What's our part now?
Now we know. Bishop Howard J. Hubbard has announced the new shape of our Diocese.
We know if our parish will close and merge into another, or how it will connect and share services with other parishes. We know the plans that have been developed for each parish to continue and revive its mission.
We also know, despite the pain of losing one in five local churches, that this was done in large part by us. We are the Church. We also are members of the larger society whose shifts and contours affect the Diocese.
We live where we live, we participate as little or as much as we do, we make up the society that has affected our parish, our Diocese and the Catholic Church. Our parishes are as they are because of us, individually and as a whole.
In response to the changing world that we inhabit and create, the Diocese - like many others - initiated the Called to be Church pastoral planning process.
Over the past two or three years, we had our chance to participate. There were committees, town meetings, minority reports and letters.
Notwithstanding any gripes or legitimate grievances, we can still participate. The future is ours.
First, let's reflect on our roles thus far. We may belong to a healthy and happy parish in the suburbs; what did we do for our neighboring parishes in the city which were short people and money? We may belong to a parish that slowly dwindled; did we invite friends and neighbors to join us?
We all suffer from the shortage of priests and nuns; how often, if ever, did we encourage a young man or woman in that direction? Yes, there are many issues, largely demographic, beyond our direct control. But demographic figures derive from the facts of individual lives, such as yours and mine.
This is not to lay blame but to empower and embolden us. If we see clearly what our role was in the past, then we should be able to better play our role tomorrow.
Unhappy that your parish closed for lack of members? Join a new parish and help evangelize lapsed Catholics or people who don't belong to any religion. If we believe in Jesus Christ, and if that has made all the difference in our lives, how could we not share that Good News?
Mad that your voice wasn't heard, that "others" made all the decisions? Get involved now in your parish council and ministries; teach religious education and shape the next generation; speak to your fellow parishioners, pastor and diocesan officials.
Sorry that your parish was not more vibrant and growing? Visit the sick and elderly or those parishioners you haven't seen in a while. When you see a new person, stick out your hand and invite them over for dinner.
Shape your new, merged or linked parish. Who else will?
Many of us are heartbroken, sick with grief, that our beloved church will be no more. The pew where we sat, the aisle we preferred, the smells and sounds we knew, the statue we prayed before - gone, gone, gone.
But the future is ours. We have God's grace and Christ's courage. Faith and acts will carry us to a strong and exciting time for the Diocese and the Church.
"In the world you have tribulation," Jesus assures us, "but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."