Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I recently finished “confirmation season” — the time between February and May when I preside at many confirmations around our diocese. This year, during that time, I visited 22 churches to celebrate confirmation Masses with the young men and women of the area. As I anoint each young person’s forehead with chrism oil, I say: “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.” I also tell them: “Peace be with you.”
The words recall what Jesus says to the apostles when he visits them in the locked room after his resurrection. It’s the Holy Spirit that Jesus breathes on them as he sends them out to preach the Good News. And it’s the Holy Spirit that descends as tongues of fire onto the disciples at Pentecost.
We celebrate Pentecost Sunday — June 9 this year — as the birth of the Church and our mission, as its baptized members, to make Christ known far and wide. It’s the gift of the Holy Spirit that gives us the courage and strength to answer this call. The Holy Spirit is like a “strong driving wind” (Acts 2:2), Pope Francis said in his homily last year on Pentecost Sunday. The Spirit brings change, he said, transforming our hearts and filling our sails with renewed hope. It steers us more closely to God and, at the same time, pushes us to the peripheries to serve the greatest needs of our Church and society.
We face many challenges at this time: creating Area Catholic Communities as a new way to “be Church” in our diocese, addressing ongoing concerns about clergy sexual abuse and accountability, a rash of violence against houses of worship, and persistent attacks on human life and dignity.
“Come, Holy Spirit!” May we all — the newly confirmed and every baptized member of the body of Christ — breathe in the “wind of God” that blew upon the apostles at Pentecost. The Spirit gives us the strength to be authentic witnesses of the Gospel and pursue new ways to revitalize our Church and society.
NEW PAPAL NORMS REGARDING ABUSE
I am grateful to Pope Francis for the document he issued last month responding to the evil of sexual abuse. The norms outlined in “Vos estis lux mundi” (“You are the light of the world”) will ensure that the Church in every part of the world has clear standards and effective procedures to protect minors and vulnerable adults. The norms also require that bishops be held accountable for their actions or inaction regarding abuse allegations. Here in the United States, the norms will build on the good work of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” adopted by the U.S. bishops in 2002. I look forward to beginning the process of implementing the Holy Father’s document and other measures that improve our pastoral response to clergy abuse at the next U.S. bishops meeting June 11-14.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+ Donald J. Kettler