September 21, 2007

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Thank you for your love of Christ and for carrying on his mission

On Sept. 9, I marked the 15th year since my installation as archbishop of Indianapolis.

It has been and is today a special grace to serve all of you in central and southern Indiana. There have been many blessings and, of course, the inevitable challenges that are part of life. But I have an overwhelming sense of God’s love for our local Church.

I reflected about these years of ministry while making the annual retreat of the bishops of Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin at the end of August. The theme of our preached retreat was “The time of fulfillment is now. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the Good News” (Mk 1:15).

Our retreat director repeatedly called us to remember to keep our minds and hearts on the goal, the “finish line” of our ministry, if you will.

Our goal, of course, is the glory of God and the proclamation of his kingdom. The challenge is to keep our eyes on the goal of our mission: our love of Christ and carrying on his mission.

It is so easy to get caught up with preoccupations about how to make things work for our mission, and to forget why we are doing what we do. Distraction is no less a hazard for us bishops than for anyone else. Keeping our eyes on the finish line is, in effect, keeping our eyes on Jesus Christ and his mission. We all experience this spiritual challenge.

We have entered the last phase of Legacy for Our Mission: For Our Children and the Future, our stewardship and capital campaign. Reaching our challenge goal of $100 million for our parishes and our overall mission seems likely. But this is a prime example of how important it is not to get caught up in the wrong way of measuring “success.”

To be sure, reaching such an ambitious financial goal is a cause for joy. Yet we need to remember that, as someone said to me, “behind every dollar is a generous person of faith.” And the money pledged is for the mission of Christ in our local Church in central and southern Indiana.

The reason for the Legacy for Our Mission campaign in the first place is our love for Christ and his Church and the mission entrusted to us. It is true, we carry on our mission in the real world and so we need resources to make it happen. But we need to be sure we do not get so caught up in “making it happen” that we forget we are serving Jesus Christ.

More than 11,000 people of the archdiocese got involved as volunteers in the capital campaign process in our parishes and at the archdiocesan level. This means that one in eight households of the archdiocese helped do the work of implementing the procedures and workings of the campaign. I find your generous involvement remarkable!

Why did you volunteers do this? Because of your commitment to the mission of the archdiocese, that is to say, to the mission of our parishes and our shared ministries. More to the point, you folks gave personal expression to your belief that Christ calls us to carry on the faith and the mission of his Church in a practical way. I am not sure how you would put it into your own words, but the bottom line for you folks is you love God and the people of God.

I am told that the percentage of you who made pledges and gifts to the Legacy for Our Mission campaign—and those who are doing so now in the last phase of the campaign—is notably higher than is the norm in other dioceses around the United States. Again, the degree of participation in the archdiocese is a measure of our gratitude for God’s blessings upon us and an expression of our desire to provide for the faith, Christ’s mission, and the ministry for our children and the future.

Where are we going from here? We have completed the planning cycle for our mission and ministries called “A New Moment of Grace: 2007.” We are beginning a new strategic planning process for the next three to five years of our shared mission and ministry. In the near future, many of you will have an opportunity to participate in crafting the new plan.

In 2009, we will observe the 175th anniversary of the founding of our diocese as the Diocese of Vincennes, now the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. We will announce exciting plans for an appropriate celebration of so many years of the faith, hope and charity of so many folks like yourselves who over these many years established and handed on the Catholic heritage we enjoy today. †

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