Bishop Pope 500pxBy Bishop Stephen J. Berg

This new edition of “Today’s Catholic” provides me an opportunity to reflect upon my role as your Bishop. For the past year I have been traveling, meeting and worshipping with you. I vividly recall being moved by the beauty of God’s creation as I approached Creede, the jagged mountain peaks of Silverton, the mirrored surface of the Blue Mesa reservoir, and the vast plains of La Junta. Meeting you at each stop, the members of my Catholic family, has filled my heart with joy and expectation for our future together.

I have grown to feel at home, embracing more fully my call as Bishop to teach, sanctify and govern. Allow me to share some background and insights which will guide me in the development of my role, and which will influence our future together as a diocese. In my first assignment as pastor I was given four beautiful rural parishes, which also included a fifth vibrant Hispanic community. It was there that I realized and accepted, through grace, that my immediate pastoral mission was to “strengthen families in holiness.” This insight, of course, arose from my own experience of a large family, and was indeed validated by the needs and response of those parishioners in those isolated communities. This single purposeful insight gave focus to my ministry and offered our communities a lasting connection to the mission of Christ.

Strengthening families in holiness appears to me to be a particularly apt focus for my ministry as teacher in the diocese at this time, but it is also a priority of the universal Church. As our Holy Father says, the family is the foundation. “The family, united, fruitful and indissoluble, possesses the elements fundamental for fostering hope in the future.  Without this solid basis, the future ends up being built on sand, with dire social consequences” (Pope Francis, Strasbourg).
My first priority as your pastor has been and continues to be to get connected to you. My focus is to travel to our parishes, visiting with you and celebrating important feasts. The connection we make is the sure and sound foundation for us to grow as a family of the Diocese of Pueblo.

I would like also to explore the second, closely related priority in this coming year, which is how strengthening families in holiness relates to our efforts in ministry to our young people. I have heard this desire for youth outreach expressed across every parish in the diocese. As I have enjoyed the company and love of my 31 nieces and nephews, it is clear to me that young people want to be invited into the Church’s life and its ministry.
And as a third closely related priority, I invite us to further explore together our effective outreach and ministry to our Hispanic brothers and sisters in the diocese. Where the family has found its support in faith, in whatever diverse culture that has blessed our diocese, the faith has flourished.

The answers to the above concerns must be approached differently in many parishes. What works in Grand Junction may not work so well in Lamar, or Trinidad. We will need to discuss and explore different possibilities in the years ahead. Nonetheless, strengthening of families in holiness seems to me to be a key that will bring us together in the mission of Christ as a diocesan Church.

As I have just celebrated Catholic schools week on the Western slope and in Pueblo, I prepare now to travel again to our communities for the Rites of Election and the Sacrament of Confirmation. I look forward to seeing you and for us getting to know one another better. I am energized and enlivened by your faith and I thank God for sending me to you. My prayer is for us all, that we grow into ever fuller unity as a diocesan family, held together by our communion in the love of Jesus Christ.