Mission remains, but the way of ministry changes
By Archbishop John C. Nienstedt
Thursday, 16 July 2009
Having celebrated the joyful season of Easter, culminating in the great feast of Pentecost, we find ourselves back in “Ordinary time” — a time permeated by the extraordinary graces we have gained from the Lord’s suffering, death and resurrection.
But “Ordinary time” is not marked by the “same old, same old.” Ordinary time is, rather, characterized by the wonderful effects of God’s transforming grace, which “makes all things new in Christ.”
That They May All
Archbishop John C. Nienstedt
Struck by the reality
As you know, at the beginning of this calendar year, I announced the
formation of a strategic task force to evaluate the current resources
of the archdiocese and recommend how we could better proceed into the
future by “building on our strengths, not duplicating our efforts.”
The reason behind this initiative is the dramatic changes that are
currently taking place in almost every area of this great archdiocese.
The reality of that situation became startlingly obvious to me a few
weekends ago. On Saturday evening, I traveled out to the Church of St.
Boniface in St. Bonifacius to celebrate the 150th anniversary of its
Founded in 1859, the first settlers were German farmers who gathered in
a small, wood-frame church under the spiritual direction of the
In 1878, the present church building was erected under the pastoral
care of the Franciscans. In recent years, that edifice has added a
gathering space and offices to more than double the original size of
the building. Correspondingly, the character of the neighborhood has
moved from “rural” farm fields to suburban living. While the original
mission of the parish remains the same, the way of ministry in the
parish has changed.
The very next morning, I drove to Minneapolis to celebrate the 125th
anniversary of the Church of St. Anne, founded by Archbishop John
Ireland in 1884 for immigrants of French descent.
That Sunday, the church building was packed with descendants of the
original French families as well as the many Vietnamese families that
now call the church home. The Vietnamese community arrived in the Twin
Cities around 1976, and they merged with St. Anne’s in 2005 under the
patronage of St. Joseph Hien. Again, the mission has remained the same,
but the way of ministry in the parish has changed.
Later that same Sunday, I celebrated the sacrament of confirmation at
our Cathedral for more than 300 Hispanic candidates. It was a most
joyful liturgy, and I even found myself relaxing in a language that I
have struggled to learn. But, clearly, before my eyes was the wave of
the future. Again, the original mission of our Catholic outreach is the
same, but the way of ministry has changed.
I merely point to this two-day experience to underscore the fact that
there are changes going on all around us. And the dynamics of our
evangelizing efforts must adjust to those evolving circumstances.
Thus, the work of the Strategic Task Force for Parishes and Schools
intends not so much to build a more “efficient” archdiocesan church,
but rather one that is holier and more vital, responding with Word and
sacraments to the real needs of the church that exists in the here and
Conversion of hearts and growth in holiness are always the mission of
Christ’s church. We accomplish this mission by serving the needs of the
poor, the sick or the strangers in our midst. To be responsible
stewards of our gifts requires that we are attentive to the “signs of
the times” and able to assess the changes taking place before our eyes.
God bless you!