshold of hope. He wrote, “It is very important to cross the threshold of hope, not to stop before it, but to let oneself be led.” As I look to the months and years ahead for the community of Catholics in the Archdiocese of Boston, I see countless reasons for us to live in “joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” Today I am mentioning three key pastoral initiatives as reasons for hope and as moments when we are daring to be led by the Holy Spirit: two presbyteral convocations (clergy gatherings); Renew, a comprehensive process of renewal for all members of our Catholic family through prayer and sharing of our faith; and the yearlong celebration of our bicentennial.
Priests are ordained for service to the faithful, and therefore, renewal of the priesthood is critical to the spiritual renewal of our Catholic family. Our priests will have two opportunities to gather in convocation, Sept. 14 and Nov. 20. We will be discussing our shared ministry, particularly the experience of the past five years, and looking at our hopes for the future. The meetings are designed to complement one another as, over the two days, we will support and encourage each other in our efforts to continue the ministry of Jesus Christ in the Archdiocese of Boston and beyond.
What do our priests gain from gathering as a group? The priesthood is meant to be a common effort, and yet, because so many parishes have only one priest, it is easy for us to feel isolated. Convocations serve as a reminder that we are not alone. Not only are we part of our parish communities, but we are also part of a community of priests who have been through a lot together. We hope that these two convocations will strengthen and uplift our priests as we continue to move forward in our mission of service.
The program entitled “ARISE: Together in Christ” is being introduced to the archdiocese to help renew parish life and to help parishioners strengthen their spiritual lives. Additionally, we hope the renewal effort will inspire Catholics who are not currently active to return to the Church. Renew International, a greatly respected and effective Catholic organization, has created the process, which has been customized to meet our archdiocese’s needs.
At the heart of the program will be the creation of small groups. The groups will meet weekly for six weeks to read and reflect upon Scripture. Members of the groups will be encouraging one another into active discipleship, supporting each other as they look for ways to bring God more fully into their daily lives. Renew International will train local parish leaders, who in turn will train session leaders to shepherd the process within their parishes. Another exciting aspect of the program, which will be offered in the fall of 2008, is that it will be available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, and Vietnamese.
The objective is empowerment. The program will challenge us to ask: How do I encounter God in my everyday life? How can I join with others to deepen and share my faith? And then, how do I connect that faith with action?
Both the convocations and the Renew program are taking place within the context of the Archdiocese of Boston’s Bicentennial celebration, which begins with Advent, Dec. 2, 2007, and runs through Nov. 23, 2008. Our bicentennial year is a great opportunity for us to reflect on where we’ve been and where we are going. The Catholics in Boston 200 years ago risked their lives to attend Mass and to promote the faith. They would be amazed by the opportunities for spiritual development and expression we have today. Through those opportunities, our life together in the Archdiocese of Boston can be strengthened and renewed.
As we look at the challenges and opportunities of the past and of the future, and as we seek the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in renewal, let us thank God that whenever we stand together with Jesus Christ and each other, we cross the threshold of hope.
Father Erikson is vicar general and moderator of the curia of the Archdiocese of Boston.