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Building parishes with living stones

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

Nov. 19, 2014

As you know, one of our Diocesan Priorities is Building Parishes with Living Stones.  Relying on God’s Spirit, we seek to make our parishes outward-looking families of faith. 

Parishes are more than obligatory sacramental fueling stations.  What happens inside the sacred walls must inform what we do outside of them..

Through our own faith-filled lives, we seek to point out the way to Christ and keep hope alive for others. 
Last week, I joined Bishops from all across the country for the annual plenary assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore, MD.  As we addressed one agenda item after another, it became clear to me that our diocesan priority, Building Parishes with Living Stones, is a priority well beyond our diocesan borders. 

At the sessions, we received reports about our Catholic Church’s outreach of humanitarian care and peace-making efforts to peoples around the world.

For instance, we learned of the love and support offered by Catholic Relief Services in Syria, Ukraine, and East Africa. 

We heard about the tremendous assistance that the Church is giving to those suffering from the Ebola disease and were told of the great help we offered to those who suffered through last year’s devastating typhoon in the Philippines. 

Our contributions to such national and special appeals make such a difference in the lives of so many.

Although more sensational “news” seems to grab the headlines along with some of the media’s spin and comment, I was reminded last week of our Church’s ongoing global efforts to practice what we preach.

We know that, although the scale is much reduced, such generous pastoral outreach is common within our own diocese, as well. 

Respecting the Gospel values of respect for the dignity and sanctity of all human life, and charity and justice for every person, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Ogdensburg has been responding to the needs of the most vulnerable members of our communities for the last ninety-seven years.  In addition to its counseling services, Catholic Charities’ outreach services include:  adoption, community & Parish services, financial assistance, long-term Ombudsman Program, Parenting Classes, Maternity Services, Offender Accountability Groups, Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, Seaway House, among so many others.

Check out their website for more information at: www.cathcharities.org.

Some of our parishes manage soup kitchens, outreach centers and clothing stores.  Local St. Vincent de Paul stores, parish and local community food pantries and organizations such as the Catholic Daughters of the Americas, Knights of Columbus and Women’s Auxiliaries, to name just a few, help to build up local parishes with Living Stones. 

In his Motu Proprio, “On the Service of Charity,” Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “The service of charity is a constitutive element of the Church’s mission and an indispensable expression of her very being…all the faithful have the right and duty to devote themselves personally to living the new commandment that Christ left us” (Benedict XVI, On the Service of Charity, Intro.)

As we gear up for another season of consumer frenzy, we might consider how we might respond to our personal duty of charity. 

How can I make my faith come alive?  For every ten dollars I spend giving gifts to loved ones, I might consider giving one dollar to someone in need or to an institution that serves the needy. 

Many of those who receive material gifts from us have problems finding enough places to put them all.  For every hour I spend at the movies or watching a football game, I might consider spending some time visiting a neighbor or family member who is in the nursing home, is homebound or hospitalized.   

Such outward-looking charity transforms us.  The movement from self-absorption to other-centeredness is the mark of spiritual growth.

Many of us will join our parish or other organizations in preparing Thanksgiving or Christmas baskets to give to others.  We are grateful for such assistance.

Real spiritual growth is evidenced when such a good charitable gesture becomes not only a seasonal activity but a life-long attitude of looking for ways to extend ourselves to others in need.

Such charity gives substance to our personal relationship with Jesus.

Pope Francis wrote, “The planet belongs to all mankind and is meant for all mankind; the mere fact that some people are born in places with fewer resources or less development does not justify the fact that they are living with less dignity.” (Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 190)

As our worship in Church motivates even greater attentiveness to the respect due every person, we are becoming living stones that breathe care and hope into the lives of other children of God.  

Thank you for making this a priority in your life and for setting your own personal goal in helping to build your parish with Living Stones.

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