Change and transformation are not easy. As human beings, we are all somewhat resistant to change because it forces us to encounter our vulnerability. This can be scary, and often it feels easier to avoid change and remain content with the way things are.
But staying the same does not necessarily bring security. In fact, sometimes it is more dangerous to us than changing. This is especially true when the environment around us is changing. If we don’t adapt to it, we won’t survive for very long. Just ask the dinosaurs.
You may have noticed that the world around us is changing at a rapid pace these days. Some things change so quickly it’s hard to keep track of them. There are days when I wake up and it feels like I have been transplanted to another time or another place. Not all the changes that are happening are necessarily bad, but even good change, when it happens so quickly, can feel a bit disorienting.
The good news is that while change can be difficult, our Christian faith shows us that it is a normal part of life and essential to our growth. The Bible is filled with stories of change and transformation. In fact, to fully embrace life in Christ, St. Paul says we must become new creations: “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This change that we undergo as Christians is called conversion because through God’s grace we turn away from our sinful ways and towards God’s ways.
Over the past several years here in our diocese, we have been going through some significant changes. These changes began in 2014 with the launch of Disciples on the Way and, since then, several thousand parish, school and organizational leaders have been formed in discipleship throughout the diocese; we have articulated a new vision, mission and priorities under which we have been operating; and our diocesan offices have gone through a complete reorganization. These past years have been ones of inspiration and motivation for mission. And while this shift has not always been easy and remains a work in progress, we are starting to see the fruits of our efforts.
As I look ahead, I believe that we are entering a new season focused on implementation and action. Now is the time to mobilize for mission so that we can reach the two goals we have set for our diocese.
- By 2025, we will call forth and form hundreds of missionary leaders who will mobilize thousands of missionary disciples who disciple at least two others.
- By 2025, we will call forth and form 30 seminarians to be missionary leaders to the priesthood.
It is my belief that if we meet these two goals, we will be able to successfully navigate the changes that are happening around us.
In order to make progress in our diocese, to weather the tumult of the cultural waves and not just to survive, but to thrive, everyone in the diocese must own these goals. Every Catholic, every family, every student needs to own the goals. Every priest, every parish school, every faith formation class must take this on as their personal mission. We must unite ourselves to Jesus, under the protection of his Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, and we must embrace what is being asked of us.
So I encourage each of you to take some time in quiet prayer before our Lord and ask him how you can own these goals. Ask God how he is calling you to give up some of your old ways and become a new creation. Ask God how you can grow as a missionary disciple who invites others into friendship with Jesus. Ask God to show you who he is calling to the priesthood and how you can help foster that vocation. Finally, please pray for me, for our priests, and for our diocesan and parish staff that all of us may embrace these changes in order to build a culture of missionary discipleship.
May God bless each of us in our journey as disciples on the way!
Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter, @BpDavidRicken.