Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
For the past year I’ve been writing about the All Things New strategic pastoral planning process, with a particular eye on the fact that change is hard. Now, as we begin talking about some concrete scenarios for change, I’d like to focus on what I’m excited about.
More than anything, I’m excited about the possibility of revitalizing our lives as Catholics: 1) People delving more deeply into the riches of the Catholic faith. 2) People not being afraid to share the Gospel. 3) People finding creative ways to meet the needs of their communities.
In short, my focus is on people more than buildings. Every change that we’ll make to parishes, schools and organizational structures will have an eye on helping people be more vibrant witnesses to Jesus.
In many ways, we’ve continued to live out of an organizational model that was built for another time — for an immigrant Church, with growing families and a presupposition that “if we build it they will come.” We can say, with gratitude: that organizational structure met the needs of its time! But we have to say, with equal frankness: that organizational model no longer meets the current needs.
It’s time for us to start living into a new model — one that’s characterized by different demographic trends and a different psychological profile. To live into a new model, we’ll need to establish some new habits.
We need to go deeper in our faith life, individually and organizationally. We have a decades-long catechetical deficit to make up, one that impacts both the depth of our spiritual life and the strength of our living of the faith. I think we can help people know the faith and live their faith more deeply. I’m excited to see that!
We need to share our witness more readily: “This is what life was like before. This is how I met Jesus, and the difference He made. This is what life is like now.” We’ve delegated that task to our Protestant brothers and sisters for too long. (And, thanks be to God, they’re good at it!). It’s time for that to change. I’m excited to see us learn, every one of us, to give our witness as Catholics.
We need to share the Gospel message more freely and skillfully. “Jesus loves you. He lived and died for you. He rose again to show His power over every kind of darkness. Will you let Him into the hard parts of your life?” We frequently and easily share our favorite videos and memes. I think we can just as frequently and easily share the deeper truths of the faith. I’m excited to see what happens when we do!
The Archdiocese of St. Louis — the Rome of the West — has a rich history. But Jesus never allowed anyone to rest on their laurels! He always called people — and now He is calling us — to take the next step. We’re about to turn the page, and begin to write the next chapter of our history. What will it mean to be “the Rome of the West” in the coming decades? I’m excited to see that.