On October 1, 2012 all the full-time ministers of the Diocese of Juneau gathered at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Wrangell for our bi-annual meeting. What was significant about this meeting was that we had already met twice for two full-day teleconference calls. These previous meetings were to prepare ourselves for the gathering in Wrangell and to fully discuss our plans for the Year of Faith.
Pope Benedict XVI declared that the universal Church would celebrate this Year of Faith beginning October 11, 2012 and concluding on the feast of Christ the King, November 24, 2013. The Year of Faith marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council on October 11, 1962 and the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on October 11, 1992.
Both the time and place of our gathering were significant. As many of you know, St. Rose of Lima in Wrangell is the first Catholic Church in Alaska and October 1 is the memorial for St. Thérèse of Lisieux – patroness of the state of Alaska and the Diocese of Juneau. It was during our celebration of solemn vespers on October 1 in this church that I signed the Introduction to my pastoral letter, “Rediscover the Journey and Joy of encountering Christ.” In the same context, I also signed a decree announcing that we will conclude the Year of Faith with a Diocesan Synod. This is scheduled for November 21–24, 2013 at St. Paul the Apostle Church, Juneau. The outcome of the synod will serve as a guide for our future work in the Diocese.
Having the teleconference calls prior to our Wrangell meeting made all the difference in planning for the five diocesan initiatives that will take place during the Year of Faith. They are:
Pastoral Visits – I will make a multi-day visit to all the parishes and missions of the Diocese during the Year of Faith. The visit will include time for prayer, discussions/catechesis, town hall meetings and listening sessions in preparation for the Diocesan Synod.
Diocesan Census – It is my desire to acquire a more accurate picture of the demographics of the Catholic community in Southeast Alaska. This initiative will afford us the opportunity to come into contact with active and inactive Catholics and see how we can better serve them as well as invite them to renew their personal relationship with Christ and his Church.
Fostering Evangelization and Catechesis – A major theme of the Year of Faith for the universal Church is the New Evangelization. It is our desire to provide catechetical programs for three distinct groups: practicing Catholics, inactive Catholics, and those who are interested in learning more about Christ and invite them to be active members of Christ’s Body – the Church.
One Shepherd/One Voice – The priests of the Diocese and I have agreed to prepare and craft together six homilies that we will preach on particular Sundays throughout the Year of Faith. On these days, parishioners will receive a brief outline of a homily as well as questions that will be used at a discussion session in the parish at a time during the course of the week following the homily.
Diocesan Synod – The Year of Faith will be used to prepare for this synod, which will gather the priests, religious, deacons, full-time ministers as well as representatives of all the parishes and missions of the diocese and selected members of various groups. The synod is intended to provide a structure and direction for the future life and work of the church in Southeast Alaska. The synod will take place November 21-24, 2013 in Juneau.
I recognize that the year of faith will be a busy one. Through it, I hope to strengthen our commitment as disciples of Jesus Christ and as members of his Body – the Church. It is my fervent hope that through these initiatives we will each grow in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
At the full-time ministers meeting in Wrangell we had the opportunity to pray together, enjoy the wonderful hospitality of the people and parishioners of St. Rose of Lima Parish and collaborate together. It is my hope that all of us will look towards the Year of Faith as an opportunity to grow in that personal relationship with Jesus Christ – through his Holy Word found in Scripture and in the celebration of his presence through the Sacraments of the Church. Let us continue to pray that we will be guided by the Holy Spirit in doing this work – for without God’s blessing and the guidance of the Holy Spirit we “labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)
Editor’s note: The Pastoral Letter will be mailed to all registered Catholics in the Diocese of Juneau. A digital version is available to download from the diocese website: