In this time of renewal in the Church, we are called to revisit the integrity of our own faith. What are we doing to share God’s love? Are we doing things that take us away from Him, or omitting things that could bring us closer?
Unleash the Gospel invites us to take up the spirit of “new beginnings” as a unified Church — globally and locally — and as individual disciples:
“Recognizing that we cannot give what we don’t have, we continually seek to be refreshed in God’s presence and filled again and again with His love, so that it is His own love that we are giving away.” (Guidepost 1, The New Pentecost)
What does this look like? We asked parishioners throughout the Archdiocese of Detroit to share what “new beginnings” means to their own faith.
Joyce Shelton, 59, wife and mother of four, coordinator of RCIA at St. Augustine and St. Monica Parish in Detroit:
“To me, ‘new beginnings’ is about taking a look at myself and asking, ‘What exactly is this mission I’m following? Is it Christ’s or the world’s?’ I like that phrase, ‘new beginnings,’ because it keeps it fresh in my mind that I am on a mission and every day is a new beginning to me. Every day I have to focus anew on Christ. It’s also a good reminder that if I stumble, I can get right back on track. A Church that unleashes the Gospel needs the whole community. When I see that relationship happening (between the Church and the community), my heart leaps, and I can see that we as a Church are finally getting it. We are all in this together. When we come together and have fellowship, talking to one another, sharing our histories, our lessons and listening to one another, it is a wonderful experience. It is educational, spiritual, such a mix. I hope the Church continues coming out to the neighborhoods, because that is where the Church is. Unleash the Gospel is about going out, evangelizing, looking at the needs of the community and bringing people together. We have to go forward to let the whole community know that Christ is alive.”
Mark Sienkowski, 58, parishioner at St. Lawrence Parish in Utica:
“I feel compelled to share the Gospel as a response to His love. As I walk into the IT office each morning, I make the sign of the cross, ask for His protection and ask for His heart for people that day. It can be as simple as listening and encouraging a co-worker in the sacrificial love of parenting. Or, praying for their ill family member, or work visa renewal. It is inviting co-workers to a lunchtime discussion group where we have read Unleash the Gospel and an apostolic letter and where we challenge each other to be intentional disciples. And it totally makes my day and opens the door when someone asks about my license plate: KERYGMA. No longer is my job just about making a living. It is about joyfully walking with the Spirit in mission. How can I unleash His love every day?”
Nick Switzer, 26, husband and father of a baby on the way, parishioner at Our Lady of the Scapular Parish in Wyandotte:
“New beginnings, to me, is walking out of the confessional after not going for 15 years like I did. It’s kneeling there in the confessional, confessing all of your sins, and hearing Jesus, through the priest, say, ‘I absolve you from your sins.’ New beginnings means learning about what is really happening at Mass. Seeing a beautiful liturgy with words, signs and gestures of heaven. It reminds us that here is not our home; we are made for another place. We get a taste of that place in the Eucharist — literally — when we come up to the Communion rail and receive Jesus Christ in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. New beginnings is what I’m excited to see the Archdiocese of Detroit bring to the people. We want and need the truth, goodness and beauty that only Christ and His Church can offer. We want and need the truth of the Gospel, not just the parts that make us comfortable. We want and need the Church to be holy and good, transformed by the grace Christ has given us in the sacraments. We want and need beautiful liturgies that eternally point us to heaven and inspire us to be saints. This will offer us all an opportunity for a new beginning.”
Lisa Campbell, 47, wife and mother of three, parishioner at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Plymouth and St. Joseph Oratory in Detroit:
“As a recovering addict from a home where domestic violence and criminal activity were my norm, God broke into the midst of my despair with His hope and mercy. I make an effort to encourage others with hope in God by sharing my testimony (in parishes, on The Journey Home program, on Shalom World TV, in the workplace, etc.) and sharing my biblical reflections in other public forums. Daily suffering is still a huge part of my life, but because of hope, I never doubt the Father’s love. The grace of how God delivered me reminds me to never underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit. Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, most profoundly at the Latin Mass, sustains me in my faith. The presence of reverence and silence overflows into everything I do. Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi (‘As we worship, so we believe, so we live’). This inspires and empowers me to be a living sacrifice, bringing His presence to others (Unleash the Gospel, Marker 3.4).”
Fr. Athanasius Fornwalt, FHS, 33, a priest of the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit
“March 2004 marked a dark time in my life. After 13 months of fighting cancer, and just two weeks before my 19th birthday, my father passed away. For the next year and a half, it felt like I couldn’t breathe; like a black pall was laid on me. Then a friend reached out and began to walk with me through my grief. Eventually, we ended up at a prayer meeting. During that meeting, it felt like the black pall lifted and a rush of fresh air filled my lungs. I started to live again. The following few years marked a long, but grace-filled grieving process. I learned how to pray, to trust in God and to share my story. Looking back, with the eyes of faith, I can see that Christ was with me in those dark days. Then he called me out of the grave and gave me new life.”
Francesca Montana, 28, leadership team member for Young Catholic Professionals’ Detroit Chapter:
“The concept of new beginnings has been essential in my faith journey. I was raised a cradle Catholic but reached a point in my life where I found myself going through the motions. On the surface, I looked like a devout Catholic, but inside I was far from it. My interior faith life was virtually non-existent. I knew it, and I didn’t care. For several years I lived this way, allowing myself to grow farther and farther from Christ. It was easier to ignore the problem than change my life and address the issue. After years away from the sacrament, a friend convinced me to go to confession. For the first time in years I was forced to look at the broken life I had created. Not only did I have to reflect on my life, but I had to talk about my decisions that led me to this point. That time at confession was the turning point in my faith journey — my ‘new beginning.’ Since then, I have attempted to make confession a regular habit. Whenever I fall, I feel blessed to have the opportunity for the ‘new beginning’ available to us through confession.
As a young professional, my career is a major part of my life. There is a common secular belief that religion needs to be completely removed from the office in order to create a ‘professional’ work environment. As an active member of the Young Catholic Professionals’ Detroit Chapter, I have had the privilege of hearing the testimony of several established Catholic executives. Common to all their testimonies is the notion that our faith lives MUST be integrated with our work lives. We need to invite God into every part of our day, especially our work day. One piece of advice that has stuck with me is the encouragement to witness to Christ and our Catholic faith in small subtle ways at work. For example, when asked about our weekend, we shouldn’t be afraid to say we went to Mass or a church event. Oftentimes this can spurn productive conversations or reveal common faith between coworkers. As I began to incorporate this into my own life, I was surprised to notice coworkers coming to me with prayer requests or incorporating their Christian faith into our discussions. Being able to share this bond with my co-workers as enhanced both my faith and professional experience.”