On the Road Again! Road Rally 2016By: Bishop Edward M. Rice
As many of you recall, Bp. James Johnston embarked on a “Road Rally” in 2014 with the intention of visiting every parish within 17 days. During each visit, he shared with everyone gathered the Mutually Shared Vision for the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau. Our Sacred Purpose is clear, “… to joyfully live our Catholic faith as intentional disciples, leading all to a full life in Jesus Christ.” Our three guiding values as disciples are “prayer, generous service, and enthusiasm.” Our five-year vision is “One Church, East to West: Loving Jesus, Serving Jesus, and Sharing Jesus.” Finally, our three priorities are “Grow in Holiness; Form Intentional Disciples, and being Sent to Witness.” I am grateful to Bp. Johnston for his visionary leadership for the diocese.
I was recently asked if I would continue to promote the Mutually Shared Vision and I responded, “Why wouldn’t I?” There has been a lot of “sweat equity” put into the vision by Bp. Johnston and the diocesan Envisioning Team. It would be, in a sense, disrespectful to just throw all that work aside and begin from scratch. And, when you think of it, what bishop would not be thrilled to know his people were focused on holiness, intentional discipleship, and witness?
Of course, all of this sounds good on paper, doesn’t it? And therein lays the danger: After all the work, prayer, and reflection put into the Mutually Shared Vision, there is the possibility of the final document being framed, hung on the wall, and immediately forgotten. What a tragedy that would be. The universal call to holiness expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity. All are called to holiness” (CCC 2013). As a diocese, that clear mandate, the call to holiness, is all the more urgent. Society says the many daily crosses of life are to be avoided at all cost. By faith, however, we believe those crosses, those that often come to us which we can do nothing about, are avenues of grace. In fact, again, the catechism states, “The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross” (CCC 2015). If you want to grow in holiness, discover and embrace the cross in your life.
Being an “intentional disciple” is a popular idea these days. Author Sherry Weddell’s book, Forming Intentional Disciples, highlights the experiences of so many Catholics who know where to go for the best fish frys and who participate in parish sports programs and send their children to Catholic schools, but have no personal experience of Jesus. They seem to be content with being “cultural Catholics,” choosing not to be immersed in the life of Jesus. In fact, statistics show only seven percent of Catholics take time to pray or have made a conscious choice to be intentional about their relationship with Jesus. Pope Francis mentions in “Joy of the Gospel” the necessity of going after those who have been baptized but no longer practice the faith.
How do we overcome the apathy?
The third priority of our “Mutually Shared Vision” gives the answer: through witness. A witness can testify to what he or she knows. A witness to Jesus must therefore be able to testify to the mercy, joy, love, and forgiveness of Jesus in his or her life. Then, when I share my encounter of Jesus with others, I become a witness.
Can I get a witness?
We recently had two Steubenville youth conferences at Missouri State University in Springfield. Around 7,700 young people participated.
They had spent the weekends participating in Mass, in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, group faith-sharing, and over 4,600 of them celebrated the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. At the end of the second conference, I challenged the young people to consider how they will answer the question, “How was the weekend?” I told them to be prepared to answer the question because as soon as they walk through the door back home, someone will ask, “How was the weekend?” And if they just shrug their shoulders and said, “Okay,” then they just missed their first opportunity to witness to Christ. A witness must testify to what has happened, and in this case, how Jesus has been active in their life.
So, I will revive the Road Rally Revival in August! With the help of The Catholic Center staff, I will begin on Sun., Aug. 14 and end on Aug. 31. And in every parish, I will have the same message. I will share our Sacred Purpose to joyfully live our faith as intentional disciples, leading all to a full life in Jesus Christ. I will speak of our values of prayer, service, and enthusiasm. I will re-propose our vision of “One Church, East to West: Loving Jesus, Serving Jesus, and Sharing Jesus.” I will challenge all our parishes to grow in holiness, form intentional disciples, and witness to Jesus. What bishop wouldn’t want that for his people?
I look forward to meeting all of you as the Bishop is “On the Road, Again!”
Go here for Bishop’s schedule.
Read and/or hear Bp. Rice’s homily at the July 17 closing Mass of the Steubenville youth conference: here.