Where do we grow from here?

This week I will be in Minneapolis at the annual meeting of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests. The theme chosen for the talks, discussions and decisions of the members of the AUSCP is ‘where do we go from here.’

That question arises partly from the nearing of this post-pandemic moment we are praying for, hoping for and working for, even as we realize that the virus is a planetary problem and many places on earth have yet even to begin emerging from the pandemic.

(So let us both keep those of our sisters and brothers in prayer and recommit ourselves to cautious and generous choices to prevent even further spread.)

But, the association also faces that question because of the current health (or lack of it) of our American Catholic church and our nation as a whole.

Plus, not unlike the community of ordained leaders in every diocese, the members of the association are growing older, many already elderly.

They include many of the parish leaders who helped bring the Vatican II gift of new life to parishes and our worship. So as they (we) become fewer and fewer, that raises another facet of the ‘where do we go from here’ question.

It’s somewhat analogous to the situation of our church during the 2nd half of the first century—as the apostles and other eye witnesses of Jesus’ ministry were passing away, how does this new faith family go forward--or does it?

By the way, the composition of the Gospels was a vital aspect of the response to that challenge: Jesus is the ‘word made flesh’ and we will have his message.

As I noted last week, this question of the path that will lead to God’s promised ‘future full of hope’ is also being discussed, discerned and planned for our local parish family here at Assumption.

A new fiscal year will begin on July 1, 2021, and a budget has been drafted. A calendar with startings, and celebrations and various opportunities to be offered has been drafted.

Both fiscally and familiarly, a major part of our parish challenge is the re-engaging of our parish family, first in worship and then in other aspects of parish life and growth.

Where do we grow from here?

Once again I found some of Joe Frankenfield’s reflections on our mission and shared ministry to offer food for thought—and prayer:

“As we prepare to return to the day-in, day-out work of living the Christian vision. We need to be wary of hearing the message but missing the point.

“We Christians tread a fine line. With great fanfare we celebrate our gratitude for God’s love and Jesus’ total commitment to human fulfillment.

“At the same time millions around us live with immense suffering. We can’t ignore that incongruity. We must also respond to Jesus’ repeated reminders that his message of divine love wasn’t simply to make us feel good but to free us to bring loving justice to those living in misery.

“At the beginning of each Eucharist we ask forgiveness for our failures to cooperate with God in the mission of growing the world he promises.

“We listen to God’s encouragement and we give thanks for Jesus’ work. However, we seldom give thanks for the ways that we’ve been able to cooperate with God. We never acknowledge that the Spirit has accomplished—and is accomplishing--something of value through our lives.

“It isn’t being humble to ignore the good we do; it’s being oblivious to God’s power in us.

“When the Spirit’s succeeds in accomplishing love and justice through our lives, Jesus’ life bears its real fruit. Whether the presider expresses such thanks or not, we need to. We need to acknowledge what God is doing through us – at home, at work, in our community, in our world. We need to celebrate and share the fruits!

“We need to do more at worship than praise God’s historical and distant actions. We need to experience, at least in small ways, that God is accomplishing good now through us. We have to see that his Spirit is moving us to contribute to the life’s future.

“Christians can’t be at peace with the world in its present unjust, hostility-filled state.

“God’s promise in the Hebrew Scriptures and personified in the life and teaching of Jesus is that life is destined to become a just and loving experience. To the extent that such is not the reality now, Christians are discontent and determined to expedite the process in every way they can.

“Christians don’t see the world as a static reality. They see it, guided by God’s Spirit within people’s heart, evolving into a joyous existence beyond our fondest dreams. For the kingdom is coming.”

May the SPIRIT guide us there from here, we pray!

“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." (Colossians 3:16)