In the Sacred Scriptures the Gospel tells us Jesus first commissioned the Apostles to “Go make disciples.” Then Jesus said, “Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” At one of our parishes on a recent weekend two children were baptized during Mass and began their journey of faith in the Catholic Church. They felt the blessed water claim them as a child of God, and they were anointed by the sacred oil (chrism) Bishop Thomas John Paprocki blessed at the chrism Mass in March. We lit their candle from the Christ candle and placed the white garment upon them. This is all about identity. They now are a son and daughter of God, our brother and sister in Christ, and made holy, clean and pure.
Many young adults, first baptized probably 12 to 13 years ago, now welcome Bishop Paprocki to their parish to confer the holy sacrament of confirmation. Bishop Paprocki recently confirmed 73 well-prepared Catholic youth at our three parishes in Effingham and Shumway. He spoke to the confirmandi about living as a disciple and how Jesus appointed a “further 72.” All three liturgies offered beautiful worship. Bishop Paprocki, our diocesan shepherd, fed us and led us well in prayer. He spoke of a tragic life of a rock singer gone bad, having experienced great pain throughout his life. He quoted a song sung by an artist speaking about how desperately he “wanted to belong.” The rock singer, struggling with pain and despair, eventually took his life by suicide.
Bishop Paprocki encouraged and affirmed the confirmandi that this night the church rejoices in their choice to seek this sacrament, and hence they will become full members in our Catholic Church, a place where they can always realize “they belong,” and they are so very important to our church.
Now given the fullness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, he challenged them, and encouraged the congregations to pray for them in these years ahead to let the Spirit lead them in their choice of a vocation and how they would share their gifts.
Watching Bishop Paprocki “spend himself” in his ministry of being our shepherd, really was impressive and moving. He sang the refrain of the song he quoted, which made the story even more connected to our life experience, especially the lives of our teens and young adults.
He left our community around 7 p.m. for his drive back to the Cathedral. I prayed he could enjoy the ride home with peace and hope for the blessings he shared in his episcopal ministry as our bishop, and as our shepherd, who came to be with us on Good Shepherd Sunday.
Throughout the diocese this weekend some parishes heard of the announcement of priestly assignments which affected their parish priest and parish families. In our parishes three priests were affected by new assignments. Pray for our priests who strive to be “good shepherds.” We are here to help our bishop, and he shows his confidence in us by his assignment of priests to the 129 parishes of our diocese. We will ordain five new priests on May 26 and their appointments are listed in this edition of Catholic Times. In this and upcoming editions of Catholic Times, we will hear about all of the priests, sisters and brothers who serve or have served in our diocese and who are celebrating jubilee years. Pray in thanksgiving that God still cares for us through their ministry and their “yes” to their vocations.
I am one of those priests being assigned. When Bishop Paprocki shared his appointment with me I was humbled, honored, privileged and filled with joy to have received his call. In a way I felt I was being “confirmed” once again. All of us have this opportunity to listen to Christ calling us to ministry. How is Christ calling you? Where and to what ministry is he calling you to say “yes” to?
The church depends on “our” yes to breathe new life into our church families. Let us not be afraid to allow the Holy Spirit’s fire within us to take that step into true intentional discipleship. Amen!