Maybe it’s because spring is finally in the air, but I feel a great spiritual ferment bubbling up throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Everywhere, Catholics of all ages and backgrounds seem to be asking the same questions and making similar observations.

How can I live my faith more deeply and passionately? How can we reach out to all the inactive Catholics? The church is going through difficult times, but we will emerge stronger. I like the great example of Pope Francis and the energy he brings. I know God is calling me to something deeper, but I don’t know what that is.  

Among the Year of Faith, the call for the new evangelization, planning for the future of the archdiocese, and the election of the new pope, many local Catholics are thinking about and practicing their faith with new ardor, creative imagination and holy zeal.

I sense a general perception that we know it can’t be business as usual regarding our Catholicism, if we hope to contribute to the flourishing of the church in southeastern Wisconsin.

At the risk of failing to mention hundreds of worthy examples of local Catholics flourishing, I would like to point out a few activities, movements, ideas that really capture my admiration and imagination.

The Office for the New Evangelization, headed by Rich Harter, is organizing evangelization teams in parishes, offering retreat days, workshops and formation to help Catholics to better witness their faith to others.

ARISE, a regular spiritual gathering for people of all ages, offering preaching, reconciliation, music and eucharistic adoration, is regularly attracting hundreds of people.

The Milwaukee Black Catholic Commission is working hard to evangelize and sustain African-Americans in their faith through a variety of programs and events.

“Sustaining the Mission,” a formation experience for Catholic school teachers, sponsored by our schools office and implemented by the St. Clare Center of Cardinal Stritch University, is grounding our educators in a deeper sense of the Catholic faith.

The vocations office, led by Fr. Luke Strand, is offering prayer, service and fellowship opportunities for young people as they discern their vocations within the church. Many people are inquiring about the priesthood and religious life.

The Hispanic Ministry Plan continues to gain traction and velocity as it moves into the implementation stage. Recently, 800 Hispanics participated in a retreat day at Cousins Center prior to Holy Week.

Utilizing new opportunities, the Catholic Stewardship Appeal continues to reach more local Catholics with a great message regarding opportunities to support the vital ministries of our local church, with great success.

The Nazareth Project, headed by Lydia LoCoco, reaches out to the engaged, the married, parents and families with challenging, meaty and inspiring formation regarding the beauty of human life, sexuality and marriage.

The St. Vincent de Paul Society has more members in the archdiocese than ever before, as these servants of the poor continue their compassionate and dynamic work.  

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal is reaching out to new generations to experience the power and dynamism of the Holy Spirit.

Thousands of local Catholics are meeting in prayer groups, study sessions, going on mission trips, offering volunteer service, speaking up for prison reform, serving the needs of women in crisis pregnancies, feeding families, reading the Bible, examining the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the documents of Vatican II, catechizing our youth.  

As I behold this moment in our local church, I am filled with hope and gratitude. Despite all of the problems and challenges, there are inspiring disciples of all ages who carry the torch of faith with confidence, embrace the work of the Gospel with generosity and serve the needs of others with sacrifice.

It is so easy to focus on the negative, to point out what is wrong and lacking, what needs to be fixed, but just take a look at what is right! Praise God!