From the Bishop - July 2022

On March 19, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Pope Francis promulgated the text of Praedicate Evangelium (“Preach the Gospel”), an apostolic constitution that now governs the Roman Curia, the administrative offices that help him guide the universal Church. It was a major project that took years of consultation to complete. I certainly realize that the functioning of the various Vatican bureaus is not of immense concern to most Catholics in Maine. What is interesting about this promulgation, and what is of paramount importance to all the faithful in the world, is the core principle found throughout this document which provides a more missionary structure to the Curia and offers a roadmap from which the Church is called to draw direction: evangelization.

“Preach the Gospel” is aptly named as it commits the Curia to proclaiming justice, living transparently, and replacing favoritism with cooperation. These are all ideals that can be found in efficient and effective organizations, but what separates this constitution from one that might be instituted at a business or a secular institution is the spirit of reform with which it was written. It clearly acknowledges that everybody, men and women, should be considered for leadership and governing roles in the Church.

We can already see this reality at work as Pope Francis has appointed Sister Raffaella Petrini, FSE, to the role of secretary general of the Governorate of Vatican City, the first time a woman has served in the number two position of the Vatican government. Laymen and laywomen can now also be installed as prefects or secretaries in Vatican offices. As the Holy Father notes, “Every Christian, by virtue of Baptism, is a missionary disciple to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus. One cannot fail to take this into account in the updating of the Curia, whose reform, therefore, must provide for the involvement of laymen and women, even in roles of government and responsibility.” All of this is possible only by following a path of humility with a desire to use the gifts and talents of all people in best conducting the work of the universal Church. It is indeed a wonderful recognition of the many contributions we all have to offer each other and our faith.

It is appropriate that Praedicate Evangelium took effect on Pentecost, June 5, a day referred to as the birthday of the Church because it was on that day that the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles, empowering them to spread the Gospel message to all parts of the world. Praedicate Evangelium is far more than the unification of offices and a modification of procedures. This document is a call for each and every one of us, laypeople and clergy, men and women, young and old, to organize our own lives in a spirit of evangelization centered on bringing the message of Jesus to others. Though its driving mission was to reorganize the Vatican, the purpose and meaning of Praedicate Evangelium extends from the “ufficios” of the Holy See to the pews in your church and to those in need in your community and life.

Everyone should be able to experience the joy of being loved by God. It is a gift that one cannot keep to oneself. It is to be shared. How efficiently is your life organized to share that joy with others? Is what you believe being reflected in your life and how you help those in need around you? Evangelizing is more than going through the motions. The disciples and our own ancestors left us with traditions of hospitality, welcoming, caring for the poor, and supporting each other. They drew strength from faith and promoted a shared mission of spreading the joy and mercy they received from God with family and stranger alike. They taught us that the bedrock of a flourishing parish is found in a common responsibility to serve that is shared by all parishioners. Look into the committees, councils, and initiatives breathing life into your parish and consider sharing your time and talent. In so doing, you will become an active builder in your faith community as your example of love and service will help others know what the joy of the Gospel truly means and how it enriches our lives.

What was true for our parents and grandparents before us is true today. The joy we take in our faith finds expression in the way we live our lives. You seek ways to put faith into action. I know this to be true as you read Harvest, contribute to the annual Catholic Appeal, and find fulfillment in being part of a parish. As you organize your life to better share the love of God that you have received, remember that God accepts our inadequacies just as He did those of the disciples and others who came before us. In appreciation of that gift, deepen your commitment to serve others. In so doing, like Praedicate Evangelium, you will be acknowledging the value, worth, and importance of each person and professing faith in God’s goodness and creation.

Let the Holy Spirit give you the strength to fulfill your commission to spread the good news of Jesus. Let your care for each other and the needs of others be such a beacon of hope that it will draw others to the beauty of the Gospel. Become the evangelizer you were sent to be.