August 22, 2014

Rejoice in the Lord

Holy Spirit is inviting us to think globally, act locally

Archbishop Joseph W. TobinIn one of my earlier columns, I commented on the lack of international news on television and in our newspapers.

In fact, there is very little “news” in our contemporary media, and the analysis provided is too often partisan (rather than objective) and ideological (rather than informative). This is a serious problem for us as citizens of a nation that is increasingly dependent on economic, political and cultural interaction with the global community. It’s also a serious concern for those of us who are members of the universal Church.

My ministry in the Redemptorist congregation gave me a unique perspective on the “small world” that we live in. It also helped me better understand the Church’s role as a force for good in the world, and as a partner with other religious and cultural organizations in combating some of the gravest problems facing our sisters and brothers in other regions of the world.

I raise this issue in the context of the question I have been asking for the past year and a half: Where is the Holy Spirit calling us to open new doors in central and southern Indiana? Could it be that we are being asked to move beyond our “comfort zones” in order to develop a global perspective on world affairs and on the evangelizing mission of our Church?

You’ve heard the expression: Think globally, act locally. This is not a bad slogan for the challenge we must accept as Catholics who are members of a worldwide Church, but who live our faith in local faith communities. As the slogan suggests, we need to be aware of what is happening in the world around us, but the actions we are called to take will ordinarily find their expressions through our parish, our archdiocese or agencies such as the Catholic Campaign for Human Development or Catholic Relief Services. Of course, we also have opportunities to act through our support for religious congregations that do missionary work throughout the world.

As an expression of their pastoral ministry, the bishops of the United States act in concrete solidarity with the poor and defenseless.

As part of its ministry, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops engages in advocacy on concerns related to the defense and empowerment of poor and vulnerable communities in the United States and across the globe. Here at home, and throughout the world, the Church is committed to the defense of human life, to religious liberty, to strengthening marriage and family life, to caring for migrants and refugees, and to justice, peace and human development.

The bishops’ concern extends to ending the suffering of those experiencing violent conflicts. We strive to reduce global poverty through effective international assistance, health programs, debt relief for the poorest nations, and just trade policies.

We seek to apply Catholic social teaching to the promotion and development of public policy that strengthens and builds resilient families and communities. This includes advocacy on behalf of the poor and vulnerable on a range of matters related to human dignity, family life, the dignity of work and workers, poverty elimination, access to adequate nutrition and health care, and the integrity of creation.

Much of our Church’s work at the national and international levels is “behind the scenes.” It is rarely reported in the news media—except when it can be connected with some controversial issue such as “family planning” or economic theory. (Pope Francis received some harsh criticism for his statements in the fourth chapter of “The Joy of the Gospel” that the wealth of some countries is predicated on the poverty of other nations.)

How well do we understand the pope’s message? Do we depend on what we hear on talk radio or read in the secular media, or have we developed a global perspective of our own? Is our experience of the Church entirely local, or do we live our faith in solidarity with our sisters and brothers throughout the universal Church?

I believe that the Holy Spirit is inviting us to think globally and act locally. This means we have to be better informed about the big issues. It also means that we need to have access to concrete opportunities to make a difference here in Indiana and in diverse regions of the world.

Pope Francis has challenged all of us to see ourselves as “missionary disciples” called to proclaim the joy of the Gospel to all our sisters and brothers everywhere.

As we engage in pastoral planning here at home, I will continue to probe how our archdiocese can be more effective in developing a global perspective and in providing Catholics in central and southern Indiana with the means to think globally and act locally. †

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