Help in answering important Catholic questions

In a January article in the West River Catholic, Father Michel Mulloy described how the Diocesan Priority Plan and Stewardship Initiative are actually two sides of same coin.

“The Diocesan Priority Plan and the Stewardship Initiative  are two ways of expressing the same mission. First of all both are grounded in a relationship with Jesus. A relationship with Jesus is what drives us and shapes the rest of our life,” he wrote. “At the heart of being a disciple is meeting Jesus. Once this happens, everything in life flows from and leads to that relationship. We encounter Jesus in prayer, in the sacraments and in those who have already encountered him.”

The important questions we must constantly ask ourselves are these:

  • How are we encountering the person of Christ and what difference is our relationship with Jesus making in our lives?
  • Are we more loving, more forgiving, more joyful, more truthful, in our actions and in our words?
  • Do people see Jesus in us?
  • Are they attracted to Jesus because of the way we live out our lives in love?
  • Have we truly trusted our lives to Christ?

These are the questions that the Stewardship Initiative and the Diocesan Priority Plan continue to lay before our eyes and our hearts. Do we know Jesus and have we given our total life to him?

There are some alarming statistics that say we do not know Jesus as we should personally know him as our Lord, Savior and friend. For instance, Sherry Weddell in her book “Forming Intentional

Disciples” writes: “The majority of adult Catholics are not even certain that a personal relationship with God is possible.”

Pope St. John Paul II in “Catechesi Treadendae” (On Catechesis in Our Time) writes: “It is possible for baptized Catholics to be still without any explicit personal attachment to Jesus Christ; they only have the capacity to believe placed within them by baptism and the presence of the Holy Spirit.”

Brandon Vogt in his book, “Return: How to Draw Your Child Back to the Church,” reports that 79 percent of former Catholics leave the church before age 23 (Pew Research) and 50 percent of millennials raised Catholic no longer identify as Catholic today, i.e., half of the babies you’ve seen baptized in the last 30 years, half of the kids you’ve seen confirmed, half of the Catholic young people you’ve seen get married.

The Office of Stewardship is fighting back against these alarming statistics that hinder and plague our families, our parishes and our diocese when it comes to knowing and living Christ in our lives. By lifting up the Diocesan Priority Plan and the Stewardship Initiative, the Office of Stewardship is working to help form the Catholic imagination in Western South Dakota.

Bishop Robert Morneau, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, remarked: “Whoever forms the imagination forms a culture.” At this point, it seems that the secular media is doing a much more effective job of forming our imagination than Christ and his Church are doing. This seriously impedes people’s ability to develop a personal relationship with Jesus.

As a way to support families, parishioners and parishes in our diocese living Christ more intentionally, we will be

hosting a Stewardship Leadership Training, Friday and Saturday, June 15 and 16, at Terra Sancta with Chris Stewart and Tony Brandt of Casting Nets Ministries.  You might recall that Chris and Tony were here for last year’s Summit and their presentations were very well received.

Chris and Tony have generously agreed to develop this training specifically for us as a way to help all of us understand and implement the Stewardship Initiative and the Bishop’s Priority Plan, and through them help our parishes become more vibrant and meet more fully the needs of the people in our communities.

In addition to giving participants practical tools to help them in their role as parish leaders, this training will be directly tied to the Summit Conference to be held Friday and Saturday, Sept. 21-22. Participants will be asked — and trained — to personally invite other parishioners to the Summit.

The Summit is being re-designed to focus on encouraging a personal encounter with Christ. It will include inspirational talks, adoration, Mass and generous times for confession, as well as a healing service.

Those leaders who participate in the training in June will be encouraged to accompany parishioners to the Summit and also to provide follow-up afterward by inviting participants to become more involved in the parish — to attend a Bible study, prayer group or class in the parish which will help them to deepen their discipleship.