At Pentecost, parishioners will hear the plans for their parishes as Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski announces his decisions from the All Things New pastoral planning initiative. Regardless of what decision applies to our parishes, all of us will experience change.
I was pleased that the archbishop decided to announce the plans on Pentecost Sunday. It makes sense on a practical level, but spiritually it’s a profound witness to the power of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is about revival, renewal and an awakening to how the Lord works through us. We cannot forget the Lord’s role in this process.
Look back at the first Pentecost, with the disciples of Jesus huddled in the Upper Room. They had seen Jesus in His resurrected glory, talked with Him and shared meals with Him. They even put their hands into His pierced side! But in the days after His ascension into heaven, they returned, cowering like they were after He died.
As a local Church, with all our efforts in worship, education and providing for those less fortunate, we are participating in the Paschal Mystery, bringing new life in Christ. We have seen the Risen Lord. But there are times when we, too, return to the Upper Room — afraid of the unknown and hesitant to change.
I don’t want that to be the case for our local Church. I pray that we see this time of change for what it is: an invitation from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is rushing into our archdiocese as the very breath of God, convicting us with the truth. God has called us to change from our old ways of living and beckons us to leave old models that no longer work.
It’s tough to say that. It doesn’t mean there weren’t magnificent fruits or beautiful memories in the old model. It’s surely not a referendum on the people who made these parishes thrive — laity, religious and clergy alike. But we need to be willing to be renewed so we might help others to come to know the same love we have found in our faith.
When the disciples received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they rushed out in the streets to proclaim Jesus’ merciful love. They spoke to people from all backgrounds and circumstances without hesitation or reservation. They did so because they had been transformed. We all have been called to receive this same Spirit, shake off the ambivalence and fear, and live in a new way.
The Holy Spirit wants us to:
• Seek mercy in confession;
• Make changes in our attitudes, especially around cynicism and hopelessness;
• Notice how we can use our gifts to make vibrant parishes;
• Recognize where we prevent the Lord from working within us;
• Gather people to share the Good News of Jesus’ love.
The coming months and years in our Church will surely bring trials and frustrations, but there will also be opportunities for this new season to be one of joy and peace — fruits of the Holy Spirit! It’s up to us to witness what the Lord is doing — and wants to do — through us! How might we be signs of hope to others, courageous in forging new partnerships and beginning evangelization efforts? We’ll be like those who had tongues of fire dancing upon their heads at that first Pentecost.
A final thought: It breaks my heart to hear some people say their parish community is “safe” from All Things New. Changes to parishes are only a fraction of what this initiative is about. The Pentecost is not “safe” — it’s a wild conflagration of the Lord’s love! It’s astoundingly impactful, but only if we let the Holy Spirit lead.
Come, Holy Spirit. Fill us with the very breath of God.
Father Brian Fallon is the pastor of St. Mary Magdalen in south St. Louis and director of the archdiocesan Office of Vocations.
See stlvocations.org/contact to contact him.