September 10, 2012
Dear Friends in Christ,
As we find ourselves well into the summer break and still looking for that right summer hat to shield us from the season’s sun, it serves well as a reminder for each of us—to be prepared for the unexpected. But today as I write, not so much as to prepare for the unexpected, but to prepare for the expected. I have already seen some local advertisements announcing their “pre” going back to school sales. Hopefully, as you begin planning for your change of routine to accommodate your children’s or grandchildren’s return to school, it might serve as a reminder for all of us to work on our on-going Faith formation in our Catholic tradition.
Here in the Diocese of Fresno, we are blessed to have 22 Catholic schools, affording a small segment of our Catholic population, a chance for a Catholic education. But there are many and varied needs in our diocese and in society in general, which our laity in collaboration with our clergy and religious can satisfy. With so much good will and energy on the part of the laity, we need to continue to channel these wonderful assets into a better formed and trained laity in order to build up God’s Kingdom.
The vast majority of our lay leaders, both men and women, are called to live out their ministries in varied and different ways. It is to you, to whom my words are directed. We cannot give what we do not have and already live. In order to best serve and minister with your bishop, priests, deacons and religious, it is imperative that we continue our adult faith formation. Our Holy Father has dedicated this upcoming year as a Year of Faith. We are indeed blessed to have our Office of Ministries and our School of Ministries who are now gearing up with classes for the early Fall. I invite you to search out an area of ministry and make a commitment to continue your own personal journey of faith.
In our document from the United States Conference of Bishops, entitled Collaborators in the Lord’s Vineyard, we bishops speak of four characteristics which are common to those involved in Church ministry. The first is that the individual has a leadership role, for example, as a catechist or lector, or a special minister of the Eucharist. A second and most important characteristic is that he or she is authorized by the Pastor or Parish Life Coordinator and commissioned by the bishop to exercise the role. In our Diocese, as in others, the bishop formally certifies or recertifies the lay ministers yearly and ‘missions’ them back to their parish or to their apostolate. The third characteristic is that the lay minister works in “collaboration” with the clergy. The last characteristic is that the individual has the “formation and education to carry out his or her role.” This last one is at the crux of the matter. Returning to what I referenced above, we can’t possibly give what we do not have ourselves. We need to feed ourselves not only with knowledge but also methodology so that people whose lives we touch might be touched in a style that truly reflects our Catholicism and tradition.
My prayer for all is that as we “vacation” a bit with family and friends that we do not “vacation” from the Lord.
Sincerely in Christ,
Most Rev. Armando X. Ochoa
Taken from the September edition of the CCCL