October 4, 2023

One of the key insights from our diocesan synod survey is the importance of reaching out to inactive Catholics. We know statistically from records of sacraments, Mass attendance and participation in parish events that the number of baptized Catholics is much higher than active practicing Catholics.

One could rightly conclude there are various reasons baptized Catholics are no longer actively practicing their Catholic faith. Some have been deeply wounded by the Church, others lost confidence in Church leaders, disagree with Church teachings, have struggles with faith, are poorly educated in our Catholic faith or other reasons. Whatever the reason, it’s important we pray for them and reach out to them to assist them in their spiritual journey.

As bishop, it is clear to me that at times the Church, even us Church leaders, have failed in various ways in teaching and living the core teachings of the Church. Some Church leaders and other Catholic leaders have strayed from Church teachings, promoting other interpretations of God’s holy word and the teachings of Christ.

With theological or ideological differences spread so widely, it’s no wonder hardship, confusion and wandering from the faith have occurred. For this I am sorry for the hardship this has caused any of you, your family and parish communities.

Despite the confusion and hardship of the past many years, I have confidence God will lead us to a future of hope. We know from history that when Christians have been persecuted, God strengthens faith in souls who can be dynamic witnesses of the Gospel to bring to light the deceptions of evil in our culture and the joy of the Gospel to all nations.

We, like others of the past, have been through trying times and it appears it will grow more difficult, but if we draw closer to God, the forces of evil will not overcome us and we will be able to help others discover the truths God has revealed and his desire for the salvation of souls.

One such evil deception that has permeated America for the past 49 years is abortion. The deception is not only that someone has the right to take innocent human life, which consists of a human body and spiritual soul, but it is also the fallacy that individual rights take precedence over God’s plan and the common good of society. Such deception misleads people to think “I can do whatever I want.”

Over and over in society we see the effects of such self-focused decision making. Instead, we must continually remember the words of our Lord Jesus, and in this context, I think especially of his words from John’s Gospel: “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (8:31-32).

It is in the teachings of Christ, in other words, that we will find happiness, fulfillment and freedom, not in merely doing what I want.

In this trying time for people in our country over the great divide on the topic of abortion, it is my humble request that we all pray and work to defend innocent human life, whether that be the unborn, disabled, aged or any other person. May God aid us in doing whatever we reasonably can to assist mothers, fathers, and those who have had abortions to heal from the painful memories, and be healed, forgiven and restored to right ordering as God so desires.

May we also pray for those who believe abortion is acceptable and who participate in any way. May they come to know and love the truth of God’s plan of humble reverence for all human life.