I know many of you are following the news of Pope Francis’ trip to Latin America this week. I am, too.
All the images we have been seeing of young, joyful crowds of believers lining the streets, the colorful and prayerful liturgies — they remind us of the great faith of the Hispanic people and the strength of the Church in these lands that Pope Francis and prior popes have called “the Continent of Hope.”
For me, it is always powerful to hear our Holy Father speaking and praying in his native Spanish. And during this pastoral journey, he is inspiring me with his strong words about the family, and his passionate call for a society that reaches out to the lonely and the hurting and works to promote human dignity for every person.
I was touched by one of the “off-the-cuff” stories the pope told about his mother. He recalled how once she was asked which of her five children she loved the most, the pope said. And she said her children were like the fingers on her hand — if any was lost or hurt, she would hurt equally.
It was a beautiful image of solidarity and family love. I was reminded of St. Paul’s words about the family of God — that if one member of the family suffers, all the members suffer in solidarity with that member.
Pope Francis is giving us a great witness to servant leadership in the Church. He is continuing the work of St. John Paul II and our Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in helping us to rediscover the missionary nature of the Church — and the missionary vocation of each disciple.
This is the vision of discipleship and the Church that I have grown up with since I was a young priest, ordained just a couple of months before the beginning of the pontificate of St. John Paul. And this is the vision that I have been trying to share as your archbishop, the vision set out in my first pastoral letter, “Witness to the New World of Faith.”
In these past five years I have been on a journey of listening and learning from you.
As you know, this is the biggest archdiocese in the country and by far the most diverse, so there is a lot to learn and it takes a lot of time and a lot of prayer and conversation. My calendar each week includes pastoral visits all over the vast territory of the archdiocese. And it has been the joy of my ministry to worship with you and talk with you about your perspectives and needs.
Last week, based on our conversations and my own prayer and reflection and consultation with my auxiliary bishops and senior advisors, I announced a new organizational structure for the Archdiocesan Catholic Center (ACC).
The details of this new organization can be found on page 9 of this issue of the Tidings.
My hope is that this new structure will renew our sense of partnership and evangelical purpose in the ACC. I have found in this building a great sense of pastoral care and a culture of service. Every day I am inspired by the dedication and creativity of the people who work here.
I am trying to build on the good foundations that have already been laid. I believe this new structure will release new evangelical energies and help us to find new ways to collaborate in serving the family of God here in Los Angeles.
The new structure will align the workings of archdiocesan offices more closely with my five pastoral priorities — education in the faith; promoting vocations; fostering our universal Catholic identity and diversity; proclaiming a culture of life; and strengthening marriage and the family.
The Church is here to serve.
And the Church is “us” — you and me and everyone else who has been baptized. We are called to be “missionary disciples.” This is how Pope Francis describes it — and I love that expression.
And the service we provide is meant to be missionary and apostolic — sharing the Gospel with everyone, in every corner of the world.
This is our responsibility. It is a duty of love. The most beautiful gift we can give to any one is the gift of knowing Jesus Christ. There is nothing more beautiful in this life than to know Jesus and to love him and to share him with others.
With this reorganization, we hope to make the ACC and all of its departments a model for missionary discipleship.
So please pray for my ministry and for all of us who serve the family of God through our work at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center. Pray that all of us will be good servants of the Gospel and the people, good evangelists and missionary disciples.
And may our Blessed Mother Mary always be at our side, and may we know her and love her always as our Mother.