As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, I wish all of you a holy Advent and a Christmas filled with joy and peace. Once again this year, I urge everyone to “keep Christ in Christmas,” because without him there is no joy or peace.
In the midst of so much materialism and commotion, together let’s make a concerted effort to focus on the spiritual – on prayer and penance – so that we can be made worthy to receive Christ the Lord and to bring him to a world so much in need of healing and peace. I especially ask that we pray for peace in the Middle East, and other places of grave conflict where so many people suffer, including our own military and their families.
In January, you will be receiving something new from the Archdiocese of Hartford. I’m referring to the inaugural edition of the Catholic Transcript in a different format. While it was quite challenging to raise the bar of excellence on an award-winning publication that readers have loved since 1829, the newspaper is being transformed into a full-color magazine. It will now be sent 10 times a year, on a complimentary basis, to more than 192,000 Catholic households in the archdiocese. That is more than a doubling in circulation.
A revamped Catholic Transcript is just part of a broader effort that our local church is making to revitalize, with God’s grace, our practice of the faith and the witness to the Gospel that we are called to give to one another and to the wider community.
Responding to invaluable input from “Your Voice Counts” survey and focus group respondents, we have preserved the most popular elements of the Catholic Transcript newspaper, while honoring the request for a publication that is more purposefully evangelical and catechetical. Mindful of the ways that young adults converse and interact within digital “social communities,” the new Catholic Transcript magazine will include an interconnection with social media, incorporating a mobile app that will soon be available to every parish in the archdiocese.
What better time than the New Year to introduce a new way for me and for the Archdiocese of Hartford to communicate with you on an ongoing basis – a New Year bright with the promise of God’s redeeming and transforming love.
The new Catholic Transcript will also be an essential instrument for wider education and accurate information regarding archdiocesan-wide pastoral planning. I hope that you enjoyed the mailing that was sent recently to our 192,000 Catholic households in anticipation of the new Catholic Transcript magazine. It includes a comprehensive “Stewards for Tomorrow” report prepared by the Office of Pastoral Planning. This is meant to engage you in the pastoral planning process now under way throughout the three counties that comprise the Archdiocese of Hartford.
As we prepare for 2017, Pope Francis challenges us to evangelical “boldness” and creativity as “missionary disciples” “capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, languages and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.” (Evangelii Gaudium 27) Simply put, Our Holy Father sees the challenges and opportunities that present themselves at a crossroads that he calls “not an age of change, but the change of an age.”
During this season of material gift-giving, we need to be attentive to the spiritual God-given gifts with which we have been blessed – most especially our potential to do great things for Christ and the Gospel, not by any power of our own, but by opening ourselves to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We are not the masters, but only the stewards of the Lord’s vineyard. To be good stewards, we have to use our God-given faith and intelligence to cultivate new ways for the church to grow and thrive. Let’s not ever underestimate the power of welcoming others, or the importance of new ideas or solutions, as small as they may first appear. As children, we used to look through a kaleidoscope and be amazed when one seemingly minute fleck of color would shift and suddenly a new, more beautiful shape would emerge. In pastoral planning, too, may our collective imaginations be kaleidoscopic with possibility!
There are many effective and creative initiatives that are taking place, both in our archdiocese and nationally, to reinvigorate Catholic life and practice, marriage and family, evangelization and catechesis, parishes and schools. I pray that through new and renewed communications vehicles like the Catholic Transcript magazine, we will be a closer family of faith, committed to promoting spiritual vitality, organizational efficacy and accountability and social and financial responsibility.
Wishing you and all your loved ones a happy, healthy and Holy Christmas, and a very blessed 2017!