On December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we begin the Year of Mercy. Fifty years ago on the same date, the Second Vatican Council was concluded. Pope Francis has called for a Year of Mercy on this significant anniversary because the Second Vatican Council was a “new phase of the same evangelization that had existed from the beginning…a fresh undertaking for all Christians to bear witness to their faith with greater enthusiasm and conviction…the Church sensed a responsibility to be a living sign of the Father’s love in the world.” Fifty years after the Council and nearly thirty-five years as the local church of San Jose, we are in a new phase of evangelization which will require a fresh undertaking from all of us to bear witness to our faith.
In this new phase of evangelization, we face emerging challenges in this beautiful Valley of Saint Clare. Among the challenges I have seen in recent years are these: the ranks of the unchurched and religiously unaffiliated are rapidly increasing, especially among young adults; we have a growing Hispanic population and a lack of enough priests to minister to them in their own language; some of our parishes are growing beyond their capacities while others – due to changing demographics – are no longer the vibrant communities they once were; the cost of a Catholic education has increased and the poor and even many in the middle class have little or no access to such an education; our people face complex social, economic and moral dilemmas.
These are significant challenges that I face as the Bishop of San Jose, and I cannot meet them alone. Last year, I established the Office of Evangelization to help to address these challenges. Since then, in May and September of this year, the clergy gathered to establish a framework for our response to these issues. In late September, the pastoral ministers of all parishes met to move from this framework to plans to be implemented at each parish. Through the end of this year, parish pastoral teams are working on their individual parish plans in the main areas of faith formation (Word), liturgy (Worship), and social outreach (Witness). Our schools and Catholic Charities will also be engaged in this process. These plans will fulfill the main focus areas of the Diocesan Pastoral Plan and also account for the new challenges we all face.
I thank the lay ministers, staff, administrators, volunteers, clergy and religious who have worked without tire during these years to bring people, especially our young, to a living relationship with Christ. We have grown in faith and in numbers as a Diocese since our birth in 1981 and I thank you all for of your work in sustaining that growth.
I ask you all now to pray to the Holy Spirit to guide us in this process of renewal, especially during this Year of Mercy. My hope is that we can all work together in Christ to form disciples of our Lord who will bring about the Kingdom of God here in the County of Santa Clara.
With my Blessing
Bishop Patrick J. McGrath