The apostolic exhortation, "The Church in America," summarizes
and finalizes the conclusions of the Synod for America, which I
attended in 1997 in Rome.
One of the things that the Holy Father emphasized throughout the
Synod and at the final session was the fact that America is one
continent and, even though we have many cultures, we have a unique
opportunity, if not obligation, to think and act as a single global
Bishops from all over the continent gathered at the Shrine of Our
Lady of Guadalupe for the presentation of the synod document. Their
presence symbolized the unity of the Church under the protection
of Mary, who appeared to Blessed Juan Diego in 1531 on Tepeyac hill.
Mary appeared as a young mestizo woman: This reminds us that the
Church in America is made up of many peoples from many places. As
we approach the new millennium, the Holy Father is calling us to
renew our appreciation for all we share with our brothers and sisters
in other parts of the American continent.
One of the most encouraging things I experienced during the trip
was the enthusiasm of the Mexican people for the Pope and, undergirding
that enthusiasm, their love for the Church. People waited hours
everyday just to get a glimpse of him. I'm sure the Holy Father
went away from his trip to Mexico heartened by an experience he
has not seen in any other country, except perhaps Poland. The faith
of the people and their commitment to the Pope was truly extraordinary.
The Latino people of the Americas have a special gift to give to
all of us. They love Christ, they love the Church. I hope they will
be proud of who they are, proud of their culture, and bring that
gift to the archdiocese. We very much need it. Be who you are, be
proud of it. To non-Latino people I would say, 'Be open to this
gift, appreciate it and receive it.'
There are three things that the Holy Father calls us to do in light
of the Synod: The first is conversion, the second is communion and
It all starts with conversion: Groups aren't converted, individuals
are. We have to focus on our conversion, but our conversion is strengthened
by communion, which is our relationship with one another. The third
thing is solidarity in our efforts. In the document, solidarity
is described as an effort to transform society. We can look at our
world and see that it is beautiful and wonderful, but we can also
observe sin, injustice and their consequences. We need to work as
a Christian community in solidarity to create positive change in
our nation and the world.
The New Evangelization
The Church in a diocese is "lived" in its parishes. But even before
it is lived in its parishes, it is lived in homes. The New Evangelization
called forth by the synod document can only take place if individuals
and families read and study this document, and pastors and parishes
help facilitate communities of people working together to make the
New Evangelization a reality.
I hope individuals, families, pastors and parish staffs will make
it a point to read "The Church in America" and reflect on how we
can come together to break down the divisions between north and
south, rich and poor. To facilitate this, a link to the document
has been placed on the archdiocesan web page.
A final note: A number of people have asked me about the significance
of the designation of Dec. 12 as the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe,
announced by the Holy Father during his trip to Mexico. In many
places, Dec. 12 was an optional memorial in honor of Our Lady of
Guadalupe, but it was not a feast day. Many places in the United
States, especially those with large Hispanic populations like Colorado,
already celebrate the memorial. But now the Holy Father has raised
it to the status of a feast day. While it is not a holy day of obligation,
I encourage everyone to celebrate this feast with great joy.