As of this writing, I am just two weeks away from the first year anniversary of my installation as the Archbishop of Portland. As someone once said, “It has been quite a ride!” I thought I would just pause for a moment, reflect on this past year, and give some sense of my vision for the future.
When I was announced as the new Archbishop back on Jan. 29, 2013, many people came forward to offer advice for my new assignment. I was and remain very grateful for that. I did receive two conflicting pieces of advice, however. A few suggested that I not wait, but just dive in and start changing things right away according to perceived needs. Others suggested that I follow the advice often given to new pastors to wait a year before doing anything significant.
I opted for the latter piece of advice. I have tried to spend this first year getting to know the local Church and the good people who make up this Catholic community in Western Oregon. I have tried to observe, listen and learn about my new home and the needs of this wonderful and historic archdiocese. I have tried not to change too much, and to engage controversy only when I found it necessary.
So what have I learned? Well, this is an incredibly diverse archdiocese. This is certainly true of the cultural makeup of our family of faith. Alongside the so-called “Anglo” Catholic people, there is a growing and vibrant presence of Hispanic Catholics. Add to this the strong Vietnamese community, the Filipino Catholics and the many other less numerous but no less important ethnic groups, and we see an incredibly rich and diverse local Church!
But the Archdiocese of Portland in Western Oregon is also very geographically diverse. There is a very different “feel” if you will, to the urban centers of Portland, Salem and Eugene in comparison to the many wonderful communities in the more rural areas of the state. There are often different concerns, interests and perspectives that must all be taken into account and respected. This diversity of perspective is certainly evident within our Catholic family.
One thing is constant, and that is the inherent goodness, generosity and hospitality of the people of this archdiocese. I have been very impressed and inspired by the kindness shown by our people to those especially in need among us. My dear mother and I have certainly been the blessed recipients of the warm hospitality of Western Oregon. We are blessed to be part of this community, our new home.
I have also been struck by the incredible numbers of those in special need among us. Perhaps that comes largely from living in a downtown urban setting, but it is also evident in other social settings across our state. There are so many homeless on the streets, so much evidence of drug and alcohol abuse, so many mentally ill, not to mention the “hidden poor” who escape our immediate notice.
The bottom line is that I am extremely happy to be among you and to have been named your bishop and shepherd. Back in Michigan I was not looking for a move, was not expecting a move, and was quietly “minding my own business” as the bishop of Marquette. But if it was the will of the Holy Spirit that I be moved, I could not be happier than being assigned to such a beautiful and wonderful part of God’s creation. The natural beauty of Western Oregon is matched only by the beauty of its people.
I have listened, observed and learned in this past year, and all should know that I do have a vision and a strong sense of mission for where we go together from here. This vision has been shaped by so many in the archdiocese who have advised me and given input during this beginning of my time among you. I would like to just briefly mention some areas where we will focus. I will have much more to say about these things as we move forward.
Faith formation, catechesis and evangelization: These are a top priority for me. I am passionate about ensuring that our children and young people have a solid and sound education and formation in our Catholic faith. This is true for our Catholic schools and parish faith formation programs, as well as our youth ministry programs. Adults, both young and old, are also in need of deeper formation and evangelization. Evangelization begins with us and goes out toward others.
Marriage and family life: The results of the survey conducted in preparation for the world synod of bishops on the topic of marriage and the family only confirm what I already knew. Marriages and families are in desperate need of pastoral attention and care. Catechesis on the meaning of marriage, assistance to couples preparing for marriage, and support for marriages and family life will receive special attention.
The sacred liturgy: It doesn’t take people long to learn that I have a special love and concern for divine worship and the sacred liturgy, especially the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the Church’s life, and it deserves all the attention and care we can give it. Reverent, beautiful, prayerful and worthy celebration of the holy Mass must be the hallmark of every parish community.
Care for the poor, vulnerable and marginalized: There is so much need out there, and care for the needy is an essential part of the work of evangelization. Through the work of Catholic Charities, the parishes and other institutions we must see the face of Jesus in the poor and also show them the merciful face of Christ.
Well, there it is! It seems to me that we have a lot of work to do together, and I plan to be with you for a long time. So let’s get going!
Thursday, March 27, 2014
"One year down, many more to go" Archbishop Alexander Sample
Posted by VOCAL at 3:55 PM