Praying for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and for unity in being witnesses of the faith, Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski asked for God’s guidance as Catholics seek to make All Things New in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
The archbishop led a Mass of Unity Dec. 3 the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, which was promoted as opportunity to pray as one Catholic community for the future of the archdiocese as it undergoes the All Things New pastoral planning initiative. A special invitation was extended to key parish leaders and those who facilitated more than 350 All Things New parish listening sessions in October and November.
Reflecting on the readings for the Mass (Isaiah 30:18-21; 23, 26 and Matthew 9:35-10:1, 5a, 6-8) and the feast of St. Francis Xavier, the archbishop said that the expectation of the Lord’s coming can help all of us to focus on the unity of faith that we have in following Christ.
“In our own situation today, we find ourselves longing for days that are past, for they seemed idyllic, but yet we know how much has changed over these decades,” he said. “A rampant secularization, individualism and loss of belief in institutions have deeply affected our Church to the point where the fastest growing demographic of people are the 'nones,'” those who do not embrace faith in their lives.
As the Church continues the All Things New process, Archbishop Rozanski called everyone to unite in living the Gospel to the fullest and to make a commitment to sharing the Good News with others.
Having served as a facilitator at several listening sessions in rural areas and in St. Louis City, Jeff Schulenberg said he came away from the experience with a broader perspective of the hopes and fears of Catholics across the archdiocese as they move through All Things New.
“For me, it comes down to humbling ourselves and look to the Holy Spirit to look forward to what is coming, and how we can best support our new parish communities,” he said.
Schulenberg has been a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Valley Park for more than three decades. His involvement in ministries, retreats, youth sports and other activities weren’t just to build up his parish, but ultimately to strengthen the Body of Christ, he said.
“We happened to be at Sacred Heart, but we hope the work that we did, and lives we hoped we touched, would allow the Holy Spirit to carry it to a different place,” Schulenberg said. “To think it can only be right if it stays at Sacred Heart is not a complete picture of the Gospel. We are gathered and then sent to preach and live the Gospel.”
Father Scott Jones, who joined nearly two dozen other priests in concelebrating the Mass of Unity, has been having conversations with his flock at Sts. Teresa and Bridget Parish in north St. Louis and writing reflections on All Things New in the parish bulletin
and Dear Father column
in the Review.
At a Lenten parish day of recollection earlier this year, attendees reflected on the third line of the All Things New prayer: “Help us be totally free to follow wherever you lead us, totally generous to be good stewards of your many gifts, and totally passionate to suffer all in order to be more closely united to you.”
They connected the line with St. Ignatius of Loyola’s “First Principle and Foundation,” in which he stated that if we’re serious about doing God’s will, we must achieve a kind of holy detachment: “We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one … our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening his life in me.”
Father Jones said the question was posed: Can we reach the point as a parish where we will not fix our desires on staying open or closing, but only on what will lead to a deepening of God’s life within the local Catholic community?
“The first order of business once the new parish configuration are announced is not buildings, but it’s how do we form this new parish to evangelize?” he said. Coming together to revitalize our parishes, form new relationships with others and moving forward to proclaim the Gospel leaves him feeling hopeful.
“Going into the unknown is difficult, but I am excited there is going to be something good on the other side,” he said.
Innocent Lau, a member of St. John Bosco Parish in Creve Coeur, served as a facilitator at several listening sessions in the city. What impressed him was that parishioners seemed to have a greater concern for their neighbors outside of the parish than what could potentially happen to their church.
What that taught him was that “it’s really about the community and not only the traditions, but how to be open to new ways of attracting Catholics,” Lau said. “They were very open-minded.”
“At the end of the day, I hope that we as facilitators did our job to make people understand” what is coming with All Things New. “Change can be difficult, but this change is warranted and it needs to be done. But it doesn’t mean the spirit of the parish cannot continue. I pray that people will continue to be open-minded.”
Throughout October and November, the Archdiocese of St. Louis hosted more than 350 listening sessions, which were an opportunity for Catholics to provide their feedback on the future of the Church in St. Louis and included draft models for the future structure of parishes in the archdiocese. Archbishop Rozanski will announce final plans on Pentecost, May 28, 2023. Implementation of these plans will take effect beginning in fall 2023 through 2026.
One of the guiding principles of All Things New is Unceasing Prayer. What are some ways you are incorporating different ways of praying both personally, communally and as a family? Spend time reflecting this Advent on ways to add to and change your own prayer life. It is only through prayer that we receive the fuel we need for the mission.
Advent prayer resources for individuals and families include:
Advent Stations of the Cross: www.liturgies.net/Advent/adventstations.htm
• Ignatian prayer is an imaginative, reflective and personal method of prayer that encourages people to develop an intimate relationship with a God who loves them and desires the best for them. Visit www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/
• Bible in a Year with Father Mike Schmitz: ascensionpress.com/pages/biy-registration
• Shorter Christian Prayer is an abbreviated version of the Liturgy of the Hours containing Morning and Evening Prayer from the four-week Psalter and selected texts for the Seasons and Major Feasts of the year. www.catholiccompany.com/shorter-christian-prayer-i112507/
• Hallow is a prayer app that offers the daily Gospel, night prayer, 5-30 minute prayer sessions, and helps develop a habit of prayer by setting daily goals, journaling, and setting reminders. hallow.com
• Amen is a prayer app from the Augustine Institute that offers reflections on the daily Mass readings, music, Catholic meditations, Bible in a year, evening psalms and stories for sleep, family content, one-minute inspirations, and other resources. www.augustineinstitute.org/program-and-resources/amen