Pope Francis is calling for a “pastoral and missionary conversion” of the entire church, Archbishop José Gomez said Feb. 15 during an inter-regional Archdiocesan Pastoral Council meeting at Mount St. Mary’s College.
“Our challenge in the years to come is to really take up our Holy Father’s vision,” the archbishop said. “We need to really move our local church — our chancery, our parishes, our schools, our ministries — to this vision of evangelization and missionary discipleship.”
The Archdiocesan Synod of 2003 underscored the need for evangelization. Because of that, the Synod Implementation Office became the Office for the New Evangelization this year.
Everything the church does should be mission-oriented, he said, recalling his 2012 pastoral letter, “Witness to the New World of Faith.” In the letter, the archbishop outlined five pastoral priorities for evangelization in Los Angeles: education; vocations; Catholic identity and cultural diversity; culture of life; marriage and family.
The goal of education, he said, “is a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and a deeper sense of our Christian identity.” This education takes place in the family, at parishes and in Catholic schools.
“And the point is that we are not Lakers’ or Clippers’ fans,” he said. “We’re not conservatives or liberals or members of some political party or nation. Before everything else, we are Catholics. We are children of God.”
Knowing the faith means knowing the life and teachings of Jesus and the church as well as knowing how to pray and how to explain Catholic beliefs.
The archbishop noted that St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo would be marking 75 years of preparing seminarians for priestly ministry. There are more than 20 new seminarians this year and more men training at the Juan Diego House of formation, so the archbishop applauded the efforts of the Office for Vocations.
“We need to keep looking for new ways to foster vocations — in our homes and parishes and at the archdiocesan level,” the archbishop said. “Vocations are born from a Catholic culture. If we are all truly living our Catholic faith and following Jesus, vocations will flourish.”
The people of Los Angeles — who come from every nation — are “a symbol” of what God wants for the world, he said. God wants all nations to be one family of God.
“We need to promote awareness that we are brothers and sisters, because we have one Father in heaven,” he said.
The archbishop expanded the mission of the justice and peace office to include the mission of defending life. In his address, he noted a new mobile phone “app” from Options United that helps expectant mothers with their pregnancies.
“We need to keep working together to find new ways to promote the culture of life in our time,” the archbishop said, adding that immigration and the death penalty are issues where the church’s teaching on human dignity comes into play.
While the archbishop applauded ongoing Natural Family Planning programs, he called for a deeper catechesis on the family.
“We need to help create a ‘family culture’ in which Catholics and others can see the beauty and meaning of marriage and family as the foundation for the church and society,” he said. “That means doing more in our parishes and ministries to support mothers and fathers and families.”
Children need to hear, from a young age, about the beauty and meaning of marriage and the family, he said.
This is a new moment for the church, the archbishop said, echoing Pope Francis.
“We have a new awareness that our baptism makes us disciples,” he said. “And being a disciple means being a missionary, an evangelizer. And we have a new awareness that the whole church exists to evangelize.”
Held at Mount St. Mary’s Chalon Campus in Brentwood, the inter-regional gathering also included a panel presentation on “Implementing Priorities Collaboratively,” break-out sessions on the five priorities for participants, and a presentation on new evangelization by Father Ed Benioff, director of the archdiocesan office.