Keys to fostering encounter with Jesus readily at hand, bishop says

| May 22, 2017 | 3 Comments

Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, gives a keynote address at Spring Formation Day May 16 at St. Joseph the Worker in Maple Grove. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Parish leaders in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis took a day for spiritual and ministry spring cleaning May 18.

Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, presented three keys to fostering an encounter with Jesus in order to build credible faith communities. The bishop, who also spoke at the archdiocese’s 2016 Spring Formation Day, addressed challenges leaders in the Church face as he presented to 700 parish and chancery staff members at St. Joseph the Worker in Maple Grove.

“The elements that we need to put together a credible witness in our contemporary world are literally before us,” Bishop Caggiano said.

Starting with sacred Scripture, he said God’s word brings people into personal contact with Jesus as the Lord did on the road to Emmaus. The bishop mentioned the rapid growth of a Scripture and teaching ministry for women in his diocese that grew from 135 people to 4,000 in 18 months. He said it happened because of their hunger for God’s word.

“Open the door of the power of Scripture to every member of your community,” Bishop Caggiano said.

From left, Dan Kohler, Amy Malley and Mariah Smith of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Hastings react to a remark by Bishop Caggiano. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

He also emphasized the central importance of the Eucharist, “the source and summit” of the Catholic faith. The bishop said that both reception of Communion and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament also help people encounter Jesus because he is physically present in the Eucharist.

“He’s here on the altar — body and blood, soul and divinity — here for consumption, for adoration,” Bishop Caggiano said.

He also mentioned the value of making a spiritual communion with Jesus by saying a prayer to invite him into one’s heart if not able to receive Communion. The bishop pointed to St. Francis of Assisi, who felt unworthy to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, but who made many spiritual communions.

Bishop Caggiano also noted that the Church had her most rapid growth in the early years before a published New Testament, catechisms, buildings and other tools existed. The early Church simply had the Eucharist and a “sacrificial community of love,” the third key the bishop emphasized for building a credible faith community.

He said the modern world needs to see Catholics’ “love in action.” He called it the “litmus test of the 21st century.” The bishop said that love means willing the good of each person.

“If we’re going to truly become credible, then we need to invite every human heart to encounter Christ as we have encountered him,” Bishop Caggiano said. “No program can do that.”

He said the challenge of society’s indifference toward Jesus and the Church must be overcome one person at a time in the parish and beyond. The bishop said that indifference comes about because people “do not believe they are lovable.”

Bishop Caggiano also addressed the challenge of having truth and mercy meet in ministry. He said Catholics must uphold the truth and treat others with mercy.

“I would like to suggest that a true, credible community of faith is a community where mercy and truth kiss every single day,” Bishop Caggiano said.

In Bishop Caggiano’s second presentation of the day, he spoke of developing an enduring relationship with Jesus and effective leadership in ministry as “new Moseses.” Both Bishop Caggiano and Archbishop Bernard Hebda fielded questions afterward, ranging from the importance of the sacrament of reconciliation to using technology in ministry.

The archdiocese will have a video of Bishop Caggiano’s presentations and follow-up material at http://www.archspm.org/formationday.

 

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