Paul VI invited us to deepen the call to renewal and to make it clear that renewal does not only concern individuals but the entire Church. Let us return to a memorable text which continues to challenge us. "The Church must look with penetrating eyes within herself, ponder the mystery of her own being… This vivid and lively self-awareness inevitably leads to a comparison between the ideal image of the Church as Christ envisaged her and loved her as his holy and spotless bride (cf. Eph 5:27), and the actual image which the Church presents to the world today... This is the source of the Church's heroic and impatient struggle for renewal: the struggle to correct those flaws introduced by her members which her own self-examination, mirroring her exemplar, Christ, points out to her and condemns". The Second Vatican Council presented ecclesial conversion as openness to a constant self-renewal born of fidelity to Jesus Christ: "Every renewal of the Church essentially consists in an increase of fidelity to her own calling… Christ summons the Church as she goes her pilgrim way… to that continual reformation of which she always has need, in so far as she is a human institution here on earth".
- Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium #26
I find the Catholic Church in the United States to be similarly engaging in a practice of discernment and reflection. As many of you are aware, the V Encuentro has been happening over the last few years and culminates with a national gathering later this year. It's an exciting event that has parishes, ministries, and dioceses across the country actively engaging their communities in a conversation of how to best respond to the cultural diversity that exists in the church today. The V Encuentro is much more than just for Spanish-speaking youth or families. It is an opportunity to actively discern the movement of the Spirit in the church in the United States today.
I am excited to have been a part of my parish and diocesan encuentros and I am eagerly looking forward to the regional and national gatherings. The process thus far has been very insightful and enlivening. It's granted me a perspective of what local families are experiencing in my community and putting the Church's compassion and listening at work to sometimes the most neglected individuals or groups. It happens too often that we get stuck in a pattern of programmatic and event-driven ministry. Doing so can have us focus on the numbers: the number of people that attended, the number of dollars raised, etc. This can have us overlook the needs of the youth and families that don't fit into the majority in many ways.
I'm excited for what the encuentro process will elucidate in the next few months. As an organization, the Center for Ministry Development is constantly reflecting, discerning, and exploring ways to best meet the needs of ministry leaders in their pastoral work with youth and families. I believe the Center for Ministry Development has a lot to offer in regards to resourcing, training, and forming effective ministry leaders for another generation. Having been founded in 1978, the Center for Ministry Development is now celebrating 40 years of endeavoring creative ministry and partnerships. I think this process is a timely opportunity to help us cast our vision to what the next 40 years may entail.
With decades of experience as a training and resource organization, we have a unique gift to impart with the church today and in the years to come. Beyond the success of past and current programs and services, the promise of future programs and services excites me. I'm excited to think of the effective youth resources we can develop that would empower parish volunteers and staff to effectively minister to young people in their communities. I'm excited to think of the training and formation we can offer to give these ministry leaders to build on their competence and confidence to accompany young people. I'm excited to think of the ways we can help nurture adult faith and spirituality in these ministry leaders. I especially excited to think of the leadership training and formation we can offer to help young people assume their rightful positions of leadership and discipleship.
This process of renewal that many parishes, dioceses, and ministry organizations are taking is a wonderful gift and witness of the Church's faithfulness to be a pilgrim church. It's a gift that can be arduous and trying at times but also one that is life-giving and invigorating. My prayer is that we can continue to seek renewal in our vocation and mission as the Church.