Our Lady of Guadalupe inspires us to bring the word of God into our world, archbishop says to religious men
Major superiors of religious men, councilors, and their program leaders from across the country gathered in San Antonio in early August to attend a special national assembly discussing the future of religious life in the United States.
The Aug. 5-9 event featured candid and engaging conversation about religious life and leadership, along with fraternal review, reflection, and talks to prepare institutes to be effective in carrying forward the prophetic witness of religious life.
Attendees explored the changing needs of leadership and religious life in four areas: (1) impact of the last 20 years on religious life and leadership, (2) leadership formation, (3) changing dynamics impacting religious life and leadership, and (4) balancing ministry demands and personnel resources.
Presenters included Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI; Brother Larry Schatz, SC; Abbot Elias Lorenzo, OSB; Father Mark Padrez, OP; Father Michael Thompson, SSJ, and others.
The group toured Mission San José and attended a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, on Aug. 7.
In the first reading at the liturgy the people of God are at a frontier, just outside the land that God had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
“Journeys, migrations, and exploring new frontiers are integral to salvation history and the Christian life,” Archbishop Gustavo began his homily. “They involve both promises and risks, and neither should be minimized or disregarded.”
In 1691, a small group of Spanish explorers made camp near Mission San José. Because it was the feast of St. Anthony of Padua, the chaplain, Father Damien Massanet, named the river San Antonio and celebrated the first Mass. In 1718, Franciscans accompanied a small Spanish military expedition that was sent to the area and built San José and San Miguel Mission.
Although the friars’ outreach to the indigenous population was ultimately unsuccessful, a vibrant Catholic community still worships there today.
“Any major religious superior — and every bishop and archbishop! — can identify with Moses’ irritation in today’s first reading — as well as God’s own frustration with the people!” the archbishop exclaimed. “They are on the frontier of entering the Promised Land, a land full of milk and honey, but the community is divided about whether or not it is possible or feasible!”
Archbishop Gustavo then joked to the capacity crowd that difference between him and the religious brothers in attendance is that the terms of their office are probably limited, while his keeps on until old age and retirement, which elicited laughter from listeners.
“But God is our focus today! God has made the promise! God will fulfill the promise!” stressed the Missionary of the Holy Spirit. “Trust God! Even when the wait for fulfillment seems long delayed. The kingdom of God is already among us even though there are very obvious signs that it is not yet fully established.”
In the Gospel, Jesus crossed the frontier into Gentile territory. While he is at dinner with his disciples, a woman approaches him. Jesus at first ignores her and her request that he release her daughter from a demon. The woman is persistent. Her answer reflects her humility, persistence, and faith — in him as Lord and Son of David. Jesus finally embraces her and her daughter in his healing ministry.
“What a powerful lesson for those who would divide us into ever more polarized camps — insiders and outsiders, traditionalists and liberals, Democrats and Republicans, diocesan and religious, priests and laity, readers of National Catholic Register and the National Catholic Reporter!” Archbishop Gustavo said wistfully. “We are called to unity, and God can enable us to come together to give persistent, common witness to the gospel!”
The San Antonio prelate detailed how Pope Francis has consistently laid out the route we are to travel on the pilgrimage of faith: encounter, dialogue, inclusion. “As missionary disciples, we are called and sent to proclaim the risen Lord and his gospel. We are to build bridges, not fences,” he concluded. “We are to build up the kingdom of justice and peace, mercy and compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation, and unconditional, enduring love.”