Lent is time for renewal and repentance
February 19, 2004
Dear Friends in Christ,
It has been the unbroken tradition of this diocese since 1903 for the bishop to write a letter to the priests, religious and faithful of this local church at the beginning of Lent each year. In addition the rules governing fasting and abstinence are also published as well as the list of particular charities and collections that are taken up during this holy season of Lent, Triduum and Easter time, that runs for 90 days from Feb. 25, Ash Wednesday until May 30, Pentecost Sunday.
Though I am now technically the diocesan administrator and will remain so until I am installed as Coadjutor Bishop of Galveston-Houston on March 26, I do want to write to all of you one last time and invite you into the significant time of renewal, repentance, holiness and welcome: Lent.
May I first thank all the priests, deacons, religious and faithful for the privilege that has been mine to shepherd this diocese for the past six years, first as coadjutor and then as diocesan bishop. You were most kind in
I have been very touched by the letters I have received in recent days since the announcement of my transfer, letters that speak of the depth of the Catholic faith planted here by pioneers and sustained by their descendants these past 102 years since the diocese was founded.
The challenges have always been great here but the faith and genuine piety in response to them has always been greater. I beg you all to continue in your faithfulness, to remain true and orthodox in teaching and practice, loyal to the Holy Father, reverent in celebrating the sacraments, and continuous in your generosity towards those in need, towards the newcomer and the alienated. The emphasis on formation in faith of our children and young people, especially in Catholic schools and parish religious education programs has been a hallmark of this local church.
I hope we will stay focused there. We need to continue, as well, our work at safe environment programs for the protection of our children and young people from any sexual abuse. May I ask you also to beg the prayers of the Mother of God that there will be continued vocations to priesthood and religious life for our diocese.
The season of Lent is marked by both repentance/self denial and by welcome. The church repents and strives again for personal and corporate holiness. Fasting is a way of emptying ourselves so that the fullness of our crucified and Risen Lord might take hold of us anew. Fasting is accompanied by prayer and outreach, the charity of self-giving. The second aspect of Lent, welcoming, is centered on our catechumens and candidates who mark this season as the final preparations for their entry into the church. As they enter, what kind of parish communities will they find? Is there support for them? Does their enthusiasm for our Catholic faith find a mirror response in us who have been in the faith for many years? Is our fasting and renewal only for ourselves or does it have a corporate dimension, i.e. that our renewal touches in welcome the "new ones" who are being joined and grafted into the fullness of the Body of Christ, the church? I hope that we will respond well.
Let us also pray this Lent and Easter Season that the Holy Father will send a good shepherd as bishop to this wonderful diocese. I do not know how long it will be before a new bishop is appointed. I hope that during the period of a "vacant see" that all people, priests, deacons and religious will pray, will keep unity of faith, and will be patient with one another as they anticipate the new appointment.
With gratitude for all of you and hopes for your prayers, I remain
Sincerely yours in Christ,