A few nights ago, I attended a most enjoyable gathering at the home of a wonderful couple. They have three young children, the oldest of whom was meandering among the guests in his pajamas. His father told me that his son had been looking forward to meeting me. And sure enough, this young man, all of five years old, came up to me and said, "Stay here - I have something for you."
Several minutes later he returned with a strongbox which he opened. Out of it spilled some coins and dollar bills. "This is for poor children," the young man said, and added, "This money is from my lemonade stand last summer."
It was the best gift I could imagine. It was a gift of love and generosity from one of the youngest members of this diocese. Already he was looking beyond himself and participating in the mission of the Church to serve those in need. Already he was involved in meeting needs other than his own (I might add that he ran a pretty successful lemonade stand. His proceeds were in excess of $40! With success like that, he could give the S&P futures a boost!).
This young man's example teaches all of us a lot about participation in the mission of the Church. All of us, as individuals and as a community of faith, are called by baptism to participate in the Church's mission of faith, worship, and service - a mission that is much larger than you or me. It is an extension of the Lord's own mission to preach the Good News of Redemption, to heal the sick, to console the sorrowing, to serve the poor and needy, to save all of us from our sins, and to lead us to the joy of life eternal.
There are many examples of magnificent participation in the mission of the Church. If you have ever met Mary Ann Furlong who directs the Merton Center in Bridgeport , then you know what participation in the Church's mission is all about. More than a soup kitchen, Merton Center is a place where those in need are truly welcomed and affirmed in their human dignity. On the premises is a clinic run by Saint Vincent Medical Center . There's a food pantry and job counseling. Mary Ann sums it up this way: "While our guests are at the Merton Center , they are the human beings God meant them to be." She's doing the Lord's work!
Trinity Catholic High School
In Stamford is the hard-working new principal of Trinity Catholic High School , Thomas Celestino . Tom is on the job less than a year, but already great things are happening. Working closely with Father Thomas Powers and a dedicated faculty and staff, Tom has put together a great Advisory Board that has focused on the mission of Trinity Catholic to teach the faith, provide academic excellence, and sustain its great sports program. I met with that Advisory Board last week. I came away inspired. These Church, business, and community leaders are participating, heart and soul, in the formation of tomorrow's Catholic leaders. They are head over heels in the mission of the Church!
Yet to be written is a day in the life of Marylee MacDougall. As almost everyone knows, Marylee, a former GE executive, is the Chancellor of the Diocese of Bridgeport. She is involved in everything from reorganizing the corporations of the diocese to helping me form a newly re-vitalized Pastoral Council - a council comprised mainly of lay people to advise me on all aspects of this diocese's life and mission. To every task, Marylee brings energy, competence, and focus, and a tremendous love for the Lord and the Church. Always a dedicated and involved parishioner, she finds herself participating in the Church's mission in a new and unexpected way. (Please don't tell her you read this! I'll be in trouble if she finds out!)
These stories can be multiplied over and over again. Parents who struggle against all odds to educate and form their children in the faith, and the values that flow from faith, are participating in the Church's mission. Parishioners who donate their time and talent to sit on the many diocesan and parish boards and committees - such as the Finance Council, the Review Board, or the Board of Catholic Family Services in Danbury - these women and men are participating in the mission of the Church. The wonderful priests, deacons, and religious who serve us in Fairfield County give their lives to the Church's mission.
Participation in the Church's mission requires sacrifice. It involves giving of our time, talent, and treasure. It involves sticking with Church in good times and in bad. For all of us, sharing in the Church's mission is not about power or ideology. It's about living our respective vocations to the hilt with fidelity to the faith of the Church and with courage, conviction, and holiness. It's less about changing the Church and more about changing our own hearts and helping others change their lives for the better.
Please consider this column an open invitation to participate in the mission of the Church. It's the Church's greatest need. If, during his Jubilee Year, each church-going Catholic convinced just two other people to return to the active practice of the faith, we would advance immeasurably the Church's mission of evangelization. If each one of us got involved one day a month in one of Church's ministries of service or offered our expertise to the Church four times a year, we would be doing, in Mother Teresa's words, "something beautiful for God."
If 50 percent of Catholics in Fairfield County participated in the Annual Bishop's Appeal - an appeal which exists solely to fund programs of spiritual formation, education and charity - a new and glorious chapter would be written for Catholic education, religious education and Catholic Charities.
These are challenging times in the life of the Church. The only way to face challenging times is to be united with the Lord and one another in prayer and service. I'm not only inviting you, I'm asking you to participate. The Church needs your help! The young man I met the other night at his parents' home had it right. May God grant us all the wisdom of the young!
This column is credited to Fairfield County Catholic monthly magazine.
back to top | home