A Feeling of Home
We are in the season of Easter, the joyous time of year when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. I pray that the blessings of this beautiful season will lift up the lives of all of us, and renew us in hope. In Jesus, God conquers evil and death. He opens for us the promise of life, and new life. How blessed we are.
During these weeks following my installation in February, I have been getting acquainted with the territory, the people, and the parishes of the great state of Maine. I have heard that every part of Maine is a little different from the others. What I have seen, however, as I travel about, is a heavy coating of snow everywhere. It has been a long winter, and even though Mainers are used to it, it became clear to me that everyone is looking for the sun. The promise of spring is anticipated by everyone. And, though I am sure that traveling in summer will show me a different side of Maine and the distinct beauty of all its diverse parts, I do feel that what I have already learned about Maine’s people will remain the same. Wherever I have gone, I have found people most hospitable. I have felt very much at home. Whether it was a visit to Fort Kent or Caribou, Kittery or Orono, Calais or Rumford, Houlton or Sanford, or, of course, in Portland, people have been very kind and gracious as they welcomed me. The people are rightly proud of their parishes and schools, their organizations and apostolates. These months have been a very good introduction for me to the vibrant Church in Maine.
Now that we are in these joyful weeks of Easter, the work of the bishop changes a bit. In these days when we celebrate the very truth of Christ our Light and Life risen from the dead, we remind ourselves that we participate in His life through the sacraments. Our relationship with Jesus began at baptism. How blessed we were to witness the number of people who were baptized at Easter in our parishes during the Vigil ceremony. All of us were able to renew our baptismal promises in the Masses of Easter in our own parishes. Now we are continuing the initiation of our young Catholics into full membership in the Church through the sacraments of first Eucharist and confirmation. As bishop of the diocese, I am privileged to visit the parish communities where priests and laypeople alike, working closely with parents, have prepared our youngsters for these graced sacramental encounters with Jesus, our Savior. Celebrating these initiation sacraments in all our clusters is the work of the bishop during the Easter season. Following that, I look forward to resuming my visits to the parishes of the diocese.
As I speak of our parishes I am reminded of the central part they play in the diocese. Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, reminds us that the parish is a privileged place where the work of the Church takes place. “The parish is the presence of the Church in a given territory, an environment for hearing God’s word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration.” Indeed it is all these things. It is the place where we are introduced to Jesus just as we are doing with our youngsters in these weeks. It is the place where we come together and are renewed in God’s love for us in Jesus when we gather for the celebration of the Eucharist on Sunday, and it is the place in which we are sent forth to minister in Jesus’ name to one another and to offer care to our neighbors in need.
I am so happy to find that much work has been done on strengthening our parishes. The formation of Clusters and the ongoing development of this model shows positive results. The work, however, continues. As mentioned in Telling Anew the Story of Jesus, an important part of this process is spiritual renewal in our parishes and a continuing effort to strengthen the clusters with collaborative ministry involving priests, deacons and laypeople. These efforts are the foundation of effective evangelization.
Our annual Catholic Appeal helps with this work as we seek ways to be supportive of the work of our parishes. The Appeal is also a part of our Easter season. It provides the way in which we are able to do the good work the Gospel entrusts to us of announcing the Resurrection of Jesus as an event which happens again when, for example, we are able to teach our young the beauty of the message of Jesus or reach out to someone who is hungry. Thank you for your support. I pray you consider making a gift this year. It would be so helpful to the work of your Church.
May God bless you in this Easter Season with joy and hope.
Most Rev. Robert P. Deeley, J.C.D.,
12th Bishop of Portland