Four years ago, many of us in the Archdiocese of Detroit were preparing for Pentecost in a more expectant way than usual. Our archdiocesan synod had taken place the previous fall and we were awaiting the release of the pastoral letter which was a result of this extraordinary event. It was clear to many people who were at the synod or following it closely that something was happening, something was coming that would change things for us in a dramatic way.
Fast forward to 2021 and we could hardly have imagined the changes which have taken place over these years. Of course, this past year has been unlike anything we have ever experienced, but the slow and deliberate shift for the Church of Detroit to commit itself to the demands of the new evangelization — for us, called “Unleash the Gospel” — has been seismic! I am regularly amazed by what has taken place, and daunted about the work we still have to do.
This is a great time to honor and celebrate our accomplishments. We have seen a number of parishes institute ways for parishioners and visitors to encounter Jesus for the first time. We have developed (in my humble opinion) the finest Catholic magazine, Unleash The Gospel, devoted to the work of the new evangelization. A new marriage preparation process, a new Confirmation process and a whole new parish staffing structure to become more intentionally mission-oriented are great strides in our efforts. Additionally, we have developed digital resources for joyful missionary disciples and support resources for our parish leaders and volunteers, including SPARK, a platform to share ideas and best practices. Finally, after hearing this call from parents and parishes across metro Detroit, we implemented the Synod’s call to carve out Sunday as a day for faith and the family and we no longer have sporting events on the Lord’s Day.
Archbishop Vigneron has released a number of topic-specific “pastoral notes” related to timely themes of our evangelization efforts ranging from topics such as the sin of racism, and the gift of Sacred Scripture to caring for our brothers and sisters with same-sex attraction. Working with our Superintendent of Catholic Schools, he developed a new strategic vision for our Catholic Schools and with our Director of Priestly Vocations to launch a website to help men discern priestly vocations.
Most recently, efforts have been launched to prepare our parishes, clergy, lay ministers and lay people to institute this work of the new evangelization in the very structures of our parishes. This work, which we are calling Families of Parishes, will begin the first phase of implementation in July and is intimately connected to the call of the Synod and the vision of Unleash the Gospel.
There is so much to be grateful for through these past four years. But we are not done! As we invite our brothers and sisters who have not returned to Mass this year to rediscover their sacramental relationship with Christ in the Eucharist, we need to continue to pray for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit on our evangelization efforts. This Pentecost is not just a time to look back but to look forward as well.
We have invited all of our parishes to commit to offering a Eucharistic Holy Hour during the traditional nine days before Pentecost (Friday, May 14-Saturday, May 22). This commemorates the time spent by the Apostles and the Blessed Mother in the upper room praying for the Holy Spirit in obedience to Jesus’ final words. (Acts 1:3-5)
But there is a challenge I would make to all of you, our local band of joyful missionary disciples! I would ask you to join me in doing three things before Pentecost to help us all prepare for the work we have ahead.
First, commit to one hour of prayer in Eucharistic Adoration. Spending an hour before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament praying for our evangelization efforts, asking for protection from our enemies and courage and wisdom for our work is a tremendous gift for your relationship with Jesus and will bear great fruit for us all as well.
Second, pray the Rosary at least once during these days leading up to Pentecost. Two important calls of Unleash the Gospel were for each of us to devote ourselves to these devotions of Eucharistic Adoration and the rosary. May is the traditional month of praying the rosary. Pope Francis has asked all of us to pray this prayer, especially this month, for the end of COVID-19 around the world. While you pray this beautiful contemplative prayer, remember that Jesus easily, quickly and happily gives us whatever is asked through his mother’s intercession.
Finally, I ask you to invite one other person to join you in these two prayer commitments. This step is no less important than the first two. Our work to become a missionary archdiocese begins with simple requests, small invitations and acts of accompaniment with our brothers and sisters to join together in seeking and following Jesus. This Pentecost, please take the first step to become a missionary in your corner of the mission field.
I am unshakably confident that God desires to bless our efforts to unleash the Gospel in Detroit. Pentecost is an opportune time for us to seek the blessing of an hour of Eucharistic Adoration and praying of the rosary. And it is an opportune time for us to invite another person to join us in these prayers. Come Lord and send forth your Holy Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.