The peaceful beauty of this Labor Day morning has been a gift — a time to anticipate the activities of the months ahead and to commend them all to God’s care.
I have prayed for all of our young people beginning or returning to school; for their parents, teachers and administrators; and for all who support the work of education. I hope that this year will be especially blessed for them; that they will learn much about life and be inspired to offer their good gifts to the service of the human family.
Another part of the morning’s prayer has been the intention that God will bless our Annual Diocesan Ministries Appeal. This is the new name we are adopting for what we have always called our annual Thanks Giving Appeal. By whatever title, this endeavor — about to mark its 25th anniversary — is an opportunity for all of us to step forward with gifts to sustain ministries and programs vital to our overall Catholic mission.
Another major ongoing activity is pastoral planning for our diocese so that we can best use our human and financial resources for the work of the Gospel. We have worked hard on this in recent years and made significant progress. But that work goes on and will continue for a long time to come.
Catholic Charities does incredible work for the people of our 12-county diocese. I have prayed this morning for the volunteers and professionals who are responsible for extending the care of Christ to sisters and brothers who need the support of the community. They do this through direct human services and by their advocacy for public policies and legislation that recognize the needs of those who are materially poor.
Always a part of my prayer and concern are the ways in which we try to help people grow in the love, knowledge and practice of the faith all the days of their lives. It’s not an easy task in the complex and very busy age in which we live, but it’s well worth the effort. Our spiritual tradition has great treasures to offer to those searching for meaning and purpose in life. They can be enormously helpful to young people making basic life choices, to all of us who cope with the ups and downs and daily demands of our respective vocations, and to individuals who seek to live ethical lives in the midst of contrary pressures.
Dear to the hearts of all is our effort to live in ever-deeper understanding and harmony with our ecumenical and interfaith partners. At the core of the Lord’s teaching and prayer is the unity of the human family. God knows that there are deep wounds to that unity that require healing. There are also realities in today’s world that continually remind us of our need to work patiently and lovingly to achieve something better than we now have.
Through all of these and other fond hopes, I have been deeply mindful of our sisters and brothers who suffer so much from Hurricane Katrina.
It’s hard to appreciate from this distance just how great a calamity this event is to the people of that region. Thousands dead. Tens of thousands without homes. Separated families. Rampant disease. It will take years to restore New Orleans and other hard-hit communities. Even then painful memories of tragic loss will linger.
Thanks be to God, rescue efforts are beginning to make a difference. People from all parts of the country have stepped forward to offer prayer, financial support, technical expertise, shelter and human services to those in need. I know that your generosity will bring hope to those who now suffer so much.
I am mindful that in the midst of this continuing suffering and generous efforts to relieve it, we will observe the fourth anniversary of the events of September 11, 2001 — another staggering moment in our history. The immediate shock of that day has subsided, but we all know that its effects linger — in our economy, in international relations, in our sense of security and, most of all, in the hearts of those who lost loved ones on that horrible day.
Horrible as such tragedies are, they teach a lot about life, our priorities, our values. Most of all, I think they teach us to honor our gifts and always to live in hope.
Peace to all.