Pastoral Center plans take shape

 

May 15, Chancery employees Mark Hazel, facilities director; and Deacon Greg Sass, Director of the Permanent Diaconate and Lay Ministry Formation; review the preliminary plans for remodeling the former credit union. (WRC photo)



At the end of March, Bishop Robert Gruss purchased the building vacated by a local credit union. (WRC photo)



Susan Safford, Michael Wilhelmi, Dottie Borowski, Tammi Williams and Dionne Eastmo check out the future copy/server spaces. (WRC photo)

Living the Mission 
By Fr. Michel Mulloy, Vicar General

In January the West River Catholic broke a story about the new diocesan pastoral center. The Diocese of Rapid City purchased the former Black Hills Federal Credit Union building on the east end of Main Street in March. Although the original plans, developed before the Living the Mission Campaign started in the diocese, called for a new Pastoral Center to be built on the campus of Terra Sancta, Bishop Robert Gruss did not stop looking for a suitable facility that would house the chancery staff. The credit union building has adequate space.

The credit union has moved to their new location. The bishop, vicar general, Chancellor Margaret Simonson and the Chief

Finance Officer Rick Soulek have been meeting with ARC International, an architecture firm. The diocese also hired Rangel Construction to manage the renovation. This group is working on the plans for remodeling this newly acquired facility so that it will best accommodate the chancery staff. The first draft of the renovation plan was shared with the full chancery staff to receive their input. Once the design is complete, the remodeling will begin. The projected date for the construction to commence is mid-August.

The building has two floors and a half basement. The basement  will  be  used  primarily for housing the archives of the diocese. These are all the records, both historical and financial, dioceses are required to keep.

The first and second floors will have enough offices for the chancery staff, currently about 40 employees, as well as a few extra offices for possible expansion of one department or another. Most of these offices are already in place. A section of the second floor that was previously filled with moveable cubicles will be converted to permanent offices.

The second floor will also have a small chapel. There are two reasons for this. First and foremost, a place to gather for Mass and prayer is a strong reminder to the chancery staff that our work is grounded in our diocesan mission to attract and form disciples of Jesus who want to live and proclaim the Gospel. In addition, the chapel will be used for daily Mass and times of prayer for the staff.

To accommodate meetings and committee work, the new pastoral center will have conferences and meeting rooms. Some of these already exist and some will be added during the remodeling process.

The design is simple and functional. This will be the place from which the bishop and his staff reach out in service to the diocese, that is, to all of us. Plans include ways to reflect the whole diocese in the artwork of the new Pastoral Center.

As you think about and reflect on your contribution to the Living the Mission Campaign, realize that the bishop and his staff are working to use the gifts that have been offered well. The diocese needs a new pastoral center and the purchase of this credit union facility will allow us to realize that aspect of the case elements in the campaign in a cost-effective way. 

Central Plains Commission established to best minister in prairie area

The Central Plain Commission is examining the spiritual needs of 14 parishes.

By Father Michel Mulloy, Vicar General

A couple months ago, a group of parishioners for the parish clusters of Eagle Butte, Timber Lake and Faith began meeting. Bishop Robert Gruss asked that the central area of the diocese go through a process of reflecting on how to best serve the needs of the parishioners in that area. This same process was employed across the northern tier of the diocese (the parish clusters of Buffalo, Lemmon, and McLaughlin) a few years ago. The result was a renewed vision of ministry and a reorganization of the alignment of the parishes in that area.

The Central Plains Commission has met three times. There are a total of 18 lay representatives for the three parish clusters as well as three pastors. I am facilitating the process. The first order of business was to develop a mission statement, so the commission members had a clear understanding of their task. We engaged this process by looking at the Diocesan Priority Plan. Any ministry in the diocese, whether in a commission like this one, or in an individual parish, must be guided by the mission statement, values and foundational ministers of the whole diocese as expressed in the Priority Plan. The Central Plains Commission’s mission statement is:

The Central Plains Commission will use our faith, knowledge of our communities and our commitment to develop a plan for bold, effective ministry in our area of the diocese, to meet the spiritual needs of all and to

inspire and motivate their  joyful living of the mission of Jesus Christ.

In addition to crafting this mission statement, the commission has begun to collect data about the 14 parishes that make up this area. This data includes the number of parishioners and their involvement in the life of their parish and the diocese. We are also trying to understand future needs.

The commission has had conversations about the faith life of the parishioners in these 14 parishes.  They have begun formulating what bold and effective ministry looks like and exploring the spiritual needs of the parishes that are represented on the commission. We have also begun assessing ways the individual parishes already have meaningful ministry and where it is lacking.

The commission members are listed here. You are welcome and encouraged to visit with them to understand their work and to have your questions answered regarding creating and implementing a plan for bold, effective ministry in the central plains for all who live in that part of the diocese. Your input will be most appreciated.

Lynn Hahne, Trail City

Jim Keller, Trail City

Bryan Gill, Timber Lake

Marlene Biegler, Timber Lake

Marcia Lindskov, Isabel

Mary Harris, Isabel

John D. Lemke, Dupree

Twila Schuler, Dupree

Nila Woodward, Dupree

Bud Neigel, Eagle Butte

Dean Schremp, Eagle Butte

Sylvia Mowrer, Promise

Ryan Tate Dennis, Red Owl

Dannie Arneson, Red Owl

Deacon Larry and Valarie Brown, Faith

Bob and Jennifer Orwick, Mud Butte

Fr. Brian Lane, Timber Lake Cluster

Fr. Bryan Sorensen, Eagle Butte Cluster

Fr. Janusz Korban, Faith Cluster

What is the relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

By Fr. Michel Mulloy, Vicar General

The Year of the Eucharist will begin on June 23, 2019.  I thought it would be good to share with you some insight concerning the celebration of the Eucharist.

I think we need to begin by asking, why do I go to Mass? Years ago, a professor answered that question in a way that was clear and simple. We go to Mass to encounter God. We are seeking an experience of God. The bishop’s pastoral letter reminded us that God is also seeking an experience with us. We often speak of this desire on our part and on God’s part as encountering Jesus. So how do we encounter God (Jesus) in the Mass? The answer to that question will take a while to unpack but it is worth the journey. We begin in the depth of God as Jesus revealed God to us.

In our faith tradition, our understanding of God is that there is one God in three divine persons. There has been a lot of ink spilled over trying to explain that understanding. Every explanation is bound to be incomplete in some way and yet each explanation can open new insight for us as well. This is the insight I have learned over the years. For some of you reading this, my insight will be familiar. For others it will be new. For all of us, I believe it bears repeating.

I believe that Jesus told us two things about God. First, in God there is real relationship. In other words, within the life of God there is a dynamic dialogue, an interaction, a communication between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Second, Jesus told us that this real relationship is so complete and so intimate, that there is a total oneness in Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There are parameters for thinking about and speaking about the Trinity. So, what does this relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit look like? How can we characterize it in a way that makes sense?

To answer this question, we need to look at Jesus’ life. God became man in Jesus of Nazareth. We can then assume that the way Jesus the Son related to God the Father in his life on earth reflects the relationship within God. Jesus’ life is best understood as sacrifice. In his life and ministry on earth, Jesus sacrificed himself to God the Father. This was made clear in his death on the cross. His words in the garden express the essence of his life. “Father … not my will but yours be done,” (Lk 22:42). Jesus’ relationship to the Father was one of sacrificial giving.

Jesus lived this life of sacrifice through, with and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit, Jesus was conceived. Through the Spirit, he was gifted with wisdom and teaching authority. The Spirit descended on him at his baptism and he lived his public life in the power of the Holy Spirit. Finally, in his death, he gave us his Spirit. The Holy Spirit enabled and empowered Jesus to give himself to the Father.

The Father’s response to his Son’s sacrifice was to give life back to the Son. Both at Jesus’ baptism and at the transfiguration, Jesus is revealed as the beloved Son. The Father’s pleasure in his Son’s life and teaching enlivened Jesus’ life on earth. Ultimately, the Father gave life back to his Son in the resurrection.

The relationship of God reflected in Jesus is one of mutual giving. The Son sacrifices his life to the Father. The Father responds by giving the Son new life. The Holy Spirit empowers this exchange as the advocate, the counselor, the guide.

If this is confusing, I would encourage you to read it again. Our understanding of God is vital for us to understand how we encounter Jesus and his Father in the Eucharist. We will continue these reflections in the coming months of the Year of the Eucharist. Consider clipping this article out and saving it as a reference for future months.

God’s plan turns out much better than we can imagine

St. Thomas More High School students Ian Krump, Patrick Kellar, Rose Wingert and Liam McGuire mix cement for a new sidewalk at the Mustard Seed Community in Jamaica. (Courtesy photo)

 

This past Holy Week, I was blessed to be part of the St. Thomas More Mission trip to the Mustard Seeds Communities in Jamaica. One of the great lessons I had to relearn once again is that I need to trust God completely in his plan for our mission trip.

No matter how much we organized and planned out our trip, in the end, God’s plan would turn out much better than we could have imagined. It takes eyes of faith to see God’s plans unfold before us and one thing is for certain: “There are no coincidences with God.”

We left for Jamaica on Saturday, April 13, and spent over seven hours in the Rapid City airport waiting for the thunderstorms in the Dallas area to subside. We finally made it to Dallas that evening but missed our flight to Montego Bay, Jamaica. The earliest they could re-book us was Monday morning. We prayed as a group in the Dallas airport asking that Jesus and Our Lady would provide for a way out of the predicament in which we found ourselves.

We ended up staying at a hotel and renting four vans for our unplanned “layover” in Dallas. Mary Casey, one of the adult leaders, received a text message from a friend of hers encouraging us to go to the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas for Mass, and we decided to go to the Abbey for Palm Sunday Mass after viewing beautiful pictures on their website, even though it meant driving past a parish only minutes from our hotel.

When we reached the Abbey, Abbott Peter happened to catch sight of us as we were coming in. He made sure to officially welcome us at the opening of the Mass and then had Father Anthony give us a tour of the Abbey afterward. Father Anthony’s parents, who happened to be at Mass as well, went and bought donuts for us while we were taking a tour of the Abbey.

As an extra bonus to our time at the Abbey with the monks, we were treated to three amazing vocational testimonies by Father Anthony, Brother Christopher and Abbott Peter. It was truly a grace-filled time at the Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas and so unexpected. Thank you, Lord!

St. Thomas More High School has been sending students on mission trips to the Mustard Seed Communities for the last six years. Mustard Seed Communities began in 1978 as a home for a handful of children with disabilities who had been abandoned to the streets of Jamaica.

Today, MSC provides loving and lifelong care to over 600 children and adults with disabilities, children affected by HIV/AIDS, and young mothers in crisis across Jamaica, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

As we started the trip, I asked our students and adult leaders to name a desire of their hearts, to ask from Jesus a grace that they wanted him to do for them while on this mission trip. Alissa Stephens, a junior, shared this desire of her heart:

“I began to pray about what it was that God wanted me to get from this trip. Eventually, I realized what I desired was a deeper appreciation for the dignity that exists in every human being that I encounter.

“Throughout this trip, I spent numerous hours with the mentally and physically handicapped residents of the Mustard Seed Communities, and it was through doing this that I was able to see God’s love constantly at work in them and in all the members of the mission team.

Stephens continued, “Prior to the trip, I struggled with being able to look at a certain people around me and see God in them, but now it is much easier for me to recognize God’s presence in almost every person that I encounter.

“This trip was an amazing opportunity for me to serve others and at the same time,  grow in my own spiritual life. I can’t wait to continue spreading this newfound love that I acquired while in Jamaica.”

Spreading this newfound love is at the heart of a missionary disciple who has encountered the person of Jesus. Pope Francis writes in his encyclical “The Joy of the Gospel”:

 

At the end of the mission trip, we presented each of our young missionary disciples with the Mustard Seed Cross as a reminder to them to proclaim and live Jesus Christ and to see Christ in one another. The Mustard Seed Cross is indispensable to its mission and graces each of their community chapels. They describe it in this way:

“The transparent figure of Jesus represents the risen Christ and the barbed wire cross stands for the sufferings of the world. This unique work symbolizes the hope the resurrected Christ brings to those who may feel trapped by the barbed wires of fear, poverty, injustice, illness, or despair. It is particularly vivid when viewed as dawn breaks during early morning prayer in the Chapel. In the darkness, the cross is the only part that is visible, but as the light grows the body of Jesus becomes more apparent, reinforcing Christ as the light amidst the darkness of our lives and as Light of the world.”

When we returned from our mission trip, I noticed that several of our students were wearing their Mustard Seed Crosses to school, among them Joe Hanson and Michael Eastmo. I asked Joe, who will be entering the seminary this fall for our diocese, about the wearing of the Mustard Seed Cross. Joe responded, “I haven’t taken it off. It serves as a constant reminder to me of our trip and why I went on it.”

I pressed Joe a little bit and asked, “Why did you go?” He replied, “I went on this trip to have the opportunity to serve the most vulnerable in Jamaica, but also to help open my eyes to the presence of Christ in those that I am able to serve. This trip really taught me to see Christ in the people that I am gifted with the opportunity to serve.”

Besides hanging out with the residents, we also engaged in several work projects: painting some residents’ homes, building a sidewalk, hanging doors, putting screens on windows and purchased and built two personal energy transportation hand carts.

In visiting with Mary Casey, who has coordinated several of the St. Thomas More mission trips and helped this past year, she said she would be willing to be the contact person and help to coordinate any groups  looking for a mission trip experience. She can be contacted at: mcasey@rccss.org.

In the words of Pope Francis: “So what are we waiting for?”

 

 

The Announcement of the Year of the Eucharist

“Once you understand the Eucharist, you can never leave the Church. Not because the Church won’t let you, but because your heart won’t let you.”

We just recently celebrated the greatest event in human history — the depth of the Father’s love for us in the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In giving away his Son, the Father’s only and deepest desire was and is to have a relationship with those whom he has called his own — each and every one of us.

As the mystical body of Christ, in our Catholic communities, each week we gather to experience this reality in the celebration of the most holy Eucharist. Far from being merely an event that we attend, it is here, in this sacramental moment, where each of us is drawn into this great mystery of love.

In order to draw us more deeply into this mystery, I have called for a Holy Year of the Eucharist in the Diocese of Rapid City. Unlike recent holy years, such as the Year of Faith and the Year of Mercy, this was not initiated by the Holy Father for the Church around the world. It is intended to invite each of us in western South Dakota to a deeper experience of encounter with Christ.

Because sin has entered into the world, humanity has fallen far from God’s graces, keeping us from that original holiness and thus subjecting us to “eternal” death. Our Catholic faith proclaims a “good news” and gives us an answer of hope that death does not have the last word. God’s compassion toward us and his mercy are infinite. “But God has proved his love for us. While we were still sinners Christ was sent into the world by the Father to die for us. How much more then, since we are now justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath (Rom 5:8-9).”

Through his death on the Cross, Jesus presented to the Father in heaven his perfect homage and obedience as reparation for humanity’s disobedience and sin. Jesus offered himself on the Cross for each of us, fulfilling his own words, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13). Christ’s complete act of charity towards humanity allows us the opportunity to re-establish an authentic relationship with God and grow towards that original holiness.

This saving action of Jesus Christ is re-presented each time the Eucharist is celebrated. “It is Christ himself, the eternal priest of the New Covenant who, acting through the ministry of the priest, offers the Eucharistic sacrifice. And it is the same Christ, really present under the species of bread and wine, who is the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice.”

The Church fathers of the Second Vatican Council proclaimed that the Eucharistic sacrifice is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” The Church draws her very life from the Eucharist. The other sacraments and all the works of the Church flow from and are directed toward this great mystery.

The Church’s mission, our mission, flows from the mission of Christ: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (Jn 20:21). From the Eucharist, the Church draws her spiritual power and then is sent on mission to “go therefore and make disciples” (Mt 28-19). The Eucharist comes to be “both the source and the summit of all evangelization, since its goal is the communion of mankind with Christ and in him with the Father and the Holy Spirit.”

Our union with Christ in the Eucharist, both a gift and grace, makes it possible for us, in him, to embrace fully his mission of love and mercy. When we come to understand this great mystery celebrated in the Eucharist and participate fully each time we gather, our lives will never be the same. We come to understand more deeply the Father’s love for us in Christ Jesus. Our desire for spiritual union with the Lord deepens. Our own sacrificial love intensifies and expands. Our aspiration to serve the Lord grows. These are the very fruits of our holy Communion.

Dear brothers and sisters, I have often thought of how the Lord Jesus desires to bring us, individually and communally, deeper into this love relationship. When we deeply encounter Love, we are transformed by it, and become like the Lover.

As shepherd of the Diocese of Rapid City, I long to help others come to know and experience Jesus in a more personal and life-changing way, especially through the celebration of the Sunday Mass.

Over the past many years, there has been a decline in Mass attendance around the world. Half of all baptized Catholics in the United States who have left the Church now declare no church affiliation. Every family knows of people who no longer regularly attend Mass or have fallen away from the Church altogether. Perhaps it is because they have no clear understanding of the Eucharist, the Church’s greatest treasure. Or perhaps they came to Mass but did not give themselves over to this beautiful encounter with Love.

If not attended to, our faith can “become like smoldering cinders or embers — weakened by sin and secularism. It must be reawakened, fanned into flame. We must help Christians to encounter once again, this Jesus, especially those who have left the Church.”  The Year of the Eucharist is meant to help awaken the hearts of all Catholics across the Diocese of Rapid City, deepening the desire for Jesus in all of us. Celebrating this Year of the Eucharist is meant to help us come to a deeper understanding, appreciation, and experience of the Church’s greatest treasure.

This Holy Year of the Eucharist will commence on Sunday, June 23, 2019, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, and will conclude on that same Solemnity, Sunday, June 14, 2020.

Over the course of this year, the focus of the spiritual life of the diocese will be oriented towards the importance of the holy Eucharist in our lives as Catholics. All adult and youth religious education will give attention to some aspect of the Holy Eucharist — the Mass, its meaning and importance; Eucharistic Adoration; etc. Materials have been prepared for use in all parishes to help the faithful come to a deeper understanding and experience of this great gift so that the Eucharist will always be held in highest honor, received devoutly and frequently, and worshiped with supreme adoration. These materials will also assist pastors in carrying out their responsibility to teach the faithful diligently about this area of sacramental life.

By giving the Eucharist the prominence it deserves, we will show that we are attentive to the importance of the greatness of this gift Jesus left us. Over the course of this year, we will recall in more intentional ways the central event of history of our Catholic faith — Christ offering himself on the cross, the acceptable sacrifice which is made present each and every time the holy Eucharist is celebrated. This is at the heart of the Gospel and the living

Tradition of the Church. Christ has promised to be with us always (Mt 28:20), and he is to be known, loved and imitated. The holy Eucharist brings us into communion with him, enabling us to live with him in the life of the Trinity, and to not only be transformed by this love, but, with him, to transform the world through our lives made holy by this union.

We must remember that we are never alone because through the humble signs of bread and wine, changed into his body and blood, Christ walks beside us as our food for the journey, strengthening us to become, for everyone, witnesses of love and hope for the world.

As we begin the Year of the Eucharist, let us not forget Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. We ask her to intercede for us and assist us in meeting her Son in the Eucharist.  Every time we approach Jesus in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we turn to her who received the lifeless body of her son, and so received Christ’s sacrifice for the whole Church. In her, the world is renewed in Christ’s love. Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, pray for us.

 

Given in Rapid City, on 27 April, the Vigil of the Second Sunday of Easter, or the Sunday of Divine Mercy, in the year of our Lord 2019, the eighth year of my Episcopacy.

+Most Rev. Robert D. Gruss

Bishop of Rapid City

 

Video of text read by Bishop Gruss:

 

 

Year of the Eucharist

The Liturgy Commission of the Diocese has been working with me to develop a series of short teachings that can be used throughout the Year of the Eucharist in the context of the celebration of the Mass.

Teachings from ‘out of the mouths of babes’

Shawna Hanson, Director Office of Stewardship

 

“Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these,” (Mt 19:14).

There are a group of dedicated disciples who are already meeting to assist the Office of Stewardship in planning the Youth Track for Summit 2019 which will be held on Saturday, September 28. Watching all of their creative ideas come together to create a wonderful day for all of the children who will come is truly a joy.

This year our focus will be on the Eucharist and it has been a real gift to me to experience some of the presentations that are given to our youth as part of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program. C.S. Lewis said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” I think the same holds true for children’s catechesis.  The best lessons are those that are also appreciated by adults. My own faith has been enriched and deepened by these presentations on the Eucharist. They gently and beautifully share the truth of the tremendous gift we have been given and by the time they are finished, my heart has been moved to deep gratitude and wonder.

We often think it is the role of adults to teach children, but in my experience it is children who often teach adults. A very long time ago I read that children are proof that God has not yet given up on us. In the last month three people have shared stories of children with me that both warm my heart and teach me profound truths.

A very dedicated young couple are very actively studying how best to pass on the faith to their eldest son who turned three in December. After learning about a young child’s tremendous capacity for memorization and the benefits to their brain development of doing so, they decided to work with their young son to help him memorize the Baltimore Catechism. They shared this conversation with me:

Mom: Who made you?

3-year old: God

Mom: Who is God?

3-year old: The supreme being who made all things.

Mom: Why did God make us?

3-year old: To share in his goodness and to be with him in heaven

Mom: How do we get to heaven?

3-year old: Uh …on a ladder?

On the Feast of St. Joseph, another mom shared this story:  “This morning I told my 6-year old, Joseph, that today was his feast day.”

Joe: Really? It is my feast day?

Mom: Yes!

Joe: Wow! I have the most powerful saint ever!

Mom: Really? How so?

Joe: My saint was the boss of Jesus!

And finally, a long-time parishioner of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral shared this memory with me recently.  “Many years ago, we were at the 10:30 a.m. Mass and a young family was sitting near the front. Their toddler was being disruptive and finally the father picked him up and started heading to the back of the church down the center aisle.  The young boy exclaimed quite loudly, ‘N-o-o-o! Daddy, don’t spank me!’ His young friend, sitting a few pews behind him, yelled back loud enough for all to hear, ‘We will pray for you!’”

What have I learned from these small disciples? That the God who made all things, the billions of stars we see in the sky down to the smallest flower on earth also made us and desires our happiness both in this world and in the next. This God chose to become man and allowed himself to be put under the authority of mere humans, Joseph and Mary. He died a horrific death on the cross out of love for us and that we might have a reconciled, intimate, covenant relationship with him and he invites us to share that love with our brothers and sisters — to pray and support one another in our times of difficulty and in joy. As Christian stewards we are called to care for the many gifts that God showers upon us, to be grateful and to return those gifts with increase to the Lord, but the greatest gift he showers upon us are children. Let us gratefully receive these gifts, rejoice in them and give our best to lead them into the loving arms of our Father. May you have a joy-filled Easter season! He is truly risen, Alleluia!

Pray together with the pope and our bishop

In the four Eucharistic Prayers that are used at Sunday Mass, we pray for unity and peace, for faith and charity in the church. Together with the pope and our bishop, we ask God the Father to grant us these graces. The four Eucharistic Prayers express our belief that we, the body of Christ, the Risen Lord present in the world today, are united with the Pope and our bishop.

I say “we” because, although the Eucharistic Prayer is vocalized by the priest, we all pray the Eucharistic Prayer through our attentive listening and in the sung acclamations. Together with the priest we are offering this prayer to God the Father through Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.

In the past few weeks I have reflected on this moment in the Eucharistic Prayer. Our church is under attack. Our Holy Father along with bishops throughout our country have been challenged on many levels. To be sure these are difficult times and there are many unanswered questions about serious matters in the church. All the more reason to renew our efforts to pray for this unity in the body of Christ, for the Holy Father, our bishop and bishops throughout the world.

The words of the Eucharistic Prayer are powerful. This is the high point of the celebration of the Mass. We are joining our sacrifice to Christ’s sacrifice. Christ died to bring unity to all people. His first words to his disciples in John’s Gospel when he appeared to them were, “Peace be with you.” Christ desires unity and peace in his church. When we join our sacrifice to Christ’s sacrifice, foremost in our minds and hearts should be His desire of unity. As we pray the Eucharistic Prayer, we believe that God the Father hears our prayer because it is the prayer of Christ himself. Jesus told us that God always hears his prayer.

The Eucharistic Prayer also calls us to action. During the disagreements that will inevitably manifest themselves we are called to exercise charity. In our conversations around the dinner table and the office, we must strive for clarity in the truth and understanding. Sharing our understanding must be united to our listening to others. This is how we arrive at the truth and how the unity for which we are praying will be manifested. I am always grateful when those moments of dialogue happen. This is how God continues to work within us and between us.

Unity will come to the church. May we pray earnestly for this and do our part to ensure the building up of church unity.

I would encourage you to reflect on this the next time you celebrate Mass and hear that part of the Eucharistic Prayer that says: “Be pleased to confirm in faith and charity your pilgrim Church on earth, with your servant Francis our Pope and Robert our Bishop” (EP III) or “Be pleased to grant her (the church) peace, to guard, unite and govern her throughout the whole world together with your servant Francis our Pope and Robert our Bishop.” (EP I)