March 2, 2011 // Uncategorized

Annual Bishop’s Appeal

My deep and sincere thanks to all who donated so generously to the 24th Annual Bishop’s Appeal! I am truly amazed at your generosity. We rejoice that this year’s pledges of over $6.2 million are a new all-time high for our diocese. These outstanding results are a testament to your strong faith and to your love for Christ and His Church.

As you know, the funds raised in the Appeal support the ministries of the diocese and of our parishes. Seventy-five out of 82 of our parishes exceeded their goals, which means that any money surpassing the goal goes to the parish. This is an important help to our parishes and schools in these challenging economic times.

The Annual Bishop’s Appeal is an opportunity to practice our faith through stewardship. It is a way to support the Church’s evangelizing mission and helps us to proclaim and live the truth of the Gospel in charity.

Thank you for sharing the material blessings you have received from God. I know that your generosity to the Church flows from your gratitude to God for His generosity in your lives.

The season of Lent
The holy season of Lent begins on March 9th, Ash Wednesday. We begin the forty days of Lent with a day of fasting and abstinence. It is good to attend Mass on Ash Wednesday. We receive ashes on our foreheads which remind us of our mortality and also as a sign of our intention to do penance during these forty days in imitation of Jesus’ forty days of fasting in the desert.

Lent is a time to accept the call of Jesus: “Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). This call is addressed to each and every one of us. It is a call to conversion and faith.

Lent provides us various means that serve our conversion, particularly prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. As we approach Lent, it is good to take some time to consider what penance we intend to practice this Lenten season. Of course, this is a very personal decision. We should be prepared when Ash Wednesday comes with a resolution concerning our Lenten discipline of penance.

I hope that all of us will make an effort to pray more during Lent, whether at home, in the car, out for a walk, or stopping in a church to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. Daily Mass during Lent is a great means of spiritual growth and sanctification. I also recommend praying with the Scriptures, using perhaps the Lenten daily Mass readings. Sacramental confession is also vitally important so that we will be ready to celebration the Resurrection of Jesus not only in the liturgy but also in our souls.

Lent is a time to contemplate the cross of Christ. It is the primary symbol of our Christian faith. On Good Friday, we will venerate that cross. Before the crucifix, we better understand the gravity of our sins and also the power of the Blood of our Redeemer which washes and purifies us. Praying the Stations of the Cross is a beautiful traditional Lenten devotion that helps us through meditation and prayer to enter more deeply into the mystery of our redemption. Praying the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary is also a fruitful means to enter into the mystery of Christ’s passion.

On Palm Sunday, I intend to lead a pilgrimage walk to six churches in downtown South Bend. I invite you to join me on that first day of Holy Week in praying the Stations of the Cross and other devotions while visiting the churches and walking through the streets of South Bend. More information about this pilgrimage walk will be published in Today’s Catholic and in parish bulletins in the coming weeks.

Lent itself is a pilgrimage, a pilgrimage to Easter. It is a pilgrimage of faith and penance. Pope Benedict has said that “being a Christian can only take the form of becoming a Christian ever anew; that it is not an event now over and done with, but a process requiring constant practice.” Is this not what Lent is all about — becoming a Christian ever anew? This happens by God’s grace through conversion.

I pray that you may be renewed this Lenten season by your encounter with Christ in the sacrament of Penance and by God’s grace at work in your Lenten penitential practices. May the heart of Christ pierced for our offenses reveal to us anew the abyss of God’s mercy!

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