As this Jubilee Year of Mercy unfolds, which has been declared and implemented across the world and in each diocese and parish, there are many signs that great graces are happening. Some of you are expressing to me personally that Jesus is touching your heart and that families are praying together in response to my Christmas mailing and the dedication of all of our families on Dec. 27, 2015.
In many ways, this year could become an opening of the floodgates of God’s merciful love as people draw nearer to the person of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. I notice that at Masses people are praying more deeply and sincerely. They are moving from spectators to real prayers and participants at the liturgy.
I have also noticed that at celebrations of the sacrament of confirmation, there is a deeper and abiding joy and the young people are taking their covenant commitment to Christ and the church much more intentionally. This all brings joy to a pastor’s and a bishop’s heart — to see the people of God come alive in their relationship with Jesus and his body, the church. This has been a dream of mine for my entire life as a priest (35 years with 15 of those years serving as a bishop).
I have just finished a round of heart-to-heart discussions with our priests and pastoral leaders, discussions that have been very much like a family meeting, with everyone having an opportunity to express their joys and concerns about ministry and the life and ministry in our parishes. We are very blessed in this diocese with some very fine leaders. We all know that we are far from perfect and will never please all of the people all of the time, but we want to become more loving and caring for our people, tending to and caring for the flock as Jesus wants us to.
The things the priests enjoy most are celebrating the sacraments with and for all of you and they are looking forward to moving the diocese forward into more missionary discipleship — with the Disciples on the Way to guide our journey over the next five or six years. They want to enter more deeply into discipleship themselves first and then share their knowledge and enthusiasm with you!
May the gifts of these years of intentional discipleship, focusing on prayer in our homes, in our parishes, and Catholic institutes, truly open the floodgates of mercy so that people will be deeply touched by the love of our Lord, who calls us to the joy of the Gospel!