July 15, 2024

Lent is a time to look deeply at the reality of our interior lives and ask God to help us to love as he does. In his love for the Father, the Holy Spirit and us, Jesus laid down his life to pay the ransom for our sins. His unconditional love, which sought our good and not his own, can be ours if we are open to receiving the grace (spiritual power) God offers us and if we generously respond by seeking God’s good and the good of others. My hope is this year’s Lent will be a season of new beginnings in the reality of the love of God.

God’s unconditional love for us is a reality. The Current Reality Report, shared in September with parishioners throughout the diocese as part of the Set Ablaze planning initiative, shows us that reality. And this edition of The Bishop’s Bulletin shares both a new and a continuing response to that reality: the map of the newly designed pastorates and the continuing diocesan support that helps laity, staff, clergy and parishes envision new and enhanced ways of living as dynamic lifelong Catholic missionary disciples. I invite you to grow with others in our diocese this Lent through an unconditional love of God and others.

It’s important that we properly understand this divine love. God’s unconditional love, more properly called charity (caritas in Latin), consists of seeking the good of the other; as St. Thomas Aquinas put it, “To love is to will the good of another.” Our Set Ablaze planning initiative is intended to seek the good of priests and those they serve by having fewer priests tied up with administrative duties so they can share their spiritual, pastoral, educational and liturgical giftedness more fully.

Having fewer parishes with only one priest helps reduce isolation, enhances opportunities to realign priests to their primary gifts, and invites laity to heightened collaborative roles of responsibility in the church under the leadership of their pastor.

I hope additional creative sharing of ministries and staff in neighboring parishes will help reduce unnecessary duplication, capitalize on consecrated and laity giftedness and promote a deepening sense in the diocese that we all are called to live as one, holy, catholic and apostolic church in union with the Catholic Church throughout the world. As many parishes throughout the diocese know, finding enough qualified staff is a challenge. Increased collaboration and an active pursuit of laity as co-responsible for the work of the Church, I hope, will assist us in accomplishing the goals of Set Ablaze.

Will this be a challenge? Yes. Will it work perfectly? No. But after consultation with laity, consecrated and clergy across the diocese and prayerfully considering how we might best serve each other, Set Ablaze is designed to invite the Holy Spirit to renew Catholic life in eastern South Dakota.

This month’s feature story is intended to reveal more clearly how some of our Catholic Family Sharing Appeal dollars are used to support diocesan staff, who, in turn, serve clergy, staff, parishioners, parishes and other Catholic institutions and ministries across the diocese.

Since Lent is a time of enhanced prayer, fasting, almsgiving and works of charity, it is my hope and prayer that Set Ablaze helps us all grow in unconditional love of God and others based on what we reasonably can do. As my mother has often reminded us five boys at home when we were focused on ourselves instead of our brothers: remember, charity begins at home!

It is my hope and prayer that as so many parishioners, staff and clergy serve others outside of their own families and parishes, we as Catholics across the diocese will keep charity at the core of our focus as we venture to re-envision and implement new ways of helping each other on the way to heaven.