We are called…
Over 2000+ years ago Jesus said:
“Do this in memory of me.”
And, well, here we are at Saint Rita Church, Sierra Madre, on the
SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST
celebrating Mass together and still carrying out that command that echoes over two millennia. One of the initiatives of our parish Pastoral Plan is “to preserve the centrality of the full celebration of the Eucharist as vital to the identity of Roman Catholics.” Over the next 10 years more parishes in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles will be without priests as pastors. Our neighboring Diocese of San Bernardino-Riverside has more than 17 such parishes without a resident priest. Only priests and bishops can celebrate the Mass and consecrate. Can you see our concern here?
All indications are that if we were to fill the seminaries tomorrow, it would not stop the changing role of the sacramental priest in the modern world. The emerging model for the parish is one that has a “Pastoral Life Director” [PLD] with a “priest minister” providing Masses, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and Anointing of the Sick. While it is a high priority for Archbishop José Gomez to grow the number of seminarians for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the reality is that we only ordained eight priests on May 30th to assist in serving the nearly five million Catholics in our Archdiocese. At the same time the number of ordinations to priesthood will remain small for many years to come.
Archbishop Gomez calls on ALL of us to “work and pray for vocations.” Our prayers must be for the development of ALL Church vocations—lay, vowed, and ordained. He believes, as I do, that The Holy Spirit is really in charge of this one! Unexpectedly, in parishes where PLDs are in charge, the parishes are flourishing. One parish in San Bernardino having had two PLDs in a row begged the bishop not to send them a priest pastor; they preferred a sacramental priest minister instead. Why put all of that administration back into the responsibilities of a priest, who was probably not formally trained to do that job anyway? In any case, the challenge that lies ahead is to keep central to our parish life and ministry the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. All other sacraments either lead to it or flow from it!
“This is my Body,
this is my Blood,
given for you.”
No matter where the Spirit is leading, one thing is for sure: Whoever makes this proclamation of Jesus his or her own will be a much better disciple and a much more generous and caring person—much more fit to serve as a member of His Body, the Church. Do you think of yourself getting up each morning and saying, “This is my body and this is my blood given for you today O Lord”? As a faith community, of course, we will continue, to DO THIS in memory of Him as we commit ourselves to discipleship and stewardship. This is His plan for us and it cannot fail!