Pope Francis wants each of us to renew our role as a disciple of Jesus. That means making Jesus our model. But besides each of us renewing ourselves, Pope Francis wants us to enter into renewal as a community. He has told us that in doing so, we are living up to the Second Vatican Council’s call to reform and renew constantly.
Our local diocese of Saint John has heard this call loud and clear. In 2017, we will be celebrating our 175th anniversary. We need to remember that nearly 200 years ago, we began as a missionary church full of joy, energy and vitality. Pope Francis knows that we can draw on that same energy, as we face this new step.
This is what he says about the whole Church, including our diocese: “I dream of a ‘missionary option’, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things,…can be suitably channelled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.” (The Joy of the Gospel 27)
So Pope Francis is calling for a church that focuses on mission, not maintenance. This is the aim of our diocese right now. Every generation is called to reform and revitalize. We know that we must face the reality of change in our lives and in our church. Maintaining things the way they have been is not always appropriate for a new era. Renewal might require some significant realignment of structures and ways of doing things. We may be called to do some things quite differently, while others may not change much.
The Disciple Maker Index Survey results for each parish and mission have been passed on to each community and they are a good indicator of the strengths and the needs of each community. Over the next few months we as a diocese, laity and clergy, will be reflecting and talking about what the survey results mean for the whole diocese. We invite you to think about the survey results. How can we change and realign things to bring new life to our Diocese of Saint John?
Let’s all pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit as we move forward. Let’s all reflect and talk with others in our parish about the survey results. How can this lead us into new and lively ways of living our faith and sharing the Good News? What are our hopes for a future church which lives discipleship to the fullest?