Seek ye first the Kingdom of God
In plain and beautiful words, we allow the Kingdom of God to come first in our lives. This is pretty much evident in so many of the affairs of the archdiocese these days. We are currently in difficult financial straits. There are many places where we have been told to “cut back” in our spending and budgeting by our finance council. Belt-tightening and budget consciousness requires a great amount of discipline. We have chosen to cut in some internal ways as opposed to cutting ministerial services.
Our ministries to parishes, our multicultural outreaches, and social justice concerns are part of the ways that the Kingdom must be served and our priorities must remain clear. In this area, we remain true to an essential way of serving the Kingdom first, remembering that with God anything is possible, but without him, nothing is possible. Our current ministries for the sake of the Kingdom are developing fully and the spiritual life of his church in southeastern Wisconsin continues to be the first priority.
Strengthening our Parishes
One of the first places one encounters the life of grace is in our local parish and through our parish priest. Even though the Priests’ Council cannot meet without an archbishop, the life of the parishes and the consultation with priests goes on. The life of our parishes is extremely important and their growth and development through sound and trustworthy parish priests, deacons, and parish directors moves along well in these days between archbishops. Much of the work begun by Archbishop Dolan, the Priests’ Council, and the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, regarding Vision 21 is still moving ahead. There is relevant dialogue and planning taking place, encouraging parish clustering and collaboration. All of this planning work will be presented to our new archbishop for his review and approval upon his arrival.
Fostering a Sense of Vocation in the Church
The ordination of new priests and the advancement of seminarians to future orders is such a wonderful and fulfilling prospect for the life of the church in our archdiocese. Vocation promotion is a priority on many levels as we see growth in the consideration of priestly and diaconal responses to God’s call. Our women’s and men’s religious communities are also excited about the prospects for future ministry in the archdiocese. There seems to be a conscious effort among the people of the archdiocese to pray for vocations, to consider those who have already responded to priestly and religious vocations as having a valid and good experience – valuable for the human and spiritual dimensions of those involved. And, of course, we witness the ever-increasing involvement of the laity – both as professionally trained and formed ecclesial ministers and as lay volunteers, trustees, parish council members – living their own vocational call to discipleship by their baptism.
Strengthening Catholic Education and Faith Formation
Ever since Archbishop Dolan dreamed of the Faith in Our Future Capital Campaign, Catholic education and Catholic faith formation have been a major emphasis in our archdiocese. This fact has certainly not changed – if anything, it has become a rich source of development, not only financially, but systemically in the planning and growth of programs and joint efforts for education. This includes a revamped and strengthened accreditation program to ensure the academic and religious education for students is top notch. It includes efforts for elementary and secondary education through collaboration with our Catholic colleges and universities. The Greater Milwaukee Catholic Education Consortium (the formal name for this collaborative entity) is creating historic and ground-breaking achievements. Our schools’ office has streamlined its approach for assistance to principals and teachers in the field; new marketing tools are being offered directly through our new school Web site this fall; our Catholic teachers and administrators continue their own professional development in new classes and seminars offered by Cardinal Stritch University and their unique degree and certificate divisions at St. Clare Center for Ministry Formation. All to the benefit of the 30,000-plus children in our Catholic grade schools and high schools.
Emphasizing our Mission of Justice and Charity
During the past few months, especially in an effort to “seek first the Kingdom of God,” we have been striving for greater participation in the creation of commissions to fulfill the mandate of Vision 21 and expanding the archdiocesan outreach in multi-cultural areas. Our office for Catholic Social Action works diligently to promote Catholic Social Teaching in the archdiocese. Our parish human concerns committees form our grass-roots response to those in need in every part of southeastern Wisconsin. Respect Life efforts have been reorganized under the Nazareth Project and emboldened with renewed energy to address the ever-growing threat to the most vulnerable in our society. The efforts and outreach of Catholic Charities, provides resources in the areas of adoption, counseling, immigration, adult care and
family ministry, and so much more.
In the area of stewardship, we continue to make progress, albeit slowly, in the Faith In Our Future Capital Campaign. This is an area of particular concern, however, since so many people are experiencing financial privation. In addition, I might note a bit of a malaise that has crept into the campaign, perhaps due to the financial woes of so many, but perhaps due to the fact that some consider the absence of Archbishop Dolan a sufficient reason to put off the campaign altogether. My sense is that there is tremendous good will among our people, but times, being what they are, place limits. One area that is suffering however, is the annual Catholic Stewardship Appeal. Although our people are historically generous, this year’s appeal is down $400,000 and the slump will make “belt-tightening” a bit more severe for the coming year. The CSA funds the important and necessary work of the archdiocese. We are hoping (and praying) there may still be some time for positive change for the appeal.
All in all, there is good news here and we are moving along fairly well. I encourage you to continue to attend Mass regularly, pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, pray for your priests, deacons, lay leaders, and participate in parish and diocesan programs that build up our common work for the Kingdom of God.
As we pray for a new archbishop, it is truly the work of each one of us to prepare him/her self for a personal renewal through prayer, penance and attention to the life of grace. Let us make sure that we present ourselves ready for action and in love with the church when the Lord presents a new shepherd for us. In the meantime, keep your eyes on our priorities and be of good cheer.