Dear Friends in Christ:
This summer I had the privilege to participate in two very interesting programs. The first was at the beautiful campus of the University of Notre Dame. The program was one of priestly renewal for diocesan priests. Pastors from around the country were nominated by their dioceses and ten were selected by the McGrath Institute to participate in a week-long program which consisted of presentations by faculty members of the Theology Department. Needless to say, it has been a long time since I sat in a college classroom! The week was wonderful. The university staff could not have treated us better. It was stimulating to listen to the various theologians and being with brother priests was a special treat. It truly was a week of renewal as we read, listened, discussed, prayed, told stories, ate and laughed!
The second event was a world away in Los Angeles. Our parish was selected to be part of a study group of ten parishes from across the county (from New Jersey to California) to examine ministry to millennials (Generation Next, Young Adults, 18-35 year olds). This is a two-year program where we will meet every six months to explore various issues concerning this important segment of our society and the church. This group included not only pastors but also parish staff. Tashina Cooper, Coordinator of Young Adults Ministry, Daniel Marcantel, Director of Youth Formation and Yvonne Gill, Director of Adult Formation also attended with me and form our parish study group. This program was also a wonderful experience filled with great insights and stimulating presentations and discussions. It was great to see what others are doing and the varied approaches that different parishes took. It was also very affirming to us in all the things that we are doing here at SJV. We are eagerly looking forward to the upcoming sessions.
While the focus of the two weeks was different, there was a commonality that was truly refreshing and exciting. At the renewal for priests program most of the priests came from the Northeast and Midwest. The concerns and issues that these pastors faced were in many instances different than what we have in Houston and from the priests and parish staff members that I met in California. What was common was the desire to spread the gospel! There was an excitement and a love for Christ and His Church even among those in very difficult conditions. All of the participants at each event exhibited a zeal to share the joy of Christ’s love. Needless to say, this was music to my ears!
Sometimes we can forget that Jesus did not give us a maintenance plan but a mission! It is very easy to get bogged down in so many things, concentrating on what is not working. We can forget that Jesus calls us to a mission and commands us to “go and make disciples!” When we keep our focus on this simple directive of the Lord, amazing things happen.
Keeping our focus on God and what God wants us to do gives a real clarity, direction, purpose and meaning to our lives. St. Augustine teaches us “pride is the root of all sin”. Notice that at the center of pride and sin is “I”! When we shift the focus of our attention to ourselves and away from God that is the beginning of where things go wrong. When we can keep God and not ourselves as the center of our lives and go outside of ourselves to help others become disciples to Jesus, a transformation happens. This change is not just in the other person, but also in ourselves. In reaching out and making disciples we become more humble, generous, patient, understanding, caring, stronger and forgiving. We become better people. We become holier and holiness is the key to happiness.
So this week, don’t just stay out of trouble, Be Holy! Go and share the Good News of Jesus with someone! Go and Make Disciples!
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately