By Mike Nelson
LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The Catholic Church’s mission to evangelize “is ever ancient and ever new,” and every member of the church has a duty to carry out this mission, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez said in a pastoral issued to coincide with the start of the Year of Faith.
“Witness to the New World of Faith” is the archbishop’s first pastoral letter since he became head of the Los Angeles Archdiocese in early 2011. It offers five pastoral priorities that, he said, “can serve as a useful framework for focusing our efforts at renewal.”
He issued the pastoral Oct. 2, five days before the opening of the three-week-long world Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization. Archbishop Gomez is one of more than 260 synod members gathered at the Vatican.
Subtitled “A Pastoral Letter to the Family of God in Los Angeles on the New Evangelization and Our Missionary Call,” the 4,700-word document is a call to all Catholics to follow Jesus — to “go and make disciples.”
“The church exists to evangelize,” Archbishop Gomez said in the opening portion of his letter. “The church’s mission is ever ancient and ever new. And all of us in the church — bishops, priests and deacons; religious and consecrated men and women; seminarians and laypeople in every walk of life — we all have responsibility for this mission.”
He urges Catholics to “reclaim our missionary history” that, in California, can be traced to Blessed Junipero Serra. “Los Angeles — like all of California and the Americas — is built on a Christian foundation,” he said. “And today we are called to build on that missionary foundation to make a new evangelization of the Americas.”
The archbishop encourages local Catholics to embrace the Year of Faith “as a time of interior renewal and spiritual preparation for a new Christian witness to our city and our continent.”
Pope Benedict XVI established the Year of Faith, “dedicated to the profession of the true faith and its correct interpretation,” to run from Oct. 11, 2012 to Nov. 24, 2013. It begins on the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.
In the spirit of the special year, Archbishop Gomez said, the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council has proposed goals and objectives, to be published in the weeks ahead, that coincide with its final reports and recommendations on implementing the archdiocesan synod of 2003. These, he said, will “help us to grow in our faith and knowledge of the Gospel.”
“The men and women of our time need someone to show them the way to Jesus, who alone can show them the face of God,” the archbishop writes. “They need someone to help open up the door of faith for them. They are waiting for us, my dear brothers and sisters!”
Thus, he said, “we must find new ways and new enthusiasm to evangelize — in our families, our work, and in every ministry of our church.” To that end, Archbishop Gomez outlines five pastoral priorities:– Education in the faith, with an emphasis on learning how to pray better and read the Gospels “with more lively faith and deeper understanding,” and becoming a eucharistic people through living out the faith professed on Sundays.
— Promote vocations to the priesthood and to religious and consecrated life. “Vocations are born of a Catholic culture. And this Year of Faith should be a time in which we find new energy to support our priests and seminarians and to build this culture of vocations.”
— Foster our universal Catholic identity and cultural diversity. “The family of God in Los Angeles must always be a sign that God is with us, and that in his loving eyes no one is a stranger to him and we are all brothers and sisters.”
— Proclaim the Gospel of life and promote a culture of life in our society. To give “concrete expression to our witness,” Archbishop Gomez said the archdiocesan Office of Justice and Peace will be renamed the Office of Life, Justice and Peace. “The church’s works of charity and justice are an essential dimension of the new evangelization.”
— Defend and strengthen marriage and the family based on the permanent and exclusive union of one man and one woman. “Our church must lead a cultural renewal so that our society will once more see that marriage is sacred and that the family is the true sanctuary of life and the heart of a civilization of love.”
“These priorities reflect our communion — with the bishops of California and the United States, with our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, and with the whole universal church,” said the archbishop. “They also reflect our archdiocesan synod’s goals of promoting faith education, sacramental life, social justice, evangelization, collegial leadership, and a greater sense of responsibility in ministry.”
The archdiocesan synod was convoked in 2000 by his predecessor, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, for the people of the archdiocese to voice what they believed to be pastoral priorities for the local church. After two years of preparation, the synod was held in two sessions, in May and June 2003. The work of the synod delegates was promulgated in September 2003 in the document “Gathered and Sent.”
Archbishop Gomez plans to establish a new Archdiocesan Office of the New Evangelization, responsible for establishing and coordinating these initiatives to spread the Gospel and to “increase Catholics’ knowledge and love of their faith.”
“The new evangelization must begin in your hearts and in mine,” he said. “We all need a new conversion. Because only the converted heart can lead other hearts to conversion.”
“Witness to the New World of Faith” will be published in pamphlet form at a later date.
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Nelson is editor in chief of The Tidings, newspaper of the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
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