Dear friends in Christ:
As pastor, one of the biggest challenges I continually face (and there are more than just a few) is how to communicate effectively with more than 15,000 parishioners every week. If you will indulge me, I would like to list some of the obstacles to this one task. First, there is only one of me and more than 15,000 of you! Then there is the difficulty of me being at every Mass, meeting, class, event and function. My recent illness showed how limited I am. Conversely is the fact that not all of our parishioners show up every week (some for legitimate reasons, others – well…). Then there is the huge amount of information to communicate (the gospel message, parish news, theology, spirituality, social teaching, Church history, morality, larger church news, etc.). Added to this are the numerous means of communication (preaching at Mass, talks, classes, bulletin, website, mail, e-mail, internet, social media, etc.). I cannot fail to mention the three “official” languages in which Mass is offered in the parish: Portuguese – which I do not speak at all, Spanish – which I can read, but am limited in my speaking ability and English – which is difficult enough! One then must take into account, even when communication is attempted, not everyone hears the same message even when the same words are used! Although we have more means of communication than ever before, we also have less understanding than ever before! Obviously, for one person this is more than just a simple challenge.
Happily, communication does not have to be the exclusive responsibility of just one person. At St. John Vianney, we are greatly blessed with literally thousands of active parishioners and a tremendous staff who serve in roles of communicating our faith every day. Fortunately, the saving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not the sole responsibility of the pastor. One of the great teachings of Vatican II is that the transmission of the gospel and the truths of the faith are not restricted to the clergy and vowed religious. That is true here at SJV and at every Catholic parish in the world. Priests, deacons, religious, lay ministers and all the faithful share in the vocation and mission of communicating, proclaiming and transmitting the gospel. This is called EVANGELIZATION, the sharing of the good news!
This means that there is not one “preacher of the gospel” at SJV but more than 15,000! Each one of us is called to be a preacher of the gospel in both word and in action!
Every Catholic has the responsibility to communicate the truth of the Catholic Faith, each and every day. But as the famous Latin dictum states: Non dat quid non habit (one cannot give what one does not have). For us to share the joy, beauty and truth of Jesus’ message of life and hope with others we must first possess it ourselves. It is part of our discipleship and the responsibility that comes with baptism that we continually learn about our faith, live our faith and share our faith. It is precisely in this learning, living and sharing that we grow in our faith!
Are you capable of accurately stating the basic tenets of the Catholic Faith? Can you answer simple questions correctly about the Bible? How comfortable are you to speak knowledgeably about the Catholic Faith with a non-Catholic friend? Please do not be embarrassed if you cannot answer “yes” to these questions, but please do something so you can. We have tremendous Adult Faith Formation Programs, from bible studies to marriage enrichment programs, from Church history to Church doctrine. We have an array of prayer groups, support groups and ministries.
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately