Dear Friends in Christ:
In the next few weeks we will be publishing our Annual Report which contains information concerning the previous fiscal year. This year’s report has been delayed due to Hurricane Harvey and our efforts to offer relief and assist in the recovery. The Annual Report provides a summary of our pastoral activities (numbers of registered households, baptisms, marriages, sacraments and reports on events and ministries of the parish) and our financial situation (income, expenses and budget). Without going into all the details of the report, our parish family has been impacted like many of the families who comprise our parish by the economic downturn of the energy industry of the last few years and by the devastating blow of Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent flood. We have had to make adjustments to our ministry programs and budget and we continue to do so. Unlike the government we do not spend money that we do not have! The bottom line is despite some challenges, we remain greatly blessed. While our financial situation is not what it once was, we have many people coming to Mass, people growing in their faith, converts to the faith, and we are able to serve many through our works of charity. We have lost people who were displaced by the floods and we have suffered a loss of income due to people losing their jobs and no longer able to support the parish financially. We remain undeterred as we continue to do our best to try to help those families in these difficult circumstances and to serve all of our families through our ministries and activities.
One of the biggest factors influencing our parish and every church and religion are the changes in society. Religion is under attack by the forces of secularism and it is having an effect. Fewer people are practicing their religion and fewer people belong to any church or adhere to a faith. Compared to most churches (here in the U.S. and around the world), the Catholic Church is actually fairing a little better, but the situation is not good. There are people not coming to church, not living their faith and abandoning their faith. There are fewer people marrying or having children or raising their children in their faith. This should concern all of us. Not because of the economic impact to our parish budget, but because these are souls that are in peril.
Part of our relationship with God is His desire for us to help everyone get to heaven! Our modern popes, St. John XXIII, Blessed Paul VI, Pope John Paul I, St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict and Pope Francis have all preached the need for us to be witnesses of Christ to the modern world!
The word for this is evangelization – the sharing of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Evangelization is the mission of the Church. Each and every one of us is called to tell others about Jesus, introduce others to Jesus and bring others to Jesus. Not the idea of Jesus, but the person, Jesus. Quite honestly this is impossible and futile if we ourselves do not have a real relationship with Jesus. Unfortunately, for too many folks, we settle for the idea of Jesus (which is often distorted) or some watered down version of the gospel which is little more than Hallmark card theology. When we do that we miss out on the power, excitement, peace and joy, of knowing and loving Jesus and experiencing the freedom and fulfillment of living the gospel and the teachings of the church! The more you know and love Jesus the more you want to follow him and live the teachings of the church and to want others to have the same!
When we look to the saints, one of the characteristics they all possess is that they could not contain their love for God. They were compelled to share that love with others. They wanted others to be holy, they desired that others know and follow Jesus in a most radical way. Who settles for a vending machine turkey sandwich on Thanksgiving when there is a feast on the table? But that is exactly what many are doing today. As you consider the parish’s Annual Report, perhaps you may wish to make your own annual report on your discipleship of the last year and then consider the saints.
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately