Linda Oppelt

THE BISHOP'S CROZIER: New beginnings


"And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42) My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

At the end of summer, we usually do not think about new beginnings. That is something we associate with the springtime. However, the end of summer is when families get back into school year routines and parish life kicks back into gear. We come back to a more regular schedule of events and celebrations. 

Something on the schedule this fall for the priests of our diocese is the Fall Convocation. Throughout the year, the priests and I gather to discuss a variety of topics about the life of the diocese, ongoing clergy formation, and just spend time with each other. One of the days in the meeting this October we will be taking some time to pray about liturgical unity and what that means in our diocese. This can be a very sensitive topic for people for different reasons. Since the very beginning of the Church, under the guidance of the apostles, Christian life has centered on celebrating the Lord’s Supper, praying in fellowship with the Lord and each other. In his recent Apostolic Letter Desiderio Desideravi, Pope Francis says “In the Eucharist and in all the sacraments we are guaranteed the possibility of encountering the Lord Jesus and of having the power of his Paschal Mystery reach us.” This is what Mass is about. It is the mystery entrusted to us as stewards. Which means it is about God’s desires for us and our faithful response.

For many Catholics, the most important part of a Mass is how it is celebrated. Rather than ask what the Church wants for the Mass, we can get stuck on our strong personal preferences for one thing or another. The Pope’s letter is worth reading. It warns against reducing the liturgy to “only a careful exterior observance” as much as the danger of confusing “simplicity with a careless banality.” We are called to “rediscover the beauty of the truth of the Christian celebration” as something desired by the Church and the Lord. We must sincerely be open to desire what the Lord desires, which will demand something from each one of us. I think these years of the Eucharistic Revival are a gift from God to pray into this situation and take the time to see what happens.

This is something the priests and I will be praying about at our upcoming convocation. Please encourage and support your parish priests to attend this gathering. It is so important that every priest is heard and that they have a chance to hear each other. Pray also for a spirit of trust and a sincere desire to be good stewards of the sacred mysteries. We are not looking to come to immediate conclusions, just to begin something very important. We will also talk about allowing pastors to restore the common chalice at Masses once more. There is much to say about this and what it takes to make this happen, but I know there are a lot of people asking about this. 

In the second part of this month of September, I will be attending the Formation for New Bishop’s Program. It is also affectionately called “Baby Bishop’s School.” This will bring together in Rome new bishops from all over the world. There will be presentations on things like the ministry of a bishop, canon law, administration, interacting with offices in the Vatican, and some other interesting subjects. As they say, you are never too old to go back to school! I will most enjoy meeting and praying with brother bishops from around the world.

It is amazing to realize that the Lord has called us to guide his Church as successors of the apostles. Please pray for us during this time, that we may grow daily in faithfulness to our calling. Please know of my prayers for you and our diocese during my time away.

I am grateful to serve you in this important and exciting time of the Church. I truly believe that the Lord has made each one of us for this crucial part of the Church’s history and that each of us has a role to play. The more time we spend with our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament praying and listening, the better we can do our jobs as his disciples. At the beginning of the Gospel of John, Jesus called his disciples to come and be with him. Before he sends us out to “go and preach” we first need to “come and see.” Praying and simply being with Jesus is such a high priority for us as disciples. Thank goodness Jesus is ready and waiting for us in every tabernacle in every Catholic Church. As we begin a new school year and establish important routines, make sure regular visits to Jesus are a part of that!

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