There is an old saying which goes thus: “See Rome and die!” In the old days everyone wanted to visit Rome before they departed this world because Rome was the center of civilization. For us Christians, the saying rings even truer because once we have been in Rome we understand our Catholic faith better. It was when I visited the Scavi, the archeological diggings under the main altar of St Peter’s Basilica, that my faith came really alive. I knew I was standing in the presence of the First Apostle, Peter.
If you have the chance, please do visit Rome at least once in a lifetime. I never get tired of going to the Eternal City. As some parishioners have approached me with the idea, I am seriously toying with the prospect of leading pilgrimage/trip to Italy sometime soon.
After being in Rome, one should not miss visiting another city in Italy. I am referring to Assisi, the birthplace of two beloved saints, Francis and Claire. Especially Francis has captured the imagination of the world. Even though he lived almost a thousand years ago, Christians and non-Christians alike feel a deep connection with him. You can feel his presence when you visit Assisi.
Francis – whose feast falls on October 4th – was the son of a rich merchant who sold luxury fabrics to the wealthy. He grew up like any other young person of his time, having a good time and partying with his friends. However, God seems to have been working on him. It was while he was recovering from a serious illness that his conversion began. As Francis was riding his horse he came across a leper. Anyone would be repelled by the sores on the leper’s body. But something moved Francis and he dismounted from his horse and hugged the leper.
A few days later, while Francis was praying in the Church of San Damiano, Jesus on the cross spoke to him. The words of the Master were simple and direct: “Francis, rebuild my Church!” Since the parish church was in a terrible state of disrepair, Francis thought that the Lord was asking him to repair the material structure. Towards that end, he stole money from his rich father. Only later he understood that God was asking him to rebuild the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. Rebuilding the Church became Francis’s life work.
At that time, the Church was certainly in a bad shape. The hierarchy had forgotten the message of the Gospel as popes and cardinals lived in luxury. Those were the Dark Ages. It was left to Francis and his brothers to call the faithful to conversion by their life of poverty. Francis himself preached to the court of Pope Innocent III and shamed them to return to the simplicity of the gospel.
Looking around at the Church today, especially in our country, we realize that we need to rebuild the Church. As I have written in earlier columns, many of the faithful have not been evangelized. Certainly many do not know the faith. A good number do not practice the faith. We need someone like Francis today more than ever.
In an effort to rebuild the Church, we are undergoing the process called “Parish Transformation.” As you know, the meetings are held every Wednesday in the Holy Family Chapel at 7 pm. Everyone is invited to participate. It is also in the same spirit that our shepherd, Archbishop Blase Cupich, is pushing the Chicago archdiocese forward with an initiative called “Renew my Church.” Let me tell you a little bit about this initiative.
Looking ahead to the next twenty, thirty years, we reckon that several parishes in the diocese cannot sustain themselves either financially or membership-wise. In addition over the next ten years huge classes of priests will retire. It is estimated that within the next couple of decades the archdiocese will have a deficit of about 100 pastors, unless we get more priests. How do we prepare for the future?
Our archbishop wants this to be not merely about numbers and structures. It is about doing the mission of Jesus. How can we accomplish the Lord’s work better? Trying to do the mission of Jesus better, we may have to close certain parishes. Certain parishes may be merged with others.
Fortunately the parishes in our area are vibrant and there is no risk of any of them closing or merging. However, over the next twenty years there may not be enough priests to go around. In that case, we should make better use of our resources. So far each parish has tried to be self-reliant and acted as independent entities. Our archbishop would like us to collaborate more and share more. Towards that end the diocese is proposing to group parishes together and churches within each group will find ways to collaborate and share.
The leadership at the “Renew my Church” initiative is proposing that we are grouped along with Mary Seat of Wisdom, Our Lady of Ransom and Our Lady of Hope. They feel that we are similar demographically and that parishioners attend each other’s parishes. No direction has so far been given as to how we may collaborate. However, the organizers would like to know how our parishioners feel about this grouping.
Let me know if you are in agreement with this grouping or not, whether this is a good idea. I would like to receive your reactions, comments and suggestions. If you have anything to say regarding this matter, please contact me. Please keep us all in your prayers.
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...