January 8, 2010

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Past decade has brought many blessings to archdiocese

It is difficult to believe that we are already into the 10th year of the third Christian millennium. Much has happened in 10 years. Some folks had believed that something catastrophic would happen at the turn of the 20th century. Actually, it happened in 2001. Who can forget Sept. 11?

Wars and violence continue. Terrorism has become a common word in our language. Poverty continues. The recent economic downturn has had its sobering effect as if it is cyclical. The beloved Pope John Paul II has gone on to the Father’s House. Pope Benedict XVI continues to pastor the Church in a serene and joyful manner even as he is in his 80s. His encyclical letters are having an impact on our culture of violence and materialism. Recovering a civilization that respects the dignity of human life continues to be a challenge.

The 175th anniversary of our archdiocese concludes in June. As a recurring theme for embracing our pastoral mission, I am stressing Pope Benedict’s reminder in his letter, “God is Love,” that the Church’s nature is essentially expressed in a threefold task: Proclaim the word of God, celebrate the sacraments and carry on the ministry of charity. The Holy Father says these three tasks are inseparable, and we are trying to maintain that vision. It is the way in which we live our mission—Christ our Hope: Compassion in Community.

There are signs that more and more members of our local Church are accepting the task to evangelize and proclaim God’s Word. One of the encouraging signs of hope in our local Church is the growing number of candidates for the priesthood.

One of the blessings of the first decade of the new millennium has been the establishment of our Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary. We experienced the added good fortune of moving to our own property purchased from the Sisters of the Carmelite Monastery down the street from Marian University in Indianapolis.

We are in the fifth year of operation, and the seminary began this school year at capacity. Recently, we had more rooms constructed within the seminary building. Our 15 college seminarians are joined by seminarians from the dioceses of Evansville, Lexington and the archdioceses of Louisville and Cincinnati.

Almost 100 percent of our graduates of the last four years have gone on to the major seminary, the final four years of preparation for the priesthood. I had thought that 50 percent could be hoped for. God is blessing us. We have 13 seminarians in the major seminary.

The presence of our own college seminary has reawakened a culture of vocation at the high school level. Bishop Bruté Seminary sponsors awareness programs for potential candidates. I encourage folks to keep an eye out for these opportunities. Peers of our seminarians are well aware of their going into the seminary. We know this has nudged others to think about a religious vocation. Two or three years ago, students at Bishop Chatard High School formed a vocation awareness association titled SERV (Students Encouraging Religious Vocations).

The Called by Name program, which many parishes sponsored last January, surfaced a couple of hundred names of young men and women thought to be potential candidates for religious life. Last spring, we sponsored dinners around the archdiocese for those who had been nominated. There was a good turnout, and we were able to present information and answer questions about religious life and the priesthood.

The majority of the nominees were flattered, if surprised, to be recommended by parishioners.

Another blessing for our archdiocese in recent years is the introduction of the permanent diaconate. Our permanent deacons are specifically authorized by ordination to proclaim the word of God and the teachings of Jesus. They assist at the Eucharist. The particular charism of the diaconate is to actively participate in the Church’s ministry of charity.

We welcome our deacons. A new class of deacon candidates is in the process of education, and pastoral and spiritual formation. The newness of this ministry was confusing for some: Deacons are not intended to be substitute priests. Their ministry of charity is a blessing for our local Church.

The priestly and diaconal ministry does not exhaust the archdiocese’s need for the active participation in the ministries of our shared mission. One of the blessings of the last decade has been the inauguration of a program for the education and formation of lay ministers for the archdiocese.

Sometimes folks are concerned that the increase of priesthood and diaconal vocations limits opportunities for lay folks to serve in the Church. That is far from being a possibility.

All of us together need to pray for religious vocations, especially for the priesthood. Without our priests, there would be no Eucharist. Without the Eucharist, there would be no Church. †

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