Last week I had the joy to welcome the priests of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels for a day of fellowship and prayer.

This annual presbyteral gathering is one of the highlights of the year for me.

It is a time, first of all for me to express my gratitude for my brother priests. I cannot tell you how much I admire the men who serve the family of God here in the archdiocese.

Our priests are men of prayer and men of service, and together we are co-workers in the beautiful ministry of mercy and redemption that is the priesthood. I hope every Catholic joins me in praying every day for our priests.

In my presentation to the priests, I talked about some of the “pastoral values” that we have been working to implement in the Archdiocesan Catholic Center.

All the departments and offices in the ACC exist to serve the parishes, schools and the people of the archdiocese. We are not here for ourselves. We are here to serve others. And we are trying to become more and more “mission-oriented” in everything we do.

I admire the faith, dedication and professionalism of the men and women who serve at the ACC. Together we have been working on four basic values to guide our approach to our ministries: service, stewardship, communication and excellence.

For us, these are more than corporate-sounding “buzz words.” We are really trying to use these values as a kind of “examination of conscience,” a way to measure how we are doing in our ministries.

The value of “service,” for instance, leads to some questions: Am I serving Jesus in my daily work? Am I centered on the archdiocese’ vision and priorities and on the needs of the family of God here in Los Angeles?

The value of “stewardship” also leads to questions — not only about being good stewards of money and budgets. Those considerations are important. But we also want to be good stewards of the talents and the time that God has given us.

We have also set “excellence” as one of our core values. We believe professional excellence includes maintaining balance in our lives and making time for prayer. Then we can become excellent at our jobs — setting goals and always looking for new ways to do things better.

“Communication” is a fourth pastoral value. For us, this means addressing issues in charity and avoiding gossip and thinking about other people’s needs. But communication is also about the importance of prayer, our communication with God, which must be the center of everything we do.

In my talk to our priests, I also highlighted the progress we have been making on the five priorities that I set out in my first pastoral letter, “Witness to the New World of Faith” — promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life; educating our people to live their faith as missionary disciples; promoting a culture of marriage and family; working for a culture of life, justice and peace; and building the family of God through strengthening our diversity and Catholic identity.

There are so many great things happening in the archdiocese.

Jesus told us that the Gospel grows like a seed that is planted in the “soil” of our lives and culture — we cannot see it but it is growing and getting ready to bear its fruits. This is what is happening everywhere in Los Angeles.

In the last 10 years, we have been baptizing an average of nearly 70,000 infants every year.

If you are thinking that is a lot — you are right! But now think about this: every year we are baptizing more infants in Los Angeles than the combined total of all infant baptisms in the archdioceses of New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. And remember: New York and Chicago are the second and third largest Catholic communities in the country.

This points to the truth that we are a young Church, a Church that is alive with apostolic energy.

But it also points to our responsibility. We are responsible for these young lives, these young souls. We are called to build a culture that nurtures their faith and helps them to grow in holiness and love.

This is not only the responsibility of priests and bishops. Everyone who is baptized shares responsibility for the Church’s mission.

This is what we are trying to do in all our programs and priorities. We are trying to raise up a new generation of saints and missionary disciples to proclaim the beautiful truth of the Gospel.

Pray for me this week and know that I will be praying for you.

And may our Blessed Mother Mary help all of us to know the love of the Christ and the mercy of God and to grow in holiness, in the joy of life and the beauty of our Catholic faith.

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