Sunday, February 18th
By Fr. Tom Hurley
Earlier this past week, on Fat Tuesday, the priests of the Archdiocese of Chicago were asked to come together for our February gathering to discuss issues related to our mission as a church in Cook and Lake counties. Cardinal Cupich began this practice a few years ago of calling us together at least three times during the course of the calendar year. I enjoy these times to both reconnect with friends and colleagues in priestly ministry, and to share ideas related to the life and vitality of the church. As you may recall, just over two years ago, Cardinal Cupich announced that our local church of Chicago needs to take a more serious look at our reality, especially as it relates to our parishes attendance numbers, finances, and the deferred maintenance of our church properties. Mindful that no organization can simply just go on ‘business as usual,’ the Cardinal and his team took on an ambitious and in-depth look at what’s happening “under the hood” of our car. As you can clearly imagine, we have some issues. No surprise there. So for the past two years, the Cardinal and the Archdiocese (all of us!) have been on this journey that we are calling “Renew My Church.” Taken from the inspiration of St. Francis of Assisi, Renew My Church is now the coined battle cry for our need to make some definite changes in our daily organizational practices as a local church.
As the Cardinal has stated numerous times, Renew My Church is NOT Close My Church. We presently have about 350 parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Will some parishes close and consolidate? Yes. However, the point of this journey is not just transactional decisions or survival of the fittest. It’s not just about numbers. The Cardinal was very clear at the beginning that EVERY parish will be involved in the process of RMC. What does that mean? Well, instead of having 350 “franchises” operating as independent contractors, there are ways in which resources can be shared so that areas and regions can better serve, and hopefully become more alive and vibrant.
My point today is not to bore you with details related to archdiocesan functions. But what really caught my attention this past Tuesday was our focus, as a presbyterate, on not just Renew My Church, but more importantly on Renew Ourselves. We contemplated, more intentionally, on the ways in which WE need to be renewed as priests and as disciples on the journey. There’s no way in which the Renew My Church enterprise is going to have any fruitful success unless we first renew what our faith in Jesus is all about. By the way, this is not just something related to a bunch of priests. This question is for ALL of us who make up the church in the upper Midwest.
The Cardinal himself gave a great talk which really inspired me. He spoke about growing up in a big family in Omaha (he was one of 9 kids, like me) and all the first moments of inspiration that influenced not only his vocation to the priesthood, but more importantly his formation as a believer and a man of faith. The main point of his inspired words that captured me was his reflection on the gospel text when Jesus, on the day of Easter, told his friends to go back to Galilee. “Going back to Galilee” is a great message. Jesus told his disciples to go back to the place where it all began. Go back to the shore of the Sea of Galilee where he first called people to follow him and his mission. Go back to the place where he asked Peter, “Do you love me?”…And as Peter answered in the affirmative….Jesus tells him, “Then go feed my sheep!”
What does this mean for us today on the first Sunday of Lent? I don’t mean to jump ahead 40 days to Easter already and totally bypass Lent, but we’re an Easter people already. We celebrate Easter every time we get around that Table. My hope for me and for all of us this Lent is that somehow we’ll keep working at getting back to the origins of who we are and what this journey of faith is all about. Like Jesus himself in the desert for 40 days, it’s about getting in touch with the Source of Life, the One who sustains us when we’re hungry, tempted, lost, and feeling alone. Let this time of Lent be our own personal “Renew My Church,” so that as we Renew My Soul and take better care of our spiritual house, then we’ll be able to better care for the larger house of the church to which we belong. Let’s Get Back to Galilee and remember our call and our relationship with the Risen Lord whose only desire is to fill us with more Hope and more Life.
Blessings to you always,
Father Tom Hurley