Mission remains, but the way of ministry changes

Archbishop Nienstedt

Archbishop John C. Nienstedt

Having celebrated the joyful season of Easter, culminating in the great feast of Pentecost, we find ourselves back in “Ordinary time” — a time permeated by the extraordinary graces we have gained from the Lord’s suffering, death and resurrection.

But “Ordinary time” is not marked by the “same old, same old.”  Ordinary time is, rather, characterized by the wonderful effects of God’s transforming grace, which “makes all things new in Christ.”

Struck by the reality

As you know, at the beginning of this calendar year, I announced the formation of a strategic task force to evaluate the current resources of the archdiocese and recommend how we could better proceed into the future by “building on our strengths, not duplicating our efforts.”

The reason behind this initiative is the dramatic changes that are currently taking place in almost every area of this great archdiocese.

The reality of that situation became startlingly obvious to me a few weekends ago. On Saturday evening, I traveled out to the Church of St. Boniface in St. Boni­facius to celebrate the 150th anni­versary of its establishment.

Founded in 1859, the first settlers were German farmers who gathered in a small, wood-frame church under the spiritual direction of the Benedictine Fathers.

In 1878, the present church building was erected under the pastoral care of the Franciscans. In recent years, that edifice has added a gathering space and offices to more than double the original size of the building. Correspondingly, the character of the neighborhood has moved from “rural” farm fields to suburban living.  While the original mission of the parish remains the same, the way of ministry in the parish has changed.

The very next morning, I drove to Minneapolis to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Church of St. Anne, founded by Archbishop John Ireland in 1884 for immigrants of French descent.

That Sunday, the church building was packed with descendants of the original French families as well as the many Vietnamese families that now call the church home. The Vietnamese community arrived in the Twin Cities around 1976, and they merged with St. Anne’s in 2005 under the patronage of St. Joseph Hien. Again, the mission has remained the same, but the way of ministry in the parish has changed.

Later that same Sunday, I celebrated the sacrament of confirmation at our Cathedral for more than 300 Hispanic candidates. It was a most joyful liturgy, and I even found myself relaxing in a language that I have struggled to learn.  But, clearly, before my eyes was the wave of the future. Again, the original mission of our Catholic outreach is the same, but the way of ministry has changed.

I merely point to this two-day experience to underscore the fact that there are changes going on all around us. And the dynamics of our evangelizing efforts must adjust to those evolving circumstances.

Thus, the work of the Strategic Task Force for Parishes and Schools intends not so much to build a more “efficient” archdiocesan church, but rather one that is holier and more vital, responding with Word and sacraments to the real needs of the church that exists in the here and now.

Conversion of hearts and growth in holiness are always the mission of Christ’s church. We accomplish this mission by serving the needs of the poor, the sick or the strangers in our midst. To be responsible stewards of our gifts requires that we are attentive to the “signs of the times” and able to assess the changes taking place before our eyes. God bless you!

Category: Only Jesus

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