Our Mutually Shared Vision…One Family: Restored In Christ – Equipped For Mission
On many occasions over the past months, I have been asked on visits throughout our diocese about the Mutually Shared Vision for our local Church. Was it taking shape? When would we be finished? How was it going? When would we learn more about it? That time has come.
As many of you know, this process was begun last summer with a series of listening sessions across our diocese, which were attended by many of our people, including many of our youth and young adults. Several sessions were standing-room-only events which signaled to me the eagerness of our people to participate in the mission of our diocese and to be challenged as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Following the listening sessions and using the data which was gleaned from them, I worked with a Visioning Team, primarily made up of dedicated and talented laypeople from across our diocese, two of our pastors and a deacon, over the course of the fall. Through prayerful discernment, added consultation, and animated discussion, we completed our consultation and analysis work in December. In this issue of The Catholic Key you will find information about the Vision for the next 3-5 years for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, the top three Priorities that we will focus on, and the concrete, time-bound goals that we will pursue to further our Vision. This is a rallying cry as well as a blueprint for us to follow in the next few years. Most of you will have already received some information on this through a letter from me this past week. You may also learn more on our website (kcsjcatholic.org) which will be continually updated.
In announcing the plans for our immediate future, I realize that we did not capture and address every idea or suggestion that we received. We knew going in that this would not be possible or even wise. What I believe were captured were the things the Holy Spirit wants us to pay attention to at this moment in our history.
First, throughout the process, a longing for unity among the members of our Catholic Church community kept being voiced. This struck me as quite beautiful and reminiscent of Jesus’ own prayer “that they may all be one” (John 17:21). God has brought us into his family through baptism, and we call that family the Church. Like any family that unity among members can weaken if it is not intentionally tended to. This is the keystone to our Vision—being One Family.
Along with this basic vision of being one family, we will tend to two important aspects that make our family identity unique: being restored in Christ through healing and freedom; and, being on mission to make Jesus known and loved by others by bringing others into our family of faith.
The need for healing is part of the human condition, and this healing can take many forms: physical, emotional, spiritual. It is striking when one notices how much of Jesus’ public ministry was dedicated to some form of healing. The same is true no less today. Indeed, with the deep wounds in the family brought about by clergy sexual abuse, the struggles people have following tragic life events, the growing problems with addictive behavior, we have been made more aware of the broad needs that exist for healing as well as freedom. The Church is uniquely equipped by Christ to address these needs, but we have to be more intentional to be more effective.
Similarly, our family, if it is to be a healthy family, will be fruitful. Too often we can succumb to the temptation to focus interiorly on ourselves. Like a newly-married couple, the Church too must be open to “new life,” otherwise parishes become sterile and die. We will focus on some gradual ways we can align our Church culture to be less maintenance oriented and more mission oriented. This does not happen overnight, and it only happens by small gradual steps; but we have to begin now. We have the tools, now we need some carpenters!
To prod ourselves and “raise the bar” for our diocesan family, we have set some ambitious goals. Some of these will require added work and definition and will be monitored by a working group over a specific time-frame. Many of these goals are meant to serve as a catalyst for other creativity and so spur further reflection and prayer within each parish and household. So, I hope that you will reflect on the Vision as it pertains to your own personal situation as a member of the family.
Some have expressed surprise that the Mutually Shared Vision for our diocese, the Priorities and Goals are on a single sheet of paper. Many were expecting a detailed manual with an extensive strategic plan. My experience has been that a Vision will not be effective if it cannot be concise and simple. We are limited and can only do so many things well at one time—therefore, we will focus on these few things and try to do them well.
Finally, from the beginning we have entrusted this process to the Holy Spirit. It is not merely the work of our hands and will not bear any fruit unless we continue to entrust it to God’s help and grace. For this reason, we will begin the journey ahead with a special Diocesan Holy Year, which will begin this Ash Wednesday, March 6, 2019 and conclude on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on January 12, 2020. The Holy Year will be marked by special spiritual moments that will be open to all and will focus on the various themes contained in our Vision; for “unless the Lord builds the house, in vain do the builders labor” (Ps 127:1).
I hope you are as encouraged as I am about what we can and will do together. I believe this is where the Holy Spirit is leading us. Let us entrust ourselves to the Spirit’s guidance and apply ourselves to our Mutually Shared Vision, to be One Family: Restored in Christ – Equipped for Mission.
+ Most Reverend James V. Johnston, Jr.
Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph
Catholic Key, February 8, 2019 issue
Pope Francis’ February Prayer Intention
For a generous welcome of the victims of human trafficking, of enforced prostitution, and of violence.
Bishop Johnston’s February Prayer Intention
For those who experience profound loneliness.