Five Days in New Jersey

The following is a letter I wrote for next week's parish bulletin
Dear Parishioners,

Atlantic Ocean
Last week from Monday to Friday I participated in a meeting of pastors from the Archdiocese of New York at a small hotel in Spring Lake, New Jersey, right across the street from the Atlantic Ocean. We pastors prayed together, had meals together and listened to three talks a day. Archbishop Timothy Dolan was with us for the final day and a half of our meetings. For me, having only arrived in the New York archdiocese in August, this was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the archdiocese and its history, and to get to know face-to-face many of the other pastors working in the Archdiocese. It was also an opportunity to meet some of the chancery officials as well.

The talks were on a wide range of topics: the history of the Archdiocese, preaching, the Second Vatican Council, planning for the parochial schools of the archdiocese, etc. Two priests spoke on strategies for attracting new vocations to the priesthood. A priest who works at the Vatican gave us a talk about the English translation of the new Roman Missal that we Catholics in the United States will begin using in Advent of next year. There were talks about physical and mental wellness and also on finances. The final talk on Friday morning was about spirituality for priests, given by a Jesuit from Philadelphia.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan
For me, the highlight of the week was Thursday, when Archbishop Dolan spoke to us in both the morning and afternoon sessions, and also preached to us at Mass at noontime. The talks that he gave were simple at the same time profound. He started by talking to us about what it means to love Jesus. He made it very clear to us that he sees us pastors as his partners in looking after the needs of all the Catholics and the archdiocese, but at the same time, he is concerned about our souls. He wants to make sure that each of us has a deep and personal relationship with Jesus.

Archbishop Dolan is extremely frank and realistic about the very difficult challenges that are facing this Archdiocese in particular, and the Catholic Church in general in the United States. These challenges are especially worrisome when expressed in numbers. There has been a very sharp decline in Mass attendance. More and more younger Catholics are opting not to marry in the Catholic Church. For most dioceses and religious orders, the number of men entering formation programs and seminaries has dwindled to a mere trickle. In the face of all of these difficult challenges, Archbishop Dolan has a confidence in God’s love and God’s grace that is contagious.  The Cross of Jesus Christ is the foundation of his faith. He is extremely affable and personable, and has an extraordinarily disarming sense of humor. You can tell that he genuinely enjoys spending time with his priests, and that his concern for them is very real.

Soon after I arrived in Staten Island back in August, Archbishop Dolan phoned me to welcome me to the Archdiocese. At that time, he expressed interest in coming out to visit all of us here at Our Lady of Good Counsel. I’m hoping that takes place sometime soon after Easter.

My thanks to Father Jorge, by the way, for writing last week’s bulletin article - the second article about Evangelization.

Father Liam 

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