I have been thinking of late about the upcoming celebration of Pentecost, in which we recall the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the first disciples of the Lord, and how confident I am that the same Spirit is indeed working to great ends in our own diocese. For every so often events and news that cross my desk seem to have a wonderful confluence, reminding me once again how blessed and grateful I am to be your bishop.
Certainly Lent and our celebration of Easter was an enriching time, and afforded me the opportunity to see firsthand the great devotion among the people. Just after Easter, I spent several days with our priests and pastoral administrators at our annual convocation, and marveled at the great energy, enthusiasm and commitment to service these leaders exude.
More recently, I was privileged to preside at the Gathering of the Ministerium, a warm and energizing gathering at which hundreds of our priests, deacons and lay ministers convene and share a day of prayer and reflection and heard some thoughtful remarks by the well-known religion writer John Allen. I couldn’t help but look around the room and think what very good hands you all are in with this spirit-filled group!
Meanwhile, I have had the privilege of confirming many, many young people in recent days. I can tell you that I have only great confidence in the future as I speak to these youths and watch them eagerly embrace their faith as we pray together that the gifts of the Holy Spirit will fill their lives and deeds.
If all of this was not blessing enough, other news has made me so very proud.
For example, I received a report recently that the people of our diocese had contributed more than $175,000 to help the people of Japan recover from the tragic earthquake and tsunami.
Not long after this heartwarming news, I learned that our 2010-11 Catholic Ministries Appeal broke a new record in its more than 30-year history. More than $5.2 million has been pledged to help fund the vital ministries of the diocese. Not only did you give more in total than ever before, but our average gift climbed as well.
This generosity comes despite economic challenges that continue. I know from conversations as I travel throughout the diocese that many families are wondering how to manage $4 a gallon gas prices, rising food and living costs, downsizing worries at their places of employment and so many other pressures.
I must say that as much as these things delight me, they do not surprise me. If I have learned anything in more than 30 years as bishop in the Diocese of Rochester, it is that you have an indomitable spirit, a generous spirit, a giving, loving spirit.
Sometimes when we celebrate the great events of our faith, we may think of these momentous happenings as more relic than relevant to our lives today, something to commemorate rather than experience now. One such event is Pentecost. We may tend to think that the dramatic coming of the Holy Spirit "like a mighty, rushing wind," accompanied by "tongues of fire" over each of the disciples is the stuff of ancient times, and that such miracles do not happen in such fashion anymore.
But I think one only has to travel to any part of our diocese and be with the people of its faith communities to know the Holy Spirit is just as active here now as then and that miracles of faith occur every single day. I would imagine that any one of the Japanese families whose lives will be made better by your generosity will think a miracle has come indeed.
In the Acts of the Apostles, St. Peter tells the amazed crowd present to witness the Holy Spirit’s coming that the power and potential of the Spirit is not reserved just for the apostles. "The promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away. …" It is a promise for all generations.
That is certainly true here, in our Diocese of Rochester, in a community of faith for which I am so very grateful and to whom I offer my sincerest prayers and thanks for all that you do.
Come, Holy Spirit!
Peace to all.