July 21, 2006

Seeking the Face of the Lord

We are a Church of many faces
who worship and serve together

I continue my series of reflections on what it means to be a “particular Church,” the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

As Church, we are many faces, but together we worship and serve together.

I have a lot of photographs taken with youth and young adults at confirmations during the last 13 years. I also have a lot of photographs taken with catechumens and candidates who have been in our RCIA programs over the years.

I have photos taken at ordinations, weddings and first Communions. These are pictures of smiling people from every walk of life, every age group, and different racial and ethnic backgrounds, all of whom enrich our local Church.

When I look at my collection of photos, I see these faces as representative of our archdiocese. In every face, we seek the face of Jesus.

In fact, the universal Church is a composite of many faces, of all peoples of every race, language and way of life.

The Second Vatican Council reminded us that all people are called to belong to the new people of God, the body of Christ. This people, while remaining one and unique, is spread throughout the whole world and must exist in all ages so that the purpose of God’s will for the communion of the human family may be fulfilled.

The Second Vatican Council teaching about the Church tells us that among all the nations of earth there is but one people of God, one body of Christ taking its citizens from every race, making them citizens of a kingdom which is of heavenly and not earthly nature. All the faithful scattered throughout the world are in communion with each other in the Holy Spirit (cf. “Lumen Gentium” #13).

The universality of the Church is a gift of God and shows the work of the Holy Spirit. From this characteristic of universality, the Church takes its name: “Catholic.”

The word Catholic comes from a Greek word which means both “universal” and “whole.” This means our Church is not isolationist or sectarian. Our Church is not for a select few. The Church is for everyone and must be partial to no one.

In the Apostles Creed, we profess our belief in the holy Catholic Church. In the Nicene Creed each Sunday, we Catholics say, “We believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” To be authentic, the Church must be all of these.

In a way, the Church’s “catholicity” captures the meaning of “one, holy, catholic and apostolic.” In order to achieve this marvelous catholicity and to truly be one, holy and apostolic, the universal Church has been formed by God down through the centuries as a communion of particular Churches, which are called dioceses headed by successors to the college of Apostles.

Patterned after the local communities founded by each of the Apostles, a diocese is the basic unit of the Church. As such, the diocesan Church is not an arbitrary division of the wider Church, nor simply a convenient administrative arrangement or a loose affiliation of individual parish churches.

The diocesan Church represents a wholeness, a completeness, a catholicity in and of itself, provided it remains in full communion with the pope as bishop of Rome and through him, with all other diocesan Churches throughout the world.

The Second Vatican Council maintains that the diocese stands as a “particular Church” in which Christ’s one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church is truly present and at work.

The dignity of the whole Church is embodied in the particular or diocesan Church. The Church’s Code of Canon Law (Canon #369) states: “A diocese is a portion of the people of God, which is entrusted to a bishop to be nurtured by him, with the cooperation of the presbyterium, in such a way that, remaining close to its pastor and gathered by him through the Gospel and the Eucharist in the Holy Spirit, it constitutes a particular Church. In this Church, the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ truly exists and functions.”

Ultimately, our archdiocesan Church is a gift from God himself, and we contain and manifest the nature of the universal Church. Therefore, our archdiocesan Church is the sacrament of Christ and the manifestation of his body, head and members in the fullest sense here and now in our part of central and southern Indiana.

Church law designates some major dioceses in geographical regions as archdioceses. Of the five dioceses in Indiana, Indianapolis has the largest population, is the capital city and is an archdiocese. However, as archbishop of Indianapolis, I do not have jurisdiction over the other four dioceses, but I am responsible for coordinating our mutual efforts for the good of the Church in our geographical region.

In Church language, these geographical regions are called “ecclesiastical or metropolitan provinces.” †


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