On Aug. 8, I will ordain eight new priests for the family of God here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Every new priest is a sign of God’s love and his care for his people, and our new priests will be sent out to serve in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that continues to disrupt our families, economy, schools, and parishes.
These months of the pandemic have also disrupted the way our priests live out their vocations and how they minister to people.
It has been inspiring for me to see how some of our priests have adapted, with quiet heroism reaching out to parishioners through phone calls or emails, ministering to the sick and those in need, even offering occasions for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
It is hard to see it now, but the Church will come out of this moment, as she has survived under persecutions and plagues and pandemics in the past. But there is no question that how we minister in the future — not only priests, but all of us in the Church — is going to change.
I have been trying to pray and reflect on this a lot in these summer days, thinking not only about the impact on our institutions and ministries, but also about people’s needs in our parishes and society.
We must make sure that our social distance does not become emotional distance; we have to stay connected, caring for one another, listening, sharing our stories and our hope in Christ.
I have been saying this for many years now, but it becomes more urgent in light of this pandemic: every one of us in the Church must feel this responsibility to be a missionary disciple.
The Church has never been about programs and events. Everything is about this Person, Jesus Christ, fully and truly human and fully and truly divine, who enters into our lives and calls us to follow him and to become “a new creation.”
As we navigate the new reality created by this pandemic, we need to be clear about means and ends.
Right now, we are all very focused on “means.” That is understandable. The world has changed. Just coming together in person, face-to-face is now much more complicated. How do we reach people, how do we gather them together to teach, to share the faith, to build fellowship?
These are important questions. We should be asking these questions in light of our goal, which is bringing people to a personal meeting with Jesus Christ — to see his face, to hear his voice, to know and feel his loving and merciful presence in their lives.
That is why we need to think deeply about how we use digital technology and “virtual” solutions, which will obviously play an increasingly important role in our post-pandemic ministry.
It has been amazing what we have been able to do in this emergency time when we are still restricted from gathering in large numbers — so many parishes and ministries offering livestreamed liturgies and events.
Going forward, we need to see that our websites and social media platforms are far more than simply ways we can “push out” messages to our people.
The beauty of these tools is that they are interactive. So, we need to seek creative ways to help people express and share their faith online. We need to give them the resources they need to be living witnesses and missionary disciples on their own platforms.
Think of the possibilities if we could help every Catholic in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to share one message of hope every day on their personal social media platforms.
Imagine 5 million messages of love and mercy daily on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook! We could change the tone of these channels, which is so often mean and self-centered, and we could help people to think about all the good and beautiful things that people are doing in the world.
And what if every parish organized a daily rosary, not from inside church walls, but with the prayer coming from parishioners’ homes and being shared on their own personal social channels. Again, imagine nearly 300 families each day, each representing one of our parishes, flooding these channels with prayers to Our Lady and reflections on the mysteries of Christ!
Pray this week for our new priests. And if you have never attended a priestly ordination, now is your chance! We will be livestreaming the ordinations on Aug. 8. It is a beautiful sacrament, and a moment to feel the beauty of the Church and the love of God. More information is here: lacatholics.org/ordination.
Pray for me this week, and I will pray for you. And let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to pray for our new priests, to bring us more vocations to the priesthood, and to be ever more near to all of us in these difficult days.