May 26, 2023

Reflection / John Shaughnessy

Celebrating the gift of a life in the Spirit on the Church’s birthday

John ShaughnessyThere is always work to do, to be better, but there are times to celebrate, too.

So it is with Pentecost, the day that recalls God’s gift of sending the Holy Spirit to descend upon the Apostles.

Considered as the birthday of the Church, Pentecost begins the fulfillment of Christ’s call to “make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19) and reveals the presence of the Holy Trinity in the world for the first time.

As the Church celebrates its birthday on this Sunday, May 28, and in appreciation of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, here are seven of the special ways that the Catholic faithful of central and southern Indiana strive to live the meaning of Pentecost across the archdiocese—to lead others to Christ and to live his commandment to love God and one another.

A life in community

In the 126 parishes across the archdiocese—representing small towns, large cities, growing suburbs and rural areas—there is the offer of life in community, from the spiritual connection of celebrating the faith and the sacraments together to the social bonds that form in planning, volunteering and enjoying parish festivals together.

Our parishes are faith-based communities that offer a presence and a commitment to one another at every point of life, from the welcoming of a child being baptized to families being comforted at the loss of a loved one.

A hand extended in compassion and hope

With agencies in Bloomington, Indianapolis, New Albany, Tell City and Terre Haute, Catholic Charities in the archdiocese touches the lives of many people in need across central and southern Indiana, many of whom aren’t Catholic.

In serving 195,000 meals to people who are hungry, providing shelter and crisis relief services for 40,000, and helping 2,800 people with pregnancy and adoption services, the approach of Catholic Charities’ staff members and volunteers in the archdiocese is to be the hands of Christ in lifting people up and leading them to a better life filled with hope.

An education for life and eternity

When Brian Disney talks about the 67 Catholic schools across the archdiocese, the superintendent of Catholic schools starts with an appreciation of the families from all walks of life who have entrusted their 21,000 children to a Catholic education. And his appreciation continues for the 2,300 staff members who have chosen to live their professional lives in the hope of impacting students spiritually, intellectually, emotionally and socially.

At the same time, Disney always focuses on the one quality that is at the heart of Catholic schools: “Catholic school education fosters personal relationships with Jesus Christ and a communal witness to the Gospel message of love of God and neighbor.”

It’s a focus that’s also embraced by many religious education efforts in parishes across the archdiocese.

A welcome to all

The miracle of Pentecost is that people of different countries and different languages could all hear the Apostles inviting them to share in a life rooted in Christ.

In its liturgies, parishes in central and southern Indiana celebrate Masses for people who speak French, English, Korean, Spanish, Vietnamese, Burmese and other languages. In its outreach, the archdiocese has programs that strive to reach the homeless, the poor, the imprisoned, immigrants and refugees.

An invitation to grow, to go deeper

Within nine months—from November of 2023 to July of 2024—the archdiocese will host two of the largest Catholic events in the United States.

In November, Indianapolis will once again be the site of the National Catholic Youth Conference, drawing more than 20,000 youths from across the country.

In July of 2024, Indiana’s capital will also be the site of the National Eucharistic Congress, which is expected to draw 80,000 people from across the country.

Both events will rely heavily upon volunteers from the archdiocese. And both will end with a celebration of the Eucharist in the Mass.

A call to serve God

Each of has a call to serve God. It can be as a single person, a married couple, a religious, a priest. And parishes and the archdiocese have resources and ministries to help people grow in whatever vocation to which God has called them. There are also resources and ministries that can help people bring others closer to God.

One of the more remarkable vocations in the archdiocese was celebrated on May 3 when Father Paul Landwerlen marked the 69th anniversary of his ordination. At 95 and officially retired, he is still amazingly active in his priesthood at the parish level. He soon will be joined in his service to God and the archdiocese by two new priests, as transitional deacons José Neri and Jack Wright are scheduled to be ordained by Archbishop Charles C. Thompson at 10 a.m. on June 3 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

A gift of life in the Spirit

All of us have been blessed with the gift of life. God has also blessed us with the gift of a life with the Holy Spirit as we try to live Christ’s commandment to love God and our neighbor. Of course, the reality is we are often far from perfect in that effort. Still, as we continue to make that effort on Pentecost Sunday and beyond, there’s value in recalling the wisdom of the late Holy Cross Father Theodore Hesburgh, longtime president of the University of Notre Dame.

In our tough times, in our times when we need to find clarity in our life, Father Hesburgh always recommended this simple, powerful prayer:

“Come, Holy Spirit.”

(John Shaughnessy is assistant editor of The Criterion.)

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