Put Out into the Deep

A Response to the New Evangelization

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

When the first encyclical of Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei (“Light of Faith”), was signed in June, 2013 on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, our Holy Father presented faith as a light that dispels the darkness and illuminates us.

A few months later, in October, 2013, the final document of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization was presented. The document summarized the New Evangelization as a time of awakening, of new encouragement and new witness that Jesus Christ is the center of our faith and daily life. Truly, it called on every member of the Church to a renewal of faith and an actual effort to share it. I asked myself, how can we as a Diocese fulfill the task set before us in both Lumen Fidei and the Synod’s “road map” for the New Evangelization?

In recent months, I have met with nearly every office in the Diocese. It was my hope that I would gain a greater understanding and appreciation for the large scope of services and ministries that the Diocese supports, particularly in our parishes in Brooklyn and Queens. My intention at the very onset was to discern and decide how we may better support the great work of the Diocese of Brooklyn and our collective goal of the New Evangelization.

One of the defining tenets of Catholicism is that since the apostolic era, men elected to the office of bishop were ordained by the laying on of hands. As such, they stand in a long chain of successors to the apostle-bishops and are the link in the transmission of the faith to successive generations of Christians. We call this teaching apostolic succession, and it means that our faith is grounded in the testimony of the apostles.

A bishop is always elected to a specific place, and that place is called a diocese. In a real way, the bishop is wed to a particular Christian community. What we refer to as “auxiliary” bishops are appointed to a Titular See, a diocese that long ago has been merged and no longer exist independently. As the chief shepherd, the bishop is called in the ordination rite to teach, sanctify and govern the Church in this community.

Naturally, the situation in the early Church was very different than ours today. Bishops governed small communities with initially only a few dozen or a few hundred Christians. As the number of Christians grew, the complexity of coordinating the proclamation of the Gospel increased. In a place such as Brooklyn and Queens, administrative responsibilities are sometimes overwhelming. Yet, evangelization is at the heart of being a bishop.

Pastors of parishes are the primary collaborators of bishops in the work of evangelization. These priests have a special share in the episcopal ministry. Like a bishop, they are responsible for the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments in a specific territory.

The bishop’s Curia shares responsibility for supporting and overseeing the various ministries of parishes. Church law, or what is called Canon Law, requires a basic level of administration. However, we in the Curia must strive to remember that our work in these offices is in support of the parishes and Catholic schools of Brooklyn and Queens.

My hope is that the recent restructuring of the Diocese will enable us to bring greater resources to the work of Evangelization. The Diocese of Brooklyn is not one that is a wealthy diocese in the financial sense. Our parishes operate on budgets that are a fraction of our neighboring dioceses. However, the Diocese of Brooklyn is rich in its people. The ministry here in Brooklyn and Queens is very vibrant, and our Church is clearly alive and well. I am proud of the work of our priests and lay ministers.

We must now build on accomplishments of parishes and schools that are financially stable. So we must strive to be more conscious of those who are in great need in our midst whether they are young or old. The needs of the migrants and of our children must not go unmet.

We must be strategic in the deploying of so many of our younger brothers in the presbyterate to ensure their well-being and longevity. We must care for our aging priests who, though zealous, are struggling with health issues and advanced years. We are continually working to empower the laity to realize the dignity of baptism and share in the call to proclaim the Gospel to all nations.

At the conclusion of Lumen Fidei, the Pope invites us to look to Mary, “perfect icon” of faith who, as the Mother of Jesus, conceived “faith and joy.” As we put out into the deep, let us elevate our prayers to Our Lady under the title of the Immaculate Conception, patroness of the Diocese of Brooklyn, that she might assist us in our faith, and remind us that we are never alone and to teach us to see through Jesus’ eyes.

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