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‘Roll up your sleeves… there’s plenty to do’


By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

July 5, 2017

Bishop LaValley’s homily for the Commissioning of Lay Ministers June 25 at St. Mary’s Cathedral

Pope Francis wrote that “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.”  In his Bishop LaValley Lay MinstersApostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, he goes on “to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.”

As you know, our diocesan priorities are:  Creating a Culture of Vocations; Strengthening Faith Formation in Family Life and Building Parishes with Living Stones.   As we address these priorities we can do so with Gospel joy because each of us has developed an intimate relationship with Jesus.  In a certain sense, these priorities that we have been addressing in our local Church have brought us a new chapter of evangelization, that new path, about which the Holy Father speaks.  We endeavor, with the joy of the Gospel, to be Christ-led, Christ-fed and hope-filled in meeting these important priorities, particularly through the ministries in which we are engaged in our parishes.

Pope Francis pleads with you and me to redouble our efforts to establish a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ.  Unfailingly every day, we want to maintain an openness to letting Him encounter us personally. Whatever acts, whatever ministries in which we are engaged lose their profound soul and are reduced to being mere activism if we are not grounded in that encounter. 

Without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the so-called “Church work” that we do risks becoming a mere façade of faith. The encounter must be the motivating reason for our ministry.   Human relationships lead us toward a relationship with God and our relationship with God leads us back to our neighbor.  This is true whether we are lay commissioned ministers, consecrated religious, deacons, priests or bishop. 

Pope Francis cautions us that “In this period of crisis today, it is important not to turn in on ourselves, burying our own talent, our spiritual, intellectual, and material riches, everything that the Lord has given us, but, rather to open ourselves, to be supportive, to be attentive to others.  Life is not given to us to be jealously guarded for ourselves, but is given to us so that we may give it in turn.”

We are blessed because you have decided to participate in our Formation for Ministry program.  You are allowing the Lord, through His Body, the Church to help equip you for discipleship.  Today, on behalf of the Church of Ogdensburg I send you out for active discipleship in Jesus’ Name.  But the formation must continue.  Prayer must continue.  As the Pope stated, “Without prolonged prayerful encounter with the word, of sincere conversation with the Lord, our work easily becomes meaningless; we lose energy as a result of weariness and difficulties, and our fervor risks dying out.” 

My sisters and brothers in Christ, the Church urgently needs the deep breath of prayer.   That’s how we stay focused as missionary disciples or we risk thinking that the ministry is about me, what I want, what I think, what works for me.  Ours is an ecclesial responsibility.  It’s about the Church, the Body of Christ.  The primary reason for our ministry is the love of Jesus which we have received, the experience of salvation which urges us to ever greater love of Him. 

If we do not feel an intense desire to share this love, we need to pray insistently that He will once more touch our hearts.  We need to implore His grace daily, asking him to open our hardened hearts and shake up our lukewarm and sometimes superficial existence. 

Stand, kneel before Him with an open heart.  Pope Francis said, “How good it is to stand before a crucifix, or on our knees before the Blessed Sacrament, and simply to be in His Presence.  How much good it does us when He once more touches our lives and impels us to share His new life!” 

We win people over to Christ by our Spirit-filled, joy-steeped witness, not by our arguments. 

I am confident that your joy-filled discipleship will be a source of encouragement for those in our parish families who are not currently active because, you see, each of us has a role to play as we live out our vocations in following Jesus.  Each of us has a responsibility to actively address our diocesan priorities.  First and foremost, as the Decree on the Laity teaches, it is in the workplace, in our homes, in our places of relaxation and recreation, in our schools and malls where the lay faithful live out their call to holiness.  Additionally, you who are about to be commissioned lay ministers, will bear the responsibility to help build up the local Church through a focused ministry in your parish in close collaboration with your pastor and parish staff.

The Diocese of Ogdensburg and your home parish are so very proud of your commitment and strong faith. This is not a graduation ceremony, far from it, but a formal, public commitment of your continual discipleship.  Never forget, that you are co-missioned—that is, missioned with your sisters and brothers, members of the one Body of Christ.  We never serve alone.

Thank you for learning more about your faith and committing to sharing it.  The grace you received on the day of your baptism is being embraced and will multiply a hundredfold.  This is truly an inspiring and exciting time for the Church of Ogdensburg. 

We are grateful to your many instructors, to Deacon Pat Donahue for his leadership and our Christian Formation staff; we are grateful to your pastors who support your efforts and your family and friends who gather this day to celebrate this milestone in your faith journey.  There’s plenty to do.  We do it with deep faith, profound joy and unwavering hope in the Lord who beckons each of us:  Follow Me.

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