Editorial: ‘A very hopeful sign’
It’s nice to have some good news to share.
This week’s story on RCIA, while not comprehensive, anecdotally shares data that illustrates that the number of people entering the U.S. Church this year at the Easter Vigil is either growing or holding steady, despite the sex abuse scandal of the summer of 2018.
“It is remarkable and a very hopeful sign that, despite all the bad news that seems to dominate the headlines about the Church, so many people feel and follow through on the call to join the Church,” said Joseph Zwilling, the communications director for the Archdiocese of New York, in the story.
For the laity, such news is a hopeful and very welcome reminder that, regardless of what may be happening in the wider Church, the work of Jesus Christ continues in the human heart. Prospective converts “are a light and a hope for us,” said Dianna Rottiers, pastoral associate at Holy Trinity Church in Comstock Park, Michigan. “They’re able to see beyond the headlines. They’re able to follow their heart in what God has already been doing in their lives.”
While Catholics always should remain aware and vigilant regarding the problems within the Church — and should work to help resolve them and to hold Church leaders accountable for their actions — it’s also important to keep in mind that Jesus Christ is actively continuing to draw souls closer to him. The great gift of our faith is that it is not rooted in the 24-hour news cycle or in individual human beings, but rather in the truth and message of our Savior. And this is what continues to attract and evangelize.
The laity, as co-workers in the vineyard of the Lord, also have the responsibility to continue in that mission to build up the Church and the Body of Christ. We must continue to reach out and invite others to join us in our mission — but to do so, we must ourselves already be firmly planted in the rich soil of faith. We must continue to strengthen our spiritual lives, to deepen and lengthen our times of prayer. We must continue acts of service and remain engaged within our parishes. We must continue the mission of evangelization by being a light of Christ to the world, despite whatever challenges may arise.
The hopeful numbers found in this week’s story can be a powerful reminder, too, for clergy about the importance of a strong and vibrant parish community. While the happenings in the national and international Church may seem overwhelming or largely out of one’s control, the parish typically is not. And, centered around the Eucharist, the parish can be formed into a bastion of holiness and a community built on love of neighbor and love of Christ. There is much hope and potential for parish communities, regardless of current events. Parish leaders and the laity can achieve this potential by working together in a unified mission.
As we enter into the remainder of Lent and approach the glory of Easter, now is the perfect time to open our hearts to the workings of the Lord. Let us strive to look beyond whatever toxicity may exist within the institutional Church and, instead, focus on growing in discipleship with the one who made us.
And let us, too, pray for those who this year at the Easter Vigil will boldly and courageously respond to the call of Jesus in their own lives and commit to living a life in the fullness of Christ through the Catholic Church.
OSV Editorial Board: Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott Richert, York Young