To the youth: Christ needs you!

Bishop Jorge Rodriguez

On April 22, the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Vocations is celebrated in the Church: prayer for the ordained ministries (priesthood and diaconate), the consecrated life in all its forms (masculine and feminine, contemplative and apostolic), societies of apostolic life and to secular institutes and for the missionary life. This day is the public testimony of the community in prayer to obey the Lord’s command: “So ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest” (Mt 9:38).

In his message for this day, Pope Francis reminds us that no human being is the result of coincidence, or a series of events disconnected from each other; on the contrary, our life and our presence in this world responds to a divine vocation. The challenge is to listen and discern that voice in our heart which calls us from above to become instruments of God’s love and salvation in the world, and thus find our own happiness.

We need young people, both men and women, who want to give their lives for Christ and for the Gospel! The Church, especially our Church in Colorado, needs men who would like to be priests and consecrated women who wish to spend their lives bringing the love of God to the poor, the sick, children, schools, hospitals and to the work of evangelization, in parishes.

In his message, the Pope describes three steps to vocation: listening, discernment, and go for it! God continues to call many young people to the priesthood and consecrated life, but listening becomes more difficult for the youth today. They live in a world of noise, strongly stimulated by the internet, cell phones, iPhones, iPads and other gadgets, and are driven by a selfish culture where the ideal does not go beyond self-interest. In this sort of society, it is very difficult for them to hear the voice of God who always calls them in a silent and discreet way, without putting pressure on their freedom. It comes as no surprise for that voice to be drowned in the thousands of noises that sometimes fill the minds and hearts of young people.

The second step is the discernment process by which the person makes fundamental decisions (in dialogue with the Lord and listening to the voice of the Spirit) about the state of life that they wish to embrace. Here, the person is challenged, too. He or she is asked to choose a life of total love for God and of generous dedication to the service of the Gospel and of the poor. It is important that the young man or woman can read the Word of God and the depth of his own heart to encounter that lifestyle which will make him live fulfilled and happy: because it was for this purpose that God gave him his existence.

It is urgent to listen, discern and go for it! That is what Pope Francis expresses: “The joy of the Gospel, which makes us open to encountering God and our brothers and sisters, does not abide our slowness and our sloth.  It will not fill our hearts if we keep standing by the window with the excuse of waiting for the right time, without accepting this very day the risk of making a decision.  Vocation is today!  The Christian mission is now!… Today the Lord continues to call others to follow him.  We should not wait to be perfect in order to respond with our generous “yes”, nor be fearful of our limitations and sins, but instead open our hearts to the voice of the Lord.  To listen to that voice, to discern our personal mission in the Church and the world, and at last to live it in the today that God gives us..” (Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the 2018 World Day of Vocations, December 3, 2017.)

Guys and girls, God is the only one who knows why he has created you. He has made some of you to be priests; others to be religious and consecrated; and others for the life of marriage or the single life. But he has left you a clue written on your own heart. Now, God does not impose, but he invites; he does not yell, but suggests; he does not obligate, but wants that your answer to be from your heart and for love. He has left in your hands the task of discerning and deciding. But he also gives you tools: his Word, the longings of your heart, and the Church that accompanies and sustains you in this process. As in other professions in life, one who is already living this type of life can share his experience and guide you. If you feel something in your heart, talk to a priest, talk to a religious person, talk to a consecrated woman.

Dear fathers and mothers, the family that you raise is the good land where this seed was possibly deposited, in the heart of one of your sons or daughters, and it could bear the fruit of a priest for a parish, a religious for a Catholic school, a missionary for the world, or a cloistered nun to pray for the salvation of the world.

A vocation is everyone’s task: God calls and plants the seed, the family nourishes it, the prayer of everyone in the church sustains it, the example of the priest and the consecrated one illuminate it, and the young man or woman responds.

COMING UP: Repenting and renewing our role as shepherds

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Jesus tells the disciples in St. John’s Gospel, “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep,” contrasting his goodness with the thieves who come only to steal and destroy.  This past week my fellow U.S. bishops and I sought to act as good shepherds by approving three measures to increase our vigilance and prevention of the evil of sexual abuse by bishops, shepherds who have betrayed the flock entrusted to them.

This last weekend we celebrated Father’s Day, which should remind biological and spiritual fathers of their great responsibility of protecting and raising up new life. This mission is further emphasized by the Rite for the Ordination of a Bishop, which says, “In the Church entrusted to you, be a faithful steward, moderator and guardian of the mysteries of Christ. Since you are chosen by the Father to rule over his family, be mindful always of the Good Shepherd, who knows his sheep and is known by them, and who did not hesitate to lay down his life for them.” This is the model for all bishops.

But the scandals of Theodore McCarrick, Bishop Bransfield and others have made it clear that our vigilance has not been adequate. To quote from the just-issued “Affirming Our Episcopal Commitment” statement, “We, the bishops of the United States, have heard the anger expressed by so many within and outside of the Church over these failures.  The anger is justified; it has humbled us, prompting us into self-examination, repentance, and a desire to do better.” This sentiment was clear in my interactions with my fellow bishops in Baltimore this past week.

As evidence of our commitment, we overwhelmingly passed a set of directives for the bishops’ conference to implement Pope Francis’ Vos estis lux mundi document on handling abuse by priests and bishops. These directives include the creation by May 31, 2020 of a third-party phone and online system that receives reports of potential violations by bishops, the establishment of a protocol in which the Holy See designates and authorizes metropolitan archbishops to investigate cases of alleged abuse by bishops, and the expectation that the investigating bishop involve lay experts in assisting with these inquiries. For any investigations that falls under my jurisdiction, I will ensure that lay experts are involved, as I’ve done throughout my time as a bishop. As the new directives indicate, I will also appoint a lay person to receive complaints from the third-party reporting system, publicize how to make reports, ascertain the credibility of reports and gather any additional information necessary for an investigation to commence.

I also want to highlight that the bishops overwhelmingly approved protocols for imposing limitations on former bishops who were removed from office for grave reasons and that we adopted a code of conduct for bishops, which explicitly states that the Dallas Charter will now include bishops.

All these measures are in addition to those we have been enforcing since 2002 in relation to preventing sexual abuse of minors by priests. The Archdiocese of Denver has a strong track record of actively working to protect children, including annual audits, background checks of employees and clergy, and a code of conduct that previous bishops and I have all signed, and a robust training program aimed at fostering safe environments for children. The effectiveness of these measures over the past 20 years has made us a model for other institutions seeking to combat abuse.

Pope Francis rightly noted in a January 2019 personal letter to the U.S. bishops that the consequences of our failures cannot be fixed by being administrators of new programs or committees.  They can only be resolved by humility, listening, self-examination and conversion.

My brother bishops and I hope that by obeying the Word of God, seeking the will of the Father and embracing what the Church expects of us, we will imitate Christ, the Good Shepherd.

Read more

Pope Francis’ motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi can be read at: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/motu_proprio/documents/papa-francesco-motu-proprio-20190507_vos-estis-lux-mundi.html

The USCCB Directives implementing Vos estis can be read at: http://www.usccb.org/about/leadership/usccb-general-assembly/2019-june-meeting/upload/usccb-modified-amended-directives-2019-06.pdf

Reach out

Christi Sullivan serves as the Protection Specialist for the Office of Child and Youth Protection and can be reached at 303-715-3241 or Christi.Sullivan@archden.org.

Victims of abuse can reach out to Dr. Jim Langley, the Victim Assistance Coordinator, at 720-239-2832 or Victim.Assistance@ArchDen.org.