These last three weeks have been a wonderful experience. It was a very busy time, filled with meetings and working sessions with my brother bishops. It was a time for friendship and fraternity. For me personally, it was also a fruitful time for prayer and reflection. During the Synod, our Holy Father compared the faith in our country and throughout the West as a fire that is dying out. The “embers” of belief are slowly fading, he said. They are waiting to be stirred and enkindled until once more the faith becomes a living flame that gives heat and light. This is a strong image for what the “new” evangelization means. We know that the faith has lost much of its “fire” and force in many people’s lives. Unfortunately we see this even among our friends and family members. Too many people who have been baptized have drifted away from faith in Jesus Christ and his Church. They need somebody to stir up the fires of their faith. And this is our duty. That’s why I wrote my new pastoral letter, “Witness to the New World of Faith.”I intended to be here to release the letter and to announce the Year of Faith and talk about the practical ways we can live this year fruitfully. The Holy Father called me to Rome, instead!But I return home from the Synod with an even greater sense of our urgent priority to proclaim Jesus Christ and to lead men and women to him — not only by programs and words, but also by the testimony of our lives and our love. I was inspired by the fact that the Synod emphasized so many of the themes that I talk about in my pastoral letter, especially the five pastoral priorities that I identified for our Archdiocese: —education in the faith; —promoting vocations to the priesthood and to religious and consecrated life; —fostering our universal “catholic” identity and diversity as the family of God; —proclaiming the Gospel of life; and —strengthening marriage and family. My hope is that these five priorities can serve as a kind of spiritual “program” to guide individuals, parishes and our Archdiocesan ministries in this Year of Faith. Taken together, there is an “inner logic” that connects these priorities and that embraces our whole life of faith — from our prayer and interior life to our duty to witness to our faith in the world. Everything begins with Jesus Christ. We need to grow in our knowledge of who Jesus is, how much he loves us, and what he teaches us about the right path for us to live. We need to know the intimate connection between Jesus and his Church and we need to grow in our knowledge of his Church’s teachings.Christ founded his Church as his family, building on the spiritual fatherhood of his ordained priests, who share in the Spirit he gave to the apostles. Through his priests, Jesus continues to teach and heal, to feed and forgive, to sanctify and serve. So we need to support our priests and find ways to invite many more men to answer this noble calling.We also need to deepen our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we need to encourage the glorious diversity of the family of God. Our Church must always be an “icon” — a living sign — of what God wants for all the families of the world. Jesus Christ proclaimed a social Gospel and a Gospel of life. So our faith must show itself in works of love that build God’s Kingdom on earth and defend the sanctity of human life against every threat. And we need to nourish and strengthen marriage and the family — which are the foundations of society and the first schools of faith and love. In my next several columns I will speak more about the unity of these five priorities. I also want to suggest practical ways we can use these priorities as a kind of “program” for spiritual growth and pastoral planning in this Year of Faith. If you haven’t yet had the chance to read my pastoral letter, we have created a website where you can find it along with other resources for the Year of Faith — week, let’s pray for one another. Let’s also pray for our brothers and sisters on the East Coast who are suffering greatly in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. We need to open our hearts in charity for them — and for those who suffered the storm’s violence as it passed through Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica and the Bahamas. Let us ask Mary our Blessed Mother to be near to all of the victims and their families in this time of trial.—November 2, 2012Follow Archbishop Gomez at:{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/1102/gomez/{/gallery}