Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia encouraged the people of his archdiocese to allow their hearts to burn with love for Christ as they work to renew the Church in the coming year.
“Building or rebuilding anything of value always takes effort,” he said in a Jan. 5 online column.
The archbishop's remarks will become a weekly feature on the site Catholicphilly.com, which he said will allow him to discuss “the life we share as a Church in a more direct, immediate way.”
Archbishop Chaput said that the greatest challenge faced by the archdiocese in 2012 will not be legal or financial, but pastoral.
Noting that the Catholic faith should never be a mere habit, he warned against spiritual problems such as a lukewarm faith that is void of zeal and a desire to fit in and live comfortably.
These “shadows” affect everyone, he said, and they can draw us away from Christ.
The archbishop asked the people of Philadelphia to renew their love for Christ as they seek to address the challenges of the new year.
Among the difficulties faced by the archdiocese is the need to restructure the education system in order to provide greater strength and stability.
After a year of examining Catholic education in Philadelphia – a process that was begun under the archbishop’s predecessor, Cardinal Justin F. Rigali – a Blue Ribbon Commission report was released on Jan. 6 indicating that more than 40 schools in the archdiocese cannot be financially sustained and will likely need to be closed or merged.
Archbishop Chaput said that “a careful pruning of our educational system” is necessary to build “the foundation for a new and stronger future for Catholic education in the Archdiocese.”
He called on the archdiocese to recover the spirit of Bishop John Neumann, an early bishop of Philadelphia, who “was famously frugal with himself, and famously generous in his love for others.”
Bishop Neumann, who is known as one of the founders of Catholic education in the U.S., saw himself as a missionary first, said Archbishop Chaput.
The people of the archdiocese must have a similar approach, he explained, remembering that the proper goals of Catholic education are “the building up of the Church, the salvation of souls, the ennobling of young minds and the conversion of American culture.”
With God’s grace and hearts that are “truly on fire for Jesus Christ,” the archdiocese can overcome difficulties and help Catholic education to thrive once again, he said.
“Nothing great is ever accomplished without suffering,” the archbishop noted.
He called on the people of Philadelphia to give of their energy and devotion to restore the local Church. “She is worth every sacrifice we make to renew her.”