Share this story

Boyea serious

Bishop responds to urgent need in the Church

Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord a Pastoral response to declining participation in the Church

FAITH spoke with Bishop Boyea about his first pastoral letter, Go and Announce the Gospel of the Lord, a call to all of us to participate in the New Evangelization proclaimed by Pope Benedict. This pastoral also is a response to the declining participation in the life of the Church that you can read about on the preceding page.

FAITH: What prompted the pastoral letter?

Bishop: What really prompted it was the desire to increase Catholic participation, not just in the attendance at Mass, but in all aspects of parish life. All of us should be participating in sacraments, in corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and in prayer. It is my hope that all of the faithful become more fully engaged in the life of the parish.

FAITH: After reading this pastoral, what should the laity be doing differently? What is our call?

Bishop: The key group in this New Evangelization are our parish councils. They are so critical to our parishes, and their members should be the leaders in helping Catholics to understand their roles as missionaries. Of course, this missionary activity should happen in your own community, but all of us also must all be able and willing to carry the Gospel to wider society.

From the pastoral letter:

Finally, Jesus tells them to go to all the nations. No one is to be left out because all peoples deserve to hear this Good News, even when they do not know how much they need it. We should not hold it back only for ourselves; we should not put it under a bushel basket; rather, we need to proclaim this Good News to everyone. We fail Jesus and any person we are close to when we neglect to introduce them to each other.

This is an urgent task. The end of the world will come someday. It rather surprises me that it has not already happened. In fact, one of my daily prayers is that Jesus will come again in glory – and soon. It will happen. Let it not be said by any one of us that we neglected to carry out Jesus’ last command, that we failed to share the greatest gift in the world – the salvation of souls. Even if the world does not end today, an end will certainly come for many people this day and tomorrow. Someone’s eternal life may depend upon it. As St. Paul wrote: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (I Corinthians 9: 16)

Sisters and brothers, it may be that fatigue has settled upon us regarding our faith. We need to wake from that lethargy, not only for ourselves, but for all the nations. (Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord – 6,7)

FAITH: What are you asking of the priests?

Bishop: Really, our priests are responsible for encouraging and supporting this mission. They minister to the spiritual needs of the laity, and are instrumental in the sacramental life of the parish but the primary responsibility of this mission to evangelize lies with the laity.

From the pastoral letter:

As disciples, we need a strong faith and a close relationship with Jesus. Our own community of fellow believers, our parishes, will nourish us for the mission ahead. This is how St. Paul puts it:

And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for, in due season, we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. So that, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:9-10).

This pastoral letter is primarily directed to you, my sisters and brothers, who are members of the Household of Faith. Few who have left the Church or have not really heard of Christ will ever read these words. So we are the ones who must become more engaged in the life of the Church and so help to build up the Body of Christ. Then we can fulfill the mission of Christ to go forth. (Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord – 13,14)

FAITH: How will the diocese support this?

Bishop: The diocese can encourage this process, and provide necessary resources, but this must be accomplished at the local level. People experience the Church through their own community – their parish. It is here that we need to begin – to reach out to those of our family who are no longer present among us in our community life.

FAITH: What will be our biggest challenge?

Bishop: There are several challenges. One is that we need to learn to break out of our normal mode of acting. We have fallen into certain patterns of behavior, and we continue to do them even when they don’t work. We need to find new and creative ways to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.

From the pastoral letter:

We are all to be missionaries. We need to meet people where they are – to value them and their own experiences as preparations to receive the Good News of Jesus Christ. Then, we invite them to Jesus because we believe in this Christian life and we are happy living it. We want to share our joy with others. Just as missionaries of every generation have crossed oceans to bring truth to those who yearn for it, so must we help people see what fulfills the longing of every human heart. Our own witness of how faith in God has made a difference in our lives can demonstrate to others how their own restlessness can be satisfied. Our joy, of course, is the best witness we can give. (Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord – 52)

The second, and most important, challenge is that we all need a deep infusion of courage from the Holy Spirit. we need to pray for that so that we are strengthened to do what needs to be accomplished. Without this guidance from the Spirit, we are merely acting on our own.

FAITH: What gives you hope?

Bishop: What gives me the most hope is the sure knowledge that this is the will of Christ. Jesus wants us to go forth and has promised us help. I believe this great renewal in the Church will happen if we pray, open ourselves to God and give ourselves to the task.

From the pastoral letter:

In addition, this solemn gathering of the Church of the Diocese of Lansing will be an opportunity for the celebration of our faith and a public renewal of that faith, to “profess our faith in the Risen Lord in our cathedrals and in the churches of the whole world” as Benedict XVI has requested (Porta fidei, 8). (Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord – 67)

FAITH: In your pastoral letter you talk about the task force you appointed to study this issue. What are the fruits of that group?

Bishop: It served the primary purpose of getting us moving, helping us break out of a pattern, getting us to stop doing the same things we’ve always done that are no longer working. I am grateful to them for all their help.

FAITH: As we prepare for the 75th anniversary of the diocese, how are your challenges different from those of the first bishop?

Bishop: I don’t think much about the differences in the challenges, but I believe our blessings are even greater than what Bishop Albers had when this diocese started. We have a wonderful group of priests, and great people working in our parishes. I think we are very fortunate.

FAITH: The pope has proclaimed a year of faith for the whole Church and you are calling for a diocesan year of prayer to accompany that. What should people do for the Year of Faith/Year of Prayer?

Bishop: I think that the aim of our prayers should be to beg the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with that missionary zeal. And through that, we can be renewed and reconverted. We need to be a beacon of light to the world, not hidden under a bushel basket. All of that can only be accomplished with the Holy Spirit.

From the pastoral letter:

Jesus calls us his friends. Friendship is built on communicating with one another. Prayer is communicating, and so we need to pray. However, Jesus cannot tell us how much he and his Father love us unless we stop and listen to him first. One of the most beautiful images in the New Testament is of Jesus knocking on our doors and waiting outside for us to let him in (Revelation 3:20). He does not want to barge in. Real love, his love, always respects our freedom. And in our noise-filled world, his gentle rap at the door can sometimes seem no louder than a small whispering wind (I Kings 19:11-13).

We also need to pray because the task ahead is daunting. In begging for God’s help, we acknowledge that what we cannot do ourselves can be accomplished by the grace of God. How else can we be moved from lethargy to an active faith? How else will we have the courage to conquer the world with love and the Word of God? Prayer is opening that door so that God’s will may be done in our lives. God will then reign in our hearts and not just in our heads. Then we can become “living stones” in God’s “spiritual house.” (Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord – 16-17)

There will be several Masses, penance services that are on a diocesan level, but most of these things will need to be local. My hope is that all diocesan events will take on the prayer for courage.

FAITH: What do you think the next 75 years will look like?

Bishop: Seventy years from now, someone not even born yet will be the bishop. Men not yet born will be the priests. I hope people will look at this time period and say that this diocese was and is a great sign of the presence of the Church in our world, that we opened ourselves to God’s grace and allowed that to shine in our midst. Throughout history, there have been several great religious awakenings, and they have been primarily Protestant. I would like people to think this was a time of great awakening in the Church and that we were central to it.

From the pastoral letter:

Recently, there has been a real flowering of new kinds of witnessing to Jesus. These are often called ecclesial movements or new communities in the Church. Again, these are not programs, but commitments – choices made by individuals to engage Christ in common with others. These communities, whose only purpose is to build up the Body of Christ, are the result of the ever-creative energy of the Holy Spirit. ...

Of course, the most fundamental ecclesial movement should be each parish. Thus each parish must, above all else, beg for God’s grace and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, especially as that parish gathers in the Lord’s Upper Room every Sunday to sing and pray with great joy. In that assembly, we await the gifts of God that will help us be the people we were created to be and the people we long to be for the salvation of the world. (Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord – 32-33)