|“DO NOT BE AFRAID”
A PASTORAL VISION FOR THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
MOST REVEREND NICHOLAS DiMARZIO, Ph.D., D.D.
BISHOP OF BROOKLYN
FEAST OF SAINT LUKE, EVANGELIST AND APOSTLE
OCTOBER 18, 2007
My first pastoral letter identified the central theme of my episcopal ministry in the Diocese in Brooklyn to be the “New Evangelization.” The New Evangelization is a theme which was chosen by our beloved Pope John Paul II as we began the new millennium, but its origins go back to Pope Paul VI in his encyclical, Evangelii Nuntiandi. Evangelization has always been part and parcel of the life of the Church from its very origin when Christ told the apostles, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”1 (Mt. 28:19).
The New Evangelization, as I noted in my first two pastoral letters, has its own point of departure and origin. The New Evangelization is not a series of new programs or initiatives, but rather a revitalization of our personal relationship with Christ. There can be no effective evangelization without a personal relationship with Christ. This has always been the constant teaching of the Church. We must recognize that our responsibility for evangelization does not end with our personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but becomes the impetus by which we move out to others; namely, our fellow Catholics who are not practicing their faith, other Christians, those who belong to other religions, and those who have no formal religious affiliation. All of them, in one way or another, are the subjects of our concern in the New Evangelization.
We must never confuse proselytism with evangelization. Proselytism is the use of coercive means to bring others into our Church without respecting their freedom. The New Evangelization, as well as the evangelization of the past, must be a clear proclamation that Jesus Christ is the only Savior and that He offers the unique means of salvation for all humanity.
As we have seen together over the past four years, this great mission has forced us to confront our personal fears and doubts. The challenges and changes before us are many. Some may be tempted to believe that the renewal of our Church may never come. Some are even tired and discouraged. However, I ask you to heed the call of Jesus Christ in the scene of the commissioning of the apostles when they are asked to “put out into the deep” and lower their nets again for a catch. We must never tire of fishing again and again. It is at the Lord’s command that we put our nets to the other side. We will, indeed, reap a catch of fish which are the souls in need of our care. With humility and courage, let us reexamine this great mission, grateful for whatever we have accomplished to date and will achieve in the future, for it is the Lord working through us. The Lord will never fail us, if we are willing instruments in His hands.
I offer this pastoral letter with the hope that each of us can reach a deeper understanding of how we can better live the vision of the New Evangelization, seek the revitalization of our personal lives, renew the institutions that serve our community of faith and work towards the realization of a common vision together.
This vision is first realized with the call to personal conversion and change which is part and parcel of the New Evangelization. There can be no New Evangelization without a personal acceptance of Jesus Christ, an abiding relationship with Him, and a life of ongoing conversion. The old saying “the more things change, the more they remain the same,” does not apply to our Christian point of view. This saying reflects a cyclical understanding of history. Our Christian understanding is linear, progressive and moving towards the goal when Christ will come again. We must prepare ourselves for that day while bringing as many as possible to understand the meaning of His return.
PART I: THE TRUE CHALLENGE OF REVITALIZATION
A. PERSONAL REVITALIZATION AND CONVERSION
Since the heart of evangelization is to introduce others to the saving presence and power of the Lord Jesus, any pastoral vision that seeks to explain in greater detail the work of evangelization must begin with an opportunity for personal reflection. If we seek to revitalize our Church, to bring new life to our mission to teach and preach the Gospel, and bring others to greater faith, then we must ask some serious questions of ourselves. What does it really mean to me to seek new life and vigor in Christ? What is really being asked of me? What attitudes must I change in my life before I can become an effective agent of evangelization in my family, parish, and neighborhood?
Personal revitalization means ongoing conversion for each of us. This is fundamental to the task before us. We must begin by acknowledging that a revitalization of the Church first begins in your heart and mine. This is our starting point. We begin each day again in earnest, picking up where we left off, expressing sorrow for our failures, but always moving forward with that vision of Christian history that progress is made in the long-term because history and time belong to God. The story of the disciples learning to put out into the deep is one of my favorite passages in Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 5: 1-11, because it illustrates the qualities that must touch our individual hearts before true revitalization can begin.
There are four basic qualities necessary for personal conversion. First, we must seek to welcome the Lord into our lives in a personal encounter. At the seashore, Peter allowed Jesus to enter his boat to teach both the crowds as well as himself (Lk. 5: 3). Our commitment to seek a new life must be rooted in a personal encounter with the person of Jesus which changes our lives forever. We are not saved by a doctrinal formula or by our own efforts but only by a divine person and that person is Jesus Christ, the one and only Savior of the human race. As our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, reminded us,
No, we shall not be saved by a formula but by a person and the assurance that He gives us: I am with you! It is not therefore a matter of inventing a “new program.” The program already exists: It is the plan found in the Gospel and in the living tradition; it is the same as ever. Ultimately, it has its center in Christ Himself, who is to be known, loved and imitated so that in Him we may live the life of the Trinity and with Him transform history until its fulfillment in the heavenly Jerusalem.2
Academic study of the life and teachings of the Lord Jesus does not assure such a personal and transformative encounter with Him. Pope Benedict XVI notes,
Today, too, similar opinions are clearly held by the “people” who have somehow or other come to know Christ, who have perhaps even made a scholarly study of him, but have not encountered Jesus himself in his utter uniqueness and otherness.3
Thus, the task before us is to allow grace to introduce us anew to the person of Jesus Christ. This can only be accomplished by prayer and recognizing the primacy of grace. We must pray to cooperate with the grace that is available to us as disciples of the Lord.
The second quality needed for personal conversion is revealed in the exchange between Jesus and Peter. We hear the words of Jesus, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch” (Lk. 5:4) and the words of Peter in response, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing; but at your command, I will lower the nets” (Lk. 5:5). When faced with a choice, Peter trusted the words of Jesus. Trust in the Lord will lead us to attempt what seems impossible or even useless to do; to try again what we have already done because we have faith and trust in the Lord. As a successor of the apostles, I echo the words of Peter that we will try again - we will let down the nets and we will not tire in our efforts.
How difficult it must have been for experienced fishermen to accept the advice of a carpenter to recast their nets in broad daylight, when every fisherman knew that it was the worst time to fish! Yet Peter acted, placing his trust in the Lord, for which he was rewarded with an overwhelming catch. The challenge for us is not to work harder, but to trust the Lord to show us a new way to work. “We have been hard at it all night…” We have worked hard for many years in Brooklyn and Queens, but we must try again with new zeal to continue the work that we have already begun together. We must cast our nets again for no other reason than for the trust we have in God. We must not reject new ways and new methods as something alien to our faith. We are not called to work harder, but rather to work with new zeal in different ways.
The third basic quality for personal conversion comes from the insight which Peter realized about himself after the miraculous catch of fish. “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Lk. 5:8). We must recognize our past failures, our past infidelities, and perhaps even our despair. Peter went from calling Jesus “Master” in verse five to calling Him “Lord” in verse eight. What changed in such a short time? Perhaps he recognized that it was the power of God that was at work when he saw the unexpected results of his obedience. He needed a personal conversion. He was ready and willing to fish again at the Lord’s command. On a practical level, we must overcome our cynicism, anger, and mistrust. It is never easy to be told to repeat something when we think we have done a good job. Oftentimes we may have done our best. However, by challenging ourselves and doing the task again, we might produce even greater results. Each one of us can look at our failures, broken promises, or disappointing results from our past efforts as reasons to become bitter, to shut down. But the Lord asks that we commend these failings to His mercy and move on and make a new start. It is necessary for the New Evangelization that we fight our fears. When Peter recognized the power that was being given to him, he was justifiably frightened, but Jesus told him, “Do not be afraid” (Lk. 5:10). We must be willing to fight our fears because fear is our worst enemy.
What should we fear if our efforts do not yield what we expect? The yield will come, perhaps not in our own day or in the way we expect it. For this reason, we must seek to nourish the virtue of perseverance in our lives in a special way. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, notes that for the Church Fathers perseverantia meant “patient steadfastness in communion with the Lord amid the vicissitudes of life.”4 Such perseverance is essential in the life of everyone who wishes to evangelize. We, the people of Brooklyn and Queens, are known for our great tenacity and resiliency. We do not take “no” for an answer. We are aggressive when we need to be. This is the kind of perseverance that we must utilize in the task of the New Evangelization.
It is easy to start a task with an initial burst of enthusiasm. However, in the ongoing life of faith, things are not always easy. Pope Benedict reminds us, “Afterwards though, it is time to stand firm, even along the monotonous desert paths that we are called upon to traverse in life -with the patience it takes to tread evenly, a patience in which the romanticism of the initial awakening subsides, so that only the deep, pure Yes of faith remains.”5 How can we persevere in times of change, challenge, or difficulty? We persevere only through God’s grace. We must pray for that grace and His presence each day. I remind my priests of the suggestion that I made at the Chrism Mass two years ago - each day they should spend at least ten minutes before the Blessed Sacrament. It can be a special moment of prayer and petition to strengthen them in these difficult times. Together we ask the Lord for help, knowing that He will not leave us unaided.
B. THE REVITALIZATION OF PARISH LIFE
As we seek our own ongoing personal conversion so that we can bring the Lord’s life and saving message to the world, we must also strive to bring new life and renewal to our parishes, schools, and programs of faith formation. Such institutional renewal is important if we hope to sustain our personal relationships with the Lord; allow all believers to be formed in their knowledge and love of Christ; invite those who no longer practice their faith to become members of vibrant parish communities, and provide a beacon of light to those who are seeking God with a sincere heart.
We must remember that a parish is both the sacred place and the community of believers who come together to worship our Lord and to be nourished by the sacraments. We have seen in the past year that attempts to change a place of worship are difficult for our faithful because they relate so much to the sacred buildings which are our churches. However, our parishes are not our church buildings. Rather, parishes are communities of believers which are more important than even our sacred buildings. Our people are “the living stones” (1 Peter 2:5) through which the community of faith is formed. A parish is also the catechetical school where all the baptized should be formed in the faith at every stage of their lives. It is a community which welcomes and supports those who are invited to baptism, whether they be infants or adults. The parish is the place where our charity is nourished into a passion for the gradual realization of a just society.
I believe that there are seven qualities that mark parish life when it is vital and growing. These signs, qualities, or characteristics can serve as benchmarks for ecclesial life and help gauge our efforts to bring new vitality to our parishes. I would like to offer these seven characteristics in the hope that they can help us as we embark on our common efforts to support, strengthen, and revitalize our parishes.
First, every parish is called to be a vibrant center for worship and prayer. “The parish must continue to be above all a Eucharistic community.”6 It is the Eucharist that celebrates our faith and creates us anew as the living Body of Christ. For this reason, the celebration of all the sacraments should be prayerful and dignified so that they are truly celebrations of faith which reflect the rich diversity and heritage of the people of the parish. There should be full, active, and meaningful participation by the laity in the sacramental celebrations of the parish. This includes the proper training of an adequate number of lay leaders to serve in the various ministries associated with the celebration of the sacraments. Care must be taken to form these ministers so that they are properly trained for such service. Special effort should be made to ensure that the celebration of Sunday Eucharist is the center of all parish life.
Our liturgical celebrations must be vibrant, joyful, and faith-filled. “This means that worship is the context in which we can discover joy, the liberating, victorious Yes to life. The cross is worship, ‘exultation’: Resurrection is made present in it.”7 Every effort should be made to offer homilies that are relevant to the daily lives of our people. Homily preparation is a special responsibility of our priests and it is most effective when we consult the laity about that which we will preach as they help us in the preparation of the liturgy for the next Sunday. It is also important that the music at our liturgy allows for proper participation from everyone who wishes to pray.
Finally, a parish’s worship space should be aesthetically pleasing and liturgically appropriate. Diocesan guidelines that regulate worship places are already in effect. I look forward to receiving diocesan guidelines by March, 2008, that will help us to implement the new General Instruction to the Roman Missal, Third Edition, including a self-evaluation process to help every parish remain faithful to the spirit and norms for the celebration of the Mass.
A second characteristic that marks a vibrant parish is its willingness to be a place of active welcome. Every parish community should come together in a spirit of hospitality, a tangible spirit of friendliness, an openness to diversity, and a respect for the needs of all groups that form its common life. This is never easy to achieve. On the one hand, our parishes are open to all and no one is questioned when they enter our churches. On the other hand, many new-comers can very easily be overlooked, or even ignored. We need to strike a balance between our universal openness to all and the warm welcome that we should extend to those who worship and join our parishes. In order to assist our parishes in developing an extensive ministry of hospitality and welcome, I am pleased to announce the creation of a pilot hospitality program which will run in three parishes. If successful, this program will be made available to any parish that desires such help by the fall of 2008.
Third, a parish is called to be a vibrant center for the ongoing faith formation of its entire people. Since the parish community is the principal place where all catechesis takes place, every parish must work towards the creation and implementation of a comprehensive plan for the ongoing faith formation of all its members. Religious education and faith formation programs should be supported and fostered in creative and vital ways by competent personnel. More specifically, we seek to realize this commitment to ongoing faith formation in four concrete ways:
The development of a living faith in the Triune God, expressed in word and action, within each believer
Recognition and respect for the holistic development of every person, from birth to senior years
Respect for the complexity and diversity of our people and their experiences
Encouragement of a partnership in ministry among our Catholic schools, religious education programs, youth and young adult ministry programs, athletic and recreational programs, RCIA and programs that assist those who experience need in any way.8
In short, our programs should be inter-connected and respective of one another in building upon the strengths of each, so that our overall goal can be achieved - that every Catholic can come to know, love, and follow the Lord more deeply at every moment of life.
It is essential to remember that the work of our parish religious education programs is not in competition with, or to be considered of secondary importance to, the work of our Catholic schools. On the contrary, the very essence of “Catholic education” includes both the work of parish religious education programs and our Catholic schools. They are essential partners in this important ministry. To this end, there is a need for new and creative ways in which the partnership between our Catholic schools and the religious education programs of our parishes can be fostered into a single vision for ongoing faith formation. Continued cooperation between the Office of the Superintendent for Catholic School Support Services and the Office of Faith Formation will be central to this effort.
The fourth characteristic of a vital parish is its work in Christian service and outreach. The parish does not work simply to sustain itself. It should be a visible expression of Christian community service, incorporating charitable works and social justice activities while fostering respect for the human dignity of everyone within the community. Currently, much of this work is accomplished through our Catholic Charities agencies. Additionally, many neighborhood service programs exist today because of the collaborative effort on the part of Catholic Charities and our parishes. This collaboration will help us to achieve this important characteristic of parish life.
Fifth, good stewardship in a parish is critical for the development of a true sense of community among its people. The identification of the gifts and talents of each parishioner and the opportunity to share them in Christian service is always a challenge to a parish, especially large parishes. Every parish should strive to support its ministries and contribute to the services and programs of the Diocese.
It is my hope that each parish can become financially stable. Unfortunately, a significant number of our parishes operate with a budget deficit, and so they must draw from their financial reserves, rely on rental income, or seek diocesan aid. I hope that with good stewardship, each parish will have the talent and resources necessary to achieve balanced budgets that reflect stewardship at the highest level. Continuing efforts to educate our laity in the theology and practice of stewardship will be essential to achieving this characteristic.
Sixth, pastoral leadership in parish life should encourage the fullest possible collaboration among clergy, religious, and lay men and women in their respective missions. There should be active and responsible involvement of many parishioners in consultative roles within each parish. Lay leaders should receive appropriate education and formation. The leaders of both the parish pastoral council and finance council should be encouraged in their work and prized as active contributors in the work of every parish.
The seventh characteristic that marks the life of a vital parish is the willingness to be constantly renewed by the spirit of evangelization. Our parishes cannot merely be service stations where people come for the sacraments. Unfortunately, fewer Catholics come to Mass than in previous years. On average, 238,000 Catholics attend Mass each Sunday, or approximately 15% of our Catholic population. Of those Catholics who attend Mass, 67% are over the age of forty-five, 54% were born in a country other than the United States, 18% are single parents and an additional 18% live alone.9 Our parishes can be much more. They should become evangelizing communities that reach out to those who do not participate at Mass, especially non-practicing Catholics, as well as others who can be invited to share our faith. A parish should have active programs of evangelization to share the Catholic faith and mission. The parish should offer opportunities to grow in the Christian life to all of its members. The parish should educate its members in an ecumenical spirit and be supportive of the missionary activities of the Church at home and abroad.
All of these characteristics are important if we are to have renewed and vibrant parishes here in Brooklyn and Queens for years to come.
C. REVITALIZATION OF “CATHOLIC EDUCATION”
The work of Catholic “education” includes all of our efforts as a Church to pass on the faith and to help form our children, their parents, and all believers into the image of the Lord Jesus. Our Catholic schools and parish programs of faith formation are essential and complementary agents to realize this work. Thus, we must seek to revitalize both of these agents in our hope to realize the work of the New Evangelization.
In the community of faith, every Catholic school is a prime place which shows its dedication to the formation of our youth and their families. Currently, our elementary school enrollment is 37,798 students, in addition to the 16,765 students who attend the 20 Catholic high schools located in our Diocese. Our Catholic schools have proven to be the best means of evangelization and leadership formation for the Church in the United States. Our commitment to Catholic schools must never waver.
In terms of revitalizing our Catholic schools, I believe that there are five essential qualities that can serve as our benchmarks to assess school excellence. First and foremost, fostering and strengthening the Catholic identity of our Catholic schools is an absolute necessity for their long-term health and success. I have asked the Office of the Superintendent for Catholic School Support Services to assist our schools, beginning with the elementary schools, and eventually helping our high schools, to strengthen their efforts to identify and fulfill their Catholic mission. There is no reason to continue our Catholic schools except if they are a part of the plan for the New Evangelization. Our schools will never proselytize those who do not share our faith. But at the same time we are invited to share our faith with those who are Catholics and invite others to understand our faith better. Catholic identity is the reason why we have made tremendous sacrifices for our schools as a Diocese, as parishes, and as individuals. We must renew the Catholic identity of our schools if they are to be meaningful instruments in the New Evangelization. We must also remember that there may be new instruments of evangelical renewal yet to be created. As we move forward in creativity and vision, let us work together to recognize these new needs, particularly in a world culture that does not seem to accept our faith in Jesus Christ.
Our Catholic schools need to assist our parishes in professing a common faith in Jesus Christ, as well as to develop the desire that all come to know and share in God’s life through Christ’s Body, the Church. The school community should pursue a number of tasks as part of its efforts to strengthen its Catholic identity. It should have a clearly articulated and easily understood mission as an instrument of Evangelization. Students must be constantly formed in the Catholic faith and be taught to integrate their faith with daily living. Our Catholic school administrators and teachers should partner with parents in educating the whole child spiritually, academically, physically, and emotionally. They should also provide opportunities for Christian services for the school, parish, and the larger communities supporting the mission of the Church. Finally, our Catholic schools should infuse Catholic values into all subject areas, so that our education is truly Catholic and value-centered.
A second quality essential for the long-term revitalization of our Catholic schools is the pursuit of academic excellence. Academic excellence consists of carefully planned and well-executed curricula that include appropriate New York State Standards, solid instructional pedagogy, and appropriate assessment based on research and best practices. School administration should guide and encourage Catholic elementary school teachers to utilize interactive teaching and learning strategies which will optimize all student learning experiences.
Our teachers and principals are vital to our Catholic schools and need to be supported in every possible way. The critical role that they play and the sacrifices that they make cannot be underestimated or taken for granted. Any planning for the future will include support for adequate salaries and fringe benefits. Our Catholic school teachers and principals should be rewarded appropriately for the great sacrifices that they make each day.
The school community should offer a comprehensive Catholic educational program which would provide students with the knowledge and skills that they will need in order to be successful in the twenty-first century. The school community should also recognize our parents as the primary educators of their children. Parental involvement in every aspect of the school is critical in this regard. Whenever possible, our schools should also provide access to specialized staff and programs to meet the needs of all students, especially those who do not speak English as their primary language, and those who may be handicapped by a physical or educational disability.
Proper governance of our Catholic elementary schools is a third characteristic needed to achieve true excellence. For such governance to be realized, in addition to the generous leadership provided by our pastors, school leaders need to be supported and challenged. Those in administration should engage the faculty, staff, and parents in the educational mission of the school. They should foster an active role by fostering the lay leadership to assist and support the school’s operational and long-range plans. The school community must identify leaders who can contribute their expertise in strategic planning while continually strengthening the Catholic identity and the programs of the school. They should work collaboratively with the parishes in the work of the New Evangelization. They should identify ways to involve all parishes in the spiritual as well as financial support of the Catholic school. Promoting and facilitating the integration of Catholic school strategic planning within parish planning will ensure the vitality of the school as a center of Evangelization.
A fourth characteristic of an excellent Catholic school is its ability to achieve both financial and enrollment stability. Financial resources should be sufficient to provide educational opportunities defined in the school’s philosophy, mission, goals and objectives. Our Catholic schools should be supported not only by parents, teachers, and parishioners, but also by the general community. This will promote stability through financial planning and development. The school should also address the needs of the community which it serves. This can be accomplished by increasing Tuition Assistance and Financial Aid programs. We should also implement a marketing and recruitment plan which would actively recruit potential students from surrounding neighborhoods. Finally, we should provide a safe, caring, and nurturing school environment that will be attractive to all who use it.
A fifth goal that is essential for our schools is strategic planning. Every Catholic elementary school should use strategic, long-range, and operational planning to continuously strengthen its Catholic identity, educational programs, and services. Plans should focus on school growth, student performance, and other aspects of school organization. The school community should cooperate with the Office of the Superintendent for Catholic School Support Services in the strategic planning process. They should work in collaboration with all members of the school community in the development and implementation of a strategic plan. It is essential that our planning is adequate so that we can meet the future needs of our schools. We should review, evaluate, and adjust a school’s strategic plan as necessary. Sharing the elements of the strategic plan with all who are involved in the school, as well as the parishioners, would be a good way to enhance support for Catholic schools.
Our Catholic high schools are also a key agent for the ongoing formation of our teenagers. Like our Catholic grammar schools, our Catholic high schools are called to achieve excellence in many ways. Chief among them is to foster a clear Catholic identity by the creation of an environment where teenagers can be taught the tenets of our Catholic faith; be formed in the values that we hold dear as a Church; and be challenged through works of charity and justice to serve the needs of the larger community, most especially the poor in our midst. Although all but two of our high schools are independent Catholic schools, I wish to take this opportunity to commend the excellent work that all of our Catholic high schools have done over the years. I pledge the full support and assistance of our diocesan agencies for the work of our Catholic high schools and it is my wish to strengthen the collaborative partnership that already exists between the high schools and our Diocese in any way possible.
Many of the same qualities which mark a vital Catholic school are also necessary for any parish to establish a vibrant, ongoing faith formation program for all of its members. Fundamental to such a program is the commitment to teach the Catholic faith in word and example; essential to this critical work is properly trained catechetical leaders who have the pastoral and financial support of their pastors, as well as a sufficient number of catechists.
The revitalization of Catholic education necessarily includes the revitalization of our parish efforts at faith formation. If the parish is to realize its mission as the privileged place for the faith formation of all its members, it is essential that every parish sponsor a comprehensive and effective religious education program for its children, teenagers, and adults. This year, we have nearly 39,000 school-age children enrolled in parish-based religious education programs. However, the Catholic school-age population within our Diocese far exceeds this number.10 Furthermore, there is still only a small number of adults who are actively involved in programs to further their knowledge of the faith. For these reasons, we must support every effort to expand our parishes’ efforts to provide ongoing faith formation for children, teenagers, and adults alike. This demands that the laity and religious be specialized in conducting these educational programs. A priority for our parishes is to have Directors of Religious Education who are competent and who have the appropriate academic training. Although other lay parish staff members are also necessary, an obvious priority should be given to hiring qualified Directors of Religious Education.
A key part of faith formation in our parishes today is the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (the RCIA), which is not a program but a process which seeks to prepare unbaptized adults and older children, as well as baptized adults, for initiation or full incorporation into the life of the Church. We must never reduce the RCIA to a purely liturgical rite. Although it is beautiful and essential, the catechesis that goes with it must be given special attention. The RCIA invites all parishioners to prepare the catechumens and candidates by their example and prayer. Without an effective RCIA and other faith formation programs, the parish cannot fulfill this essential mission. New diocesan guidelines for the RCIA were distributed this past summer and I ask that they be fully implemented in every parish.
D. NEW AGENTS FOR THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
In addition to the revitalization of our existing ecclesial institutions, the call for renewal challenges us to use every means at our disposal, and those yet to be discovered, to serve the work of the New Evangelization. Our communication systems and the use of modern media are essential in this regard. I recently asked Father Kieran Harrington, Vicar for Communications, to develop a pastoral plan for communication in the Diocese. This includes our weekly newspaper, The Tablet; our television station, The Prayer Channel; and the use of the newest means of communication, the Internet. Our plan will not be limited to these media, but will be based upon them.
Our Diocese is also blessed with the presence of over twenty different ecclesial movements and communities. As I travel around the Diocese, I am deeply impressed by the fervor, commitment, and zeal that the members of our ecclesial movements demonstrate in their daily life of faith. A large majority of these men and women are also active participants in their respective parishes, where they share their gifts and talents in service. Each of these ecclesial communities possesses its own individual charism and works toward realizing the mission of the New Evangelization. I am grateful for their presence, witness, and work among us.
There are some needs that exceed the ability of any parish, school, or cluster to address on its own. Oftentimes, this is due to a lack of resources and personnel. There is a need for help that is effective, local, and tailored to the unique needs of a parish, cluster, or neighborhood. This help should not simply acknowledge ethnic diversity, but it should also allow initiatives to transform the complexity of our Diocese into the strength that we need for the future. In order to assist our parishes, schools, and programs of faith formation to address these more global issues, I have endorsed the creation of “Ministry Resource Teams.” These teams will be composed of diocesan personnel, as well as other experts in a given field of pastoral ministry, who will be available to work with a group of parishes or a cluster in order to achieve specific mission goals that arise in the pastoral planning process. Each team will begin its work by identifying and training local leaders to address the given pastoral need. In addition, these teams will remain available on the local level until there is sufficient leadership to continue the pastoral work. More information about the creation of these teams will be available by the end of 2007. Readjusting our priorities will also mean readjusting our budgets and pastoral resources.