November is truly a special month for us as Roman Catholics but also Americans. To begin with, National Vocational Awareness will be celebrated Nov. 5–11, which is a week-long celebration dedicated to promoting vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life through prayer and education, and to renew our prayers and support for those who are considering one of these particular vocations.
I have been blessed to attend a St. Andrew Dinner on two occasions. These are dinners for young men of high school and college age who are discerning a possible vocation to the priesthood. Both times we had 20 or more young men attend them. Recently I learned that the Poor Clares have a new postulant and some other young women are considering becoming postulants. With 19 men in formation for the priesthood for the diocese and numerous others discerning a possible vocation to the priesthood and religious life, your prayers are bearing much fruit!
On Sunday, Nov. 19, we will celebrate the World Day of the Poor. It was established by Pope Francis in 2017 to celebrate the end of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. The theme for World Day of the Poor 2023 is a passage from the Book of Tobit: “Do not turn your face away from anyone who is poor.”
Pope Francis wrote that “The poor are the true treasures of the Church.” I doubt that many people look at the poor in this way. Yet if we have been awakened to the presence of Christ in his many disguises, he prefers to appear as a poor person. In his day, only the poor, the “humiliati,” would give him a hearing, not the elite, the wealthy or the powerful. While a pastor in Portland, Oregon, we had a team that took food to the nearby homeless encampments every Saturday, and on occasion I joined them. To share a meal and conversation with the people there changed me. You could sense, underneath the guise of a poor man or woman, the living presence of Christ. I invite all of us to find ways to connect with Christ in the poor, especially through Catholic Charities and other service organizations that serve the most vulnerable of our diocese.
Sharing a meal with the poor naturally turns our minds and hearts to ponder Christ in the Eucharist, who is bread for the world. In this Parish Year of the Eucharistic Revival, we’ve been renewed in our appreciation for the sacrament that is the source and summit of our lives. I’m pleased to inform you that all the parishes will receive my first pastoral letter on the Eucharist, just in time for Advent. I hope that you enjoy it.
Finally, I want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving! I know that it is hard to witness so much division in our country and a growing collective sense of fear and mistrust. Having lived overseas, I want to remind people that for all of our challenges, we live in a privileged land where our democracy guarantees us certain rights and freedoms that many people in the world do not enjoy. We people of faith are called to serve the common good and to uphold those values and principles that have their roots in Catholic social teaching. We have so much to be grateful for each day, as individuals and as one nation under God. Might you consider, as part of the prayer portion of the meal, asking those who wish to share one reason as to why they are thankful on Thanksgiving Day? You’ll be touched by the responses!
Yours in Christ, Bishop Patrick M. Neary, C.S.C.