Tuesday November 19, 2019
6:04 am
Bishop Hying

Faith great adventure when we hook the sail of our lives to the mighty wind of the Holy Spirit!

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on April 7, 2019

 

      If you read Vanessa Negrete’s column in our paper several weeks ago, you know I am visiting every parish in our diocese for an entire day this year. I currently have completed seven and have 62 to go! 

      The purpose of these visits is to support and thank everyone for their tremendous efforts, learn in greater detail the good that each parish is accomplishing, discover how the implementation of their synod plan is progressing, know what challenges or problems are obstructing growth and to simply spend time with our priests, deacons and lay leadership. I celebrate Mass, often with confirmation, in every visit and visit some of the parish elderly and sick in their homes. 

      I have thoroughly enjoyed all of it.

      In my travels around the diocese, I have felt that I had a good handle on local parish life, but these extended conversations and encounters have deepened my appreciation of the hard work and dedication of our leaders, the holiness and generosity of our people and the goodness of God! Even in the midst of so many challenges and difficulties that the Church faces, the spiritual vitality and discipleship commitment of so many is a wonder to behold. We have a wonderful diocese.

      In the context of these visits, many experiences encourage me in hope and gratitude. The synod has truly taken root in our parishes. From dynamic small groups to marriage retreat days, from reimagining the parish council to creating an evangelization committee, from doing door-to-door visits to connecting the needs of parishioners with available resources, the synod is beginning to produce fruit in every parish.  I have yet to hear of a community that is doing absolutely nothing.

      I have come to appreciate more profoundly how much our people love Jesus Christ, the Church, their parish and their leaders. I see how much dedicated service our priests, deacons, lay ministers and volunteers offer to the people. Even in small communities, the variety and imagination reflected in the spiritual life, outreach ministries and catechetical opportunities available are very encouraging. 

      In every parish, there is more going on than meets the eye; many individuals have learned as much from each other within their own community about the good things happening as I did. 

      Needless to say, challenges and obstacles present opportunities for strategic thinking and problem solving. Effective communication among parish leaders and with the congregation is essential. How does each community share the vision and goals of the synod plan in the context of parish life so powerfully that each member understands what we are trying to do and supports the effort through prayer, volunteerism, participation in events and contribution of resources? 

      How does the parish as a whole take ownership of the ongoing synod process as an experience of spiritual renewal and practical discipleship?

      Some parish synod goals are very compelling, specific and detailed, so that implementing them is a step-by-step process of following what the planning committee has laid out. Other goals are more general without much detail or a clear plan for how to make the vision a reality. I encourage folks to dig down more deeply into their synod goals and hammer out the details where they still may be lacking. Success depends on perseverance, accountability, attention to detail and clear communication.

      As of July 1 this year, we will have 50 active diocesan priests in our local Church; thankfully, we also have religious priests and senior clergy who generously help us as well. This relatively small number will continue to decline for a number of years before it stabilizes. I am grateful for the increasing number of seminarians who are preparing for the priesthood, but their number will not replace our retirements.

      We still need to create new models of leadership and collaboration to keep our parishes, schools and ecclesial organizations vital. More and more parishes will be clustered in order to more efficiently and effectively share resources. Permanent deacons and laity will need to take on more responsibilities within our communities. Our people will need to think more broadly beyond the boundaries of their own parishes, realizing that programs, events and activities will need to be shared across the diocese. 

      My hope for the synod process is that our strategic thinking and effective implementation of pastoral goals will place us in a better position of spiritual depth, institutional vitality and attention to the mission, so that we can face these challenges and not be overwhelmed by them. 

      I am grateful for all the people who are making a heroic effort to grow the faith and the Church throughout the diocese, and for the detailed work involved in planning my parish visits. I have thoroughly enjoyed the visits and look forward to the rest, hoping to finish the process before Christmas. I am learning so much and loving everything I have come to know, experience and see. 

      Our faith is such a great adventure when we hook the sail of our lives to the mighty wind of the Holy Spirit!

 

       + Donald J. Hying

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