Last week in the bulletin I published half of the recent letter Archbishop Blasé Cupich wrote to all the people of the Archdiocese of Chicago entitled “Renew My Church: Dreaming Big about the Archdiocese of Chicago.” In this letter he expresses his hopes and dreams for the renewal and revitalization of the parishes of the archdiocese and of the planning process that has begun to better allow for centers of evangelization that will be formed over the next decade or so. Last week’s section of the letter ended with five of the seven priorities Archbishop Cupich described as qualities for a vibrant and alive parish. Today I will repeat those first five priorities and then continue the remainder of this very important visioning article for the archdiocese.
- We bring people to Christ
- We support each other in knowing Christ more deeply
- We encounter Christ and receive nourishment through prayer and worship
- We build bonds among each other to sustain our life in Christ
- We transform the lives of others through service as Christ’s missionary disciples
- We respond to the call to holiness by journeying together with Christ: The parish accompanies the baptized on life’s journey to become more Christ-centered, resistant to sin, merciful, continually attentive to building a mature, well-integrated adult spirituality, and committed to charity, peace, prayer and virtue.
- We take responsibility for administration and leadership of the parish as good stewards of the gifts Christ has entrusted to us: The parish thrives under the visionary leadership of the pastor, who works in collaboration with his associates, staff, and the laity to ensure that the parish’s mission can fully flourish as a result of proper administration. The parish fosters a culture of stewardship and a spirituality of gratitude that inspires parishioners to generously share the gifts Christ has entrusted to them in support of the mission of the Church through the parish, the Archdiocese and the world.
This is the dream I have for all our parishes, and why I am inviting everyone in the Archdiocese of Chicago to join me in a multi-year planning process to make it a reality. Just as our ancestors responded in faith to their dreams and built the Church we have today, it is our time to dream big and to take up this work. It will take a steady faith, a faith that is imaginative, that strengthens us in the knowledge that Christ is leading us. This faith will keep us together. It will steel us to make the bold decisions that will shape the Church for generations to come.
We approach this work at a moment when the Church is graced by the leadership of Pope Francis, who has been quite forthright in sharing his hopes and dreams with us. His namesake, Francis of Assisi, did the same in his time. In an era of menacing challenges within and outside of the Church, he was given a dream about what the Church could be and responded to Christ’s urging to renew it. You may know the story. Visiting the dilapidated church of San Damiano, Francis heard Christ speak to him and urge: “Go rebuild my Church.” In time, Francis came to understand that Christ was calling him to renew the Church, not just rebuild a structure. That is the task before us and the reason this important process takes its name: “Renew My Church.”
The San Damiano Cross has much to offer in helping us keep our focus as we move forward with this initiative. It portrays Christ dying on the cross, yet still living as he calls to Francis. At the same time, the eyes of the dying Christ are focused above on the scene of the resurrection, and he is surrounded by communities of disciples.
The message of that scene is clear: the dying and rising of Christ continues to take place in every age in the dying and rising of the Church. The mission of proclaiming Christ, who died and rose to save the world, will require a Church that is made ever vibrant and more vital by the sacrifices of every generation. It also will require a Church whose community is united in taking up this work. Indeed, we all have a stake in this renewal.
Over the next few weeks and months, you will be hearing more about this effort as we engage various groups in a series of consultations, some of which have already begun with our clergy. As I wrote in a letter to all parishes last October, the archdiocese has changed in significant ways over the past several decades. Demographics have shifted dramatically. Some of our parish buildings are in disrepair. We have fewer priests to pastor our faith communities. The result is that we end up spreading our resources too thinly. We should not be afraid to face these realities, but rather see this moment as a graced opportunity to chart new ways to live out our mission more fully.
Addressing this situation will require a good deal of prayer and humility, hard work, tough choices, and new sacrifices. I would be less than honest if I did not acknowledge that by the time this consultative process is complete, we will mourn together the loss of some parishes. But that will not be the final word. By having the boldness to leave behind familiar ways of doing things, we can seize this season as one that is not simply of loss, but rather of renewal. This is the dream God is calling us to, and that will sustain and unite us.
We begin this process during the Jubilee of Mercy, which Pope Francis has defined as a time for the universal Church to rise, to renew and to reimagine herself. Imagine, having just entered his eightieth year, he is urging Catholics to be young again in our dreams about the future of our Church. This is the pathway the first immigrant and first American pope is charting out for the Church in our time. Let his example and his hope for what our parishes should be inspire us as we begin this work:
“I hope that all communities will devote the necessary effort to advancing along the path of a pastoral and missionary conversion which cannot leave things as they presently are,” Pope Francis wrote in The Joy of the Gospel. “‘Mere administration’ can no longer be enough. Throughout the world, let us be ‘permanently in a state of mission.’”
Now that is what it’s like to dream big.
SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT
In today’s first reading we hear about the covenant between the Lord and Abram. Childless and very old, Abram is promised not just a child but descendants that will number as many as the stars of the sky. Abram “put his faith in the Lord.” In order to formalize this promise, Abram and the Lord enter into a covenant, indicated by the sacrifice of the animals. The author of today’s text presents an image of the Lord as one who is transcendent. The “trance,” darkness, smoke and fire all paint a mysterious picture of Abram’s encounter with the Lord.
Paul writes from prison to the Philippians, the first church established in Europe, to provide guidance and encouragement. His experience of prison serves to show his willingness to suffer for his faith. In today’s text he encourages them to live virtuous lives, for “our citizenship is in heaven.” His words today remind us that Lent is an opportunity to recommit ourselves to “stand firm in the Lord.”
The transfiguration provides three of Jesus’ disciples with insight into his identity. The imagery—“his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white”—presents him as a heavenly figure (in the biblical world, similar imagery usually depicted heavenly figures). That he is “conversing with Moses and Elijah,” the two great prophets of Judaism, presents him as one who speaks for God, the primary role of a prophet. And the heavenly voice identifies him as “my chosen Son,” an identification Luke has made earlier in his Gospel: in the infancy narratives and in the genealogy of Jesus. Jesus’ transfiguration also anticipates his resurrection, as the disciples experience him for a moment in his heavenly glory. That glory is something he came to share with us.
For Reflection: How can Abram’s faith inspire me to trust God more? How can I more fully “stand firm in the Lord”? Does Jesus’ transfiguration help me to understand that he is both fully human and fully divine?
LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR
Once again we will be welcoming the Little Sisters of the Poor to St. Peter’s. On Tuesday, February 23, at all the Masses one of the Sisters will give us a few words about their ministry, especially about their Home here in Chicago. This is one of over 180 Homes operated by the Little Sisters of the Poor in 31 countries throughout the world. Throughout the day several Sisters will be in the lobby offering us the possibility of helping them financially to continue their mission of caring for the elderly poor in a spirit of joy and dignity. Hopefully you will come prepared to make a donation. Any assistance you are able to give will be deeply appreciated.
THE STATIONS OF THE CROSS
One of the very popular Lenten practices in the Catholic Church is making the Stations of the Cross. They originated in pilgrimages to Jerusalem. A desire to reproduce the holy places in other lands seems to have manifested itself at a quite early date. We know that there was an attempt to replicate some of the holy places in Bologna as early as the 5th century. However, nothing that we have before the 15th century can strictly be called a Way of the Cross in the modern sense. The devotion of the Via Dolorosa, for which there have been a number of variant routes in Jerusalem, was probably developed by the Franciscans after they were granted administration of the Christian holy places in Jerusalem in 1342. Today, nine of the Stations of the Cross that were established by the Franciscans are located along the Via Dolorosa as it wends its way from the northwest corner of the Temple Mount to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, within which the remaining five stations are located.
The object of the Stations is to help the faithful to make a spiritual pilgrimage of prayer through meditating upon the chief scenes of Christ’s sufferings and death. It is often performed in a spirit of reparation for the sufferings and insults that Jesus endured during his Passion. It is also a way of trying to appreciate how much Jesus loved us in being willing to go through so much, even death itself, that we might be saved and the gates of heaven opened to us.
We invite you to join us for a communal walking and praying of the Stations each Friday afternoon during Lent beginning at 4:15 P.M. I would also encourage you to consider doing a personal praying of the Stations at a convenient time each week. The Gift Shop on the lower level of St. Peter’s has a brochure in both English and Spanish for this purpose, should you desire to purchase this devotional help.
- AUGUSTUS TOLTON DAY
Illinois Catholics can hold Fr. Augustus Tolton in special regard. Born a slave, Augustus responded to grace and eventually served in our state as the first African-American Catholic priest. Our children can be edified by his journey, with its trials and graces, when they read the new hardbound, comic book formatted, life of Fr. Tolton. Putting it into the hands of our youth and children, we adults can also revere the challenge God gives us concerning racial matters, priestly vocation, and also dealing with life’s struggles with faith, hope and practical charity.
Enjoy celebrating Fr. Augustus Tolton Day with us at St. Peter’s on Wednesday, February 24. We will have this interesting and formative book of the life of Fr. Tolton available for purchase in the lobby on Wednesday and during the weeks following it will be available in the Gift Shop downstairs on the lower level. You might think of offering the gift of this book to the church or school library at your parish so that it can be used also in the religious education programs.
HOLY WEEK SCHEDULE
Even though Holy Week is still a month away, you may want to consult the times of our services already now so that you can plan accordingly. We invite you to visit our St. Peter’s website at www.stpetersloop.org, where you will find all the details for Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday. Please note that confessions during Holy Week conclude at 4:30 on Holy Thursday and do not resume until 7:30 on Easter Monday. We look forward to seeing many of you here throughout the remainder of the Lenten Season.
- ED SHEA, O.F.M.
From time to time, someone asks me, “How is Fr. Ed doing these days?” My answer is usually something like this, “He is still substituting as an associate at St. Francis Parish in Teutopolis, Illinois, and doing very well, and he will be returning to St. Peter’s on or around July 1st.” It’s good to know that so many people who regularly come to St. Peter’s as well as the friars here miss him, but Fr. Ed wanted you to know that he will be giving a talk at St. Edmund’s Parish in Oak Park on Thursday, February 25. The title of the talk is “Open my Eyes, Lord,” and it begins at 7:30 P.M. The following week (February 27-March 1) he is preaching a bi-lingual Parish Mission at St. Rita of Cassia Parish in Aurora. If anyone would be interested in attending either or both of these events, Fr. Ed would be glad to see you there.
A CHUCKLE FOR LENT
A gentleman gets into a taxi after a night of drinking, and halfway through the journey decides he wants to stop and buy cigarettes. He taps the driver on the shoulder, and suddenly the driver screams, swerves across the road, and goes up on the sidewalk stopping just short of a brick wall.
All was quiet for a few moments, and then the driver turns around and says, “Don’t EVER tap me on the shoulder while I’m driving EVER again!”
The guy says, “I’m sorry. I didn’t know it would scare you so much.”
The driver replied, “It wouldn’t normally, but this is my first night as a taxi driver. Up until yesterday, for twenty-five years, I was driving a hearse.”