Parish life is intended to foster the search for God in our lives. This motivation distinguishes parish life from almost all other areas of our lives. This noble mission is more important than ever these days.
Today’s First Reading from the First Book of Kings is focused on the search for God. I found myself thinking about the state of the parish a few weeks ago. Our only masses were online. We received the guidance of the Archdiocese to assemble a team of volunteers so that we can have mass. Soon enough we were able to start with one mass, because we had some volunteers. I think of them as our parish Angels. Then we were able to start having our baptisms again, which we have many of in Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. We could do this because we were blessed with more Angel Volunteers. Soon enough we were able to have weddings, funerals and reconciliation again. Then we had to put our Angel Volunteer list on a large spread sheet that includes their availability and specific area of volunteering. Then we were able to offer two masses, because we received more Angel Volunteers. As of today, we want to have more masses. We have a long way to go until the full re-opening of our parish. We used to have as many as 12-14 services a weekend here in our parish. Today we only have maybe 3-4. So we continue asking for more Angel Volunteers and we continue to believe it is possible for us to expand our team. Take a look at the Re-Opening Update in today’s bulletin if you are interested in being an Angel Volunteer. By the way, all are welcome and invited to be volunteers. If you happen to be younger than 18 or above 65, we just ask a couple of extra precautions. Let us know if you are interested.
This week I will meet with nearby pastors to discuss Renew My Church. I frequently reflect on Pope Francis’ words found in Evangeli Gaudium: The Joy of the Gospel. Pope Francis challenged us saying:
I dream of a ‘missionary option,’ that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything so that the church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.
Thank you Pope Francis. This is our mission for today.
Many Chicagoland parishes have engaged Renew My Church in which they have discerned their long term future. Many parishes have combined and/or established new ways of working with one another as a result of Renew My Church. Some parishes have closed. The intention of Renew My Church is to create structures that sustain long term viability. I will meet with pastors from St. Mary of the Lake, St. Andrew and St. Benedict parishes. God is clearly whispering in the midst of this adventure. As in the First reading, maybe it is not that clear how God is whispering, but faith tells us the message is there.
This past week I met with our catechists as we explore ways of re-opening Religious Education. We see how important it is to offer this ministry to our young people even as there continues to be this looming virus. We are discussing options for Religious Education including At Home catechesis which includes families and parents, virtual online as well as in-person formats. Like the prophet, we pay close attention to sense the presence of God. Such divine presence may come in ways we never expected.
I have a reason for briefly telling this story of re-opening. My intention is to point out that this re-opening has been a strong demonstration of our communal hunger for God. People want to come to mass. People want to be able to come to church and pray. People want to hear Scripture and receive Christ in the Eucharist. People like to see their friends and family together as they gather for mass. Parish life fosters the search for God in our lives. People want to re-connect with our young people. I hear a deep hunger for God in this. This is one of the gifts of the present moment. And this gift is easily missed in the busyness and chaos of our days. The gift of God’s presence was almost missed in the First Reading. Let us listen for the “tiny whispering sound” of God’s voice. Let the Prophet Elijah guide our search.