A Few Thoughts- September 26th

Thank you for the prayers for all the priests that gathered for convocation. Last week all the priests who have an assignment in the diocese participated in a Priests Convocation. This is an annual event that usually takes place in a type of resort where the clergy can separate themselves from the daily
challenges of ministry and together with the Bishop renew vocation, bonds with the Bishop and gather renewed energy for mission. This year was a different story, the convocation took place on Zoom.

What I would like to do is share a bit of what took place during this virtual gathering knowing full well that the event has implications for each parish. I will try to be as brief as possible, yet I’m sure I will extend myself into next week’s bulletin as well. The keynote presentations were by Dr. Timothy Matovina from the University of Notre Dame and Bishop Barron, Auxiliary Bishop from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and founder of Word on Fire. There were moments of discussion and the last day Bishop Barnes spoke to the clergy looking back over his many years as bishop of the diocese of San Bernardino and now the transition to Bishop Alberto Rojas.

The first two days, Dr. Timothy Matovina provided us with a historical perspective of the Church in the United States. To cover several centuries in the space of a couple of hours was a challenge that he was able to handle with success. The themes from history that were surfaced for our consideration really focused on the debt owed the women and men who pioneered and settled in what would become the United States. These were the Catholics who arrived with the early Spanish settlements that spanned the Southwest and the boat people who arrived from Ireland, Italy, Germany in the eastern shore. It seems that as each century became another, Catholics carried the cross of their faith in spite of the racial prejudice and extreme anti-Catholic sentiment focused on the immigrant.

The centuries of Catholic presence in the United States has been an essential component to the very essence of the nation’s essence. This does point to a particular vocation. Across the centuries, and in spite of mistakes made, the Catholic Church has a clear contribution to make. The cross of faith still
needs to be carried in spite of the age-old obstacles of prejudice, scapegoating of immigrants and the new threats to society that are vested with secularism and postmodernity. The Church, must continue to make God’s presence a reality. It has the experience of different models of church and ministry. In particular, the very American empowering of the laity, is a call to unity with diversity, care for the downtrodden and prophetic in the call for justice.

The second day was more of a conversation piece that invited reflection on what the pandemic has done to us as individuals and as Church. The struggles are evident, but there is overwhelming hope. People continue to gather, new ways have been found to proclaim the Good News, we are allowing the Spirit to guide us as never before. Because it is of the Spirit, always restless in the creation of the New, we need to be willing to let go of structures, of the “way things used to be” in order for the way it shall be to take shape. The survey of history also highlighted how different structures of church in the past: National churches, schools, hospitals, evolution of the parish structure and corresponding evolution of leadership structures of service and not of authoritarianism, all contain the allure of the Holy Spirit that will guide us into a post-pandemic church.

Next week: Bishop Barron and Bishop Barnes.