Not surprisingly, the Diocese of Lansing Realign Resources for Mission process begins with Jesus Christ. After all, Christianity is primarily a personal encounter with the person of Christ. It is in this experience that we discover our greatest happiness, deepest peace and ultimate purpose in life. As St Augustine of Hippo says: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in thee.”
Therefore, the purpose of the Diocese of Lansing is to present anew the same Jesus Christ to the people in our part of Michigan by forming communities of missionary disciples who can evangelize in their localities in a way that is culturally credible, intellectually coherent, and socially compassionate. But how do we achieve this?
“The key to all that we aim achieve apostolically is as simple as it is profound: Jesus Christ, truly present in the Holy Eucharist,” says Craig Pohl, Director of the Office of New Evangelization for the Diocese of Lansing.
“The Eucharistic sacrifice is the source and summit of both our own interior life and of our collective apostolic endeavors or, as Pope Saint John Paul II put it in his great Eucharistic encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia: The Eucharist makes the Church and, in turn, the Church makes the Eucharist,” says Craig.
It was with the arrival of Jesuit priests from Quebec in the mid-17th century that Jesus in the Holy Eucharist arrived in Michigan.
“The link between the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Priesthood is both beautiful and undeniable,” explains Deb Amato, Chief of Staff, Diocese of Lansing.
“It is only the priest, in persona Christi, in the person of Christ, who can offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which makes present the Holy Eucharist upon our altars. In short: No priest, no Eucharist, no Church, no new evangelization.”
The rapid evangelization of south-east Michigan was such that by 1937, Pope Pius XI was convinced of necessity of creating the Diocese of Lansing by taking territory from the Archdiocese of Detroit. Then in 1971, Pope Saint Paul VI separated territory from the Lansing Diocese and territory from the Diocese of Grand Rapids to form the new Diocese of Kalamazoo.
“Over the years, our diocesan boundaries have changed, parishes have been established and some have been merged, schools created and others closed,” explains Michael Andrews, Chancellor of the Diocese of Lansing, “in that sense, we’ve always been realigning our resources in order to pursue our unchanging mission to bring the love of Christ to all souls within our diocese.”
“Through it all,” adds Michael, “the one truth that has always impelled and inspired all our apostolic efforts is a deep love for Jesus Christ, truly present in the Holy Eucharist – from the earliest missionaries down to our forebears who helped establish this diocese and often had to travel great distances to participate in Sunday Mass.”
As then, so now, and in autumn 2019 Bishop Earl Boyea established a new 14-member committee to review how the resources of the Diocese of Lansing can be best used to better evangelize the 1.8 million people who live within the bounds of the diocese.
“Well, this Committee for the Realign of Resources for Mission in our diocese was really established in order to plan for the future. Where are we going? How are we going to evangelize in our area?” said Bishop Boyea upon the committee’s launch.
“How are we going to strengthen the faith of those who are members of the household of faith? How are we going to try win back those who have wandered away? And how do we bring in new members to the Church? How do we make Jesus Christ more present in our 10-county diocese?”
Bishop Boyea’s decision to establish the committee has been informed by several key statistics. The number of priests currently in active ministry across the diocese is 81 compared to the number of parishes which is 74. There is also a continued decline in people attending Sunday Mass with a loss of over 17,000 people since 2009.
The membership of the committee includes priests, deacons, and lay men and women from across the diocese who were nominated by the presbyterate and diocesan staff. Overseeing the process is Father Mathias Thelen of Saint Patrick’s in Brighton who has been asked by the bishop to chair the committee.
In his commissioning letter to the members of the committee, Bishop Boyea encouraged them to be “bold and innovative in exploring ideas for renewal and growth” and urged them to “envision a diocese with parishes that are fully alive communities of missionary disciples, with a vibrant sacramental life, where everyone can encounter Jesus Christ, most especially in the Eucharist.” It seemed fitting, therefore, that the committee’s emblem, created by designer Michelle Hildebrandt, is a compass with the Holy Eucharist at its center.
In recent months the committee has worked hard amassing data on the spiritual and temporal health of the Diocese of Lansing using various state-of-the-art analytical programs. This has included MapDashTM for Faith Communities which charts layers of demographic and statistical information, relevant to parish and diocesan life, onto an interactive map; Veracruz Strategic and Financial Consulting who have been reviewing the elementary and high school estate across the diocese; and the Disciple Maker Index and Called for More by the Catholic Leadership Institute which have attempted to gauge the spiritual temperature of both parishioners and priests.
“Now, however, the committee would like to hear from parishioners across the 10-counties,” says Father Mathias Thelen, “and so starting in November 2020, we will be offering presentations to every parish community across the Diocese of Lansing on the Realign Resources for Mission process.”
Each presentation will be hosted by a member of the committee plus, in most cases, a member of staff from the Diocesan Curia, who will explain the Realign Resources for Mission process.
“The key thing, though, is to hear parishioners at these meetings,” adds Father Thelen, “What are your hopes and fears for the future of your parish and our diocese? What do you love about your parish? And what are your recommendations for its future? You tell us.”
The end result of the Realign Resource for Committee process will be a final report delivered to Bishop Boyea with recommendations for the future of the Diocese of Lansing.
O Mary, conceived without sin, patroness of the Diocese of Lansing, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”