CNS PHOTO | GREGORY SHEMITZ
Archbishop Richard Smith issued his new pastoral letter on the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross to highlight that in all we do, we announce the cross of Jesus Christ.
Archbishop Richard Smith is setting evangelization, faith formation and the development of a culture of vocations as the pastoral priorities of the Edmonton Archdiocese for the next several years.
In a pastoral letter released on the Sept. 14 feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, Smith said he wants to let the Catholic faithful know the future direction of pastoral planning in the archdiocese when the Nothing More Beautiful process concludes in the spring of 2013.
“I’ve been talking all along about Nothing More Beautiful as a launching pad for the new evangelization,” he said in a Sept. 12 interview. “The time has come to start planning for what we will be doing at the end of the process.”
The process has already brought great blessings for the archdiocese and it is important to work with those blessings and see how they can blossom in the future, Smith said.
Nothing More Beautiful is a five-year process focused on evenings of reflection and prayer held at St. Joseph’s Basilica. This year’s first event on The Call to Holiness is set for Oct. 27.
The archbishop said he has consulted with the Council of Priests, Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and other organizations in the local Church in charting the way forward from Nothing More Beautiful.
Smith said he issued his pastoral letter on the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross to highlight the mystery of the cross.
“In everything that we’re doing, we are announcing the cross of Jesus Christ – his death, his resurrection and the hope it gives to the world.”
Establishing pastoral priorities will help everyone to think and work in the same direction in the future, he said.
Evangelization must be the first priority, he said. “That’s our raison d’etre. The question is, How do we do it?”
As with the other two priorities, staff of archdiocesan offices will work over the next year, in consultation with others, to develop a plan to implement the general idea, he said.
The first place for evangelization lies in reaching out to Catholics who have left the practice of the faith, Smith said.
“They are our brothers and sisters and this is their home. How do we invite them home and how do we do so in a way that is welcoming?”
The Church needs to find the questions and concerns of those who no longer practise the faith, he said. So often, those concerns revolve around the family.
His own experience in working on the homelessness problem in Edmonton has, he said, led him to understand that many people are homeless because of difficult family situations.
The Church also needs to look at societal concerns involving the economy, ecology, bioethics and youth as places for it to evangelize, he said.
Archbishop Richard Smith
“To do all this effectively as evangelizers, we need to be properly formed in the faith,” the archbishop said, pointing to his second priority.
St. Peter urged the early Christians to always be ready to give an account of the hope that is in them (1 Peter 3.15) and Smith said local Catholics need to help each other to be ready to give that account.
The formation in faith that people need will vary widely, he said. Some may just want to learn more about Catholic teaching, others may need preparation for a particular ministry and still others may strive to become effective lay witnesses to the faith.
The archdiocese will use On Good Soil, a recently developed plan for faith formation developed by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, as its guide in developing archdiocesan programs, Smith said.
The archbishop said evangelization and faith formation require leadership in the Church. That points to the need for a vocations culture in the archdiocese.
While the local Church has a vocations office, fostering vocations is the work of all Catholics, he said. “How do we encourage one another to a life of discipleship?”
Parents, he said, must see themselves as the first vocation directors.
The archdiocese will use the plan on fostering a vocations culture that came out of the 2002 North American Vocations Congress in Montreal that is called Conversion Discernment Mission.
Smith said that as the time for implementing the new pastoral priorities draws near, Catholics should strive to grow in their relationship with the Lord. People in parishes may need help in growing in their life of prayer and in discovering the beauty of the Scriptures.
We can strive “to hear the Lord speak to us in a way that reaches right into the core of who we are.”