When I heard about the new diocesan Pastoral Renewal I was excited to participate because it’s an opportunity to strengthen my own faith within the context of my family, parish, diocese and universal Church. It’s also an opportunity to infuse faith, hope and love into our broader society.
At first glance, I like the direction of the three pastoral renewal themes: forming missionary disciples, being a Church of encounter and witness, and strengthening family life. This focus appeals to me as a wife and mother of six children; it supports the type of Christ-centered world I want to raise my children in.
In our fast ever-changing society I feel rooted as a Catholic in the timeless truths of Jesus Christ and His Church. I believe I have Good News to share with my family, parish, community, country and world. I think now is the time to embrace our identities as sons and daughters of the King of the Universe and become protagonists in evangelization, inviting our family, friends and neighbours to accept their unique and unrepeatable role in the greatest love story of all time.
Back in September, I sat down to speak with Bishop William McGrattan to better learn how he hopes to use this plan to steer our diocese. He said now is an opportune time to forge ahead and instil hope.
“The main thing is to realize the relationship with Christ, for all of us, needs to be renewed,” said Bishop McGrattan.
Lately I’ve been praying for family and friends who are battling serious illnesses: heart attack and cancer. Sadly, just this past Thanksgiving weekend I attended a memorial service for a young boy, my son’s hockey teammate, who lost his battle with cancer.
In all of these circumstances I feel a loss of control; I feel helpless amidst so much suffering. And I know I’m not alone, probably anyone reading this is suffering or knows someone who is suffering right now. And yet the first word that comes to my mind is: Jesus. Only Jesus saves.
This pastoral renewal plan is our collective opportunity to put Jesus into the centre of our life for the first time or the hundredth time and look for ways to invite others to do the same through encounter, witness, accompaniment and strengthening the family – “the first and vital cell of society” St. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio.
Our time on Earth is short and we just never know how much time we have left. The best way we can prepare is to always be ready to meet Our Lord. Jesus is the answer to our deepest longings. “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
As a Catholic, my deepest longing is to become a saint, but I know just as well as anyone, it isn’t always so simple to stay on the straight and narrow when there are so many voices vying for our time, energy and money. Or when tragedy strikes and suffering comes, it’s tempting to doubt God or feel anger, confusion, despair and fall away. Or success and influence can blur our vision and we can rely on our own strength and forget everything is a gift from God.
Bishop McGrattan is also aware of and acknowledges the fatigue among his flock and yet he urges us forward in faith and trust.
“Sometimes people are tired or believe the status quo can’t be changed. I think then we are giving into a sense of defeatism. We need to really examine ourselves and say that’s not what Our Lord is calling us to. He wants us to go out, be labourers, to recognize we don’t sometimes have sufficient labourers, but to pray and trust.”
How this pastoral renewal plan takes shape will look different in each person, family, and each parish as the local Church is invited to discern the path forward.
Using the Parable of the Sower, Bishop McGrattan explained that these pastoral renewal priorities are “the seeds that can provide renewal in the diocese. The parishes then need to sow and cultivate the soil to allow for these priorities to take root and have an expression in their parish.”
I pray we can each experience a willingness to participate in this five year pastoral renewal and that the Holy Spirit guides us on this new journey together, bringing along as many people with us as possible.
You are called. You matter. You belong.
To learn about the Pastoral Renewal in the Diocese of Calgary, visit catholicyyc.ca/renewal
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers