Welcome to this week’s Realign Resources for Mission Weekly Update. As ever, this week we are exploring another of the principles, developed through prayer and study, which underpin the vision for realigning resources for mission across the Diocese of Lansing. Today:
"A healthy parish in the Diocese of Lansing is led by priests who are unified with and accountable to the Bishop. ," Realign Resources for Mission Principle 1.5
Read: Read an article by Father Karl Pung, Rector of Saint Mary Cathedral in Lansing and Vicar for Clergy for the Diocese of Lansing.
Watch: Watch a video by Deb Amato, former Chief of Staff of the Diocese of Lansing and a member of the Realign Resources for Mission Committee.
Pray: As we approach Christmas, pray for the staff and volunteers of our six Catholic charities within the Diocese of Lansing, that they may manifest the love of Jesus Christ to the most lonely and vulnerable in our communities.
This week's Realign Resources for Mission Principle:
"A healthy parish in the Diocese of Lansing is led by priests who are unified with and accountable to the Bishop," Realign Resources for Mission Principle 1.5
With Father Karl Pung,
Rector of Saint Mary Cathedral, Lansing;
Vicar for Clergy, Diocese of Lansing
Thursday, December 2, 2021
Thursday of the First Week of Advent
Bishop: Do you promise respect and obedience to me and my successors? Candidate for Ordination: I do.
With these words, above, a deacon or priest is linked to the bishop for the remainder of his life. It is not a link of slavery but one of freedom leading the ordained cleric towards eternal salvation. A worldly outside view of the vow of obedience to the bishop may be perceived as simply an authoritarian controlling mechanism attempting to keep priests and deacons in line. In reality the vow helps to keep us on the right track and in union with the Church. To understand the value of obedience in general, just ask any parent how obedience is sanctifying for both them and their kids. Our vow and its effects are not much different.
Living out obedience is not just a slavish duty. When it is combined with first part of the promise, ‘respect’, obedience becomes a loving act. Priests, and hopefully all the faithful, are taught to have respect for the office of bishop, and over time to develop a respect for the man whom God has appointed to hold that role as well. Promising respect in part means that I want to know the heart and mind of the person God has placed as shepherd of our souls. I am going to honor and look for his good intentions. I am not going to just do the minimum to meet my obligations, but am going to look to what is the best way to fulfill his will. How can I honor versus what can I get away with? It is a mature relationship based in the will of God and the love of Jesus Christ.
With this said, it places us in the context of the pillar and its sub point that we are discussing this week: A healthy parish is led by priests striving for health and holiness: Priests are unified with, and accountable to, the Bishop.
Ordination and First Mass of San Juan de Mata by Vicente Carducho, Prado Museum, Madrid
A priest’s obedience to and unity with his bishop empowers and protects both the priest, and the people to whom he is called to serve. Here are three ways this unity benefits the Church:
- keeps a priest and his parishioners united to the whole Catholic Church;
- keeps a priest and his parishioners united to the rest of the diocese;
- helps a priest be a good steward of the people, resources, and gifts under his responsibility.
Through our link to the bishop we are united to the rest of the Catholic Church. It is a much bigger body and group of people to which each of us belongs. We are Catholic. The bishop is in one sense our connection to Peter, that is the Holy Father, Pope Francis and every pope before him. Staying connected to our bishop keeps us connected to Rome. As the priest is connected to his bishop, so also will the people for whom he has responsibility and care, participate in that same connection. For example, priests and deacons are on to preach what the Church teaches. We do not have to come up with our own theology every week. We inherit the theology of our ancestors through Sacred Tradition. The bishop has a responsibility to keep us connected with that tradition and revelation. We share in something greater.
A priest’s connection to the bishop also keeps him and his people united to the rest of the diocese. Every parish is not its own Church While every parish has its own characteristics and even charisms, the Bishop is the chief shepherd of our souls, and priests and deacons share in the bishop’s ministry to each parishioner. Because priests and deacons share in the bishop’s care for the parish, they have a responsibility to get to know the bishop’s mind and heart for God’s people. What is the particular way in which God is calling our diocese to live out the Gospel? The bishop gets to discern and set that direction. It is on us to follow where our bishop believes the Holy Spirit is leading. Each parish can’t just do whatever they want. There is meant to be a unity among the parishes of a diocese working and living toward a common end. When priests are united to their bishop in vision and mission, it keeps us more closely united to the will of God for our parishes.
Being accountable to the bishop means being a good steward of the gifts, people, and resources assigned to each priest. Often times, accountability is about keeping up on the right paperwork. That is no less true in the Church. Paperwork, however, has a purpose. How am I as a pastor being a good financial steward? Paperwork helps to keep everyone accountable and tracks patterns. What concrete ways are the parish expressing the bishop’s vision? Paperwork make us articulate what we are actually doing, not just hoping will get done. How actively used are the sacraments in a parish? Paperwork tracks baptisms, weddings, and funerals. There are of course other ways for priests to be accountable to his bishop through conversations, evaluations, and just holding oneself to the standard he set of us. Being accountable keeps us honest with our shortcomings but also helps us to know in what directions we need to grow.
In the end a heathy priest is going to seek to know his bishops heart and mind and will be willing to strive to live it out. Respect and obedience are movements of the heart as much as they are movements of the mind. Properly understood respect and obedience lead one to sanctification. Properly lived out they will also lead God’s people on that same road as well.
Yours in Christ,
Father Karl Pung
Watch: Watch this video by Deb Amato, former Chief of Staff of the Diocese of Lansing and a member of the Realign Resources for Mission Committee, as she too explores this week's topic: "A healthy parish in the Diocese of Lansing is led by priests who are unified with and accountable to the Bishop. ," Realign Resources for Mission Principle 1.5
This Week's Friday Prayer Intention:
Pray that the staff and volunteers of our Catholic charities manifest the love of Jesus Christ to the most lonely and vulnerable in our communities. Amen.
Guidelines for Friday Prayer:
Prayer: At three o’clock each Friday afternoon pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To help with prayer, Eucharistic Adoration from Saint Mary Cathedral in Lansing will be live-streamed on YouTube and Facebook. If you can’t manage to pray at 3pm? Just say the Holy Rosary whenever you can.
Fasting: The present norms for fasting suggest that we eat no more than one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal. It is also permissible to attempt a strict fast. A penitent’s age and health should always be taken into consideration before fasting.
Almsgiving: Giving alms is a “work of justice pleasing to God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2462). Hence, each Friday we should donate money or goods to the poor or perform another act of charity. Let’s not reach sundown on a Friday without having poured out some of the content of our heart or our wallet or both during the day.
Catch Up: On Thursday, November 18, the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul, the Diocese of Lansing's Realign Resources for Mission Committee published their key findings and recommendations.
In this video, above, Father Mathias Thelen, Chairman of the Realign Resources for Mission Committee, gives his overview of the publication. The committee's key findings and recommendations are now with Bishop Earl Boyea for prayerful consideration. You too can read them by clicking the link here:
Invitation: As the report above states, one of those who has influenced the thinking of the Realign Resources for Mission process is Father John Riccardo, below, Founder and Executive Director of ACTS XXIX, a non-profit apostolate that aims to equip clergy and laity for the challenges of the apostolic age in which we live.
The parish of Saint Martha in Okemos are hosting a talk by Father Riccardo next month and you are cordially invited to join them. The details:
"Getting Clarity on Mission” w/ Father John Riccardo
7pm on Monday, December 13, 2021
Saint Martha Parish, 1100 W Grand River Rd,
Okemos, MI 48864,
All very welcome.