Voice from the Valley

VFTV: December 12, 2018


Our Convocation of Parish Leaders, held at Fargo’s Avalon Events Center November 30-December 1, was a tremendous success, thanks be to God.

Our collaborative effort with the Diocese of Fargo filled the center with hundreds of parish leaders all receptive to the Holy Spirit, all eager to pray together, listen, dialogue and plan how to be intentional, evangelizing missionary disciples of Jesus Christ. Our gathering was held in response to Pope Francis’ 2013 Apostolic Exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel” and his direction that, in our day, the Church cannot continue doing things “business as usual.” The “Joy of the Gospel” is the Holy Father’s blueprint for the work of the Church in our day and a new evangelization. Our convocation also flowed out of the national Convocation of Catholic leaders held in Orlando in July of 2017.

At the parish delegation session, the second day – after praying together, after listening to speakers, and studying material on what being a missionary disciple is all about – the delegates were invited to dialogue among themselves and share ideas. I tell you, the room was buzzing with spirited conversation. Each person was invited to put together a Personal Missionary Discipleship Plan identifying a person or group to whom they would reach out to, to facilitate a deeper relationship with Christ Jesus and/or with the Church. Then the delegates engaged in conversation about how others in their parish might be invited to make a commitment to be true missionary disciples and reach out to others. As a parish group, the delegates, pastors, priests, and deacons, put together a Parish Missionary Discipleship Initiative Plan. It’s all about praying for, reaching out to, and accompanying people in their coming to know and respond to Jesus Christ and his family, the Church.

Pope Francis has made us keenly aware that if a parish is to be viable in our day, it must not be self-absorbed or out of touch. A parish must be in constant contact with the homes and lives of people. It must be engaged in training parishioners to be missionary disciples filled with the joy of the Gospel and eager to reach out and invite others to encounter Jesus Christ and be involved in the rich life of the Church. May the experience of the Holy Spirit and the work accomplished at our convocation help us and all of our parishes to be fully engaged in responding to Christ’s command “to the end of the earth,” “to the whole creation” and make disciples “of all nations,” gathering all people into the peace of God’s Kingdom.


At our convocation, I was delighted to announce how our dear Sisters of Saint Benedict, in a most wonderful way, are joining in and supporting the efforts for new evangelization inspired by our Convocation of Parish Leaders. In honor of the 100th anniversary of the sisters’ presence and ministry here in the Diocese of Crookston, the Mount Saint Benedict Foundation is making a grant to the Diocese of Crookston Catholic Community Foundation. The grant involves not just a one-year commitment, but a five-year commitment to support parish evangelization plans and efforts. The grant plan is that each year the Mount Foundation will make available $40,000 so that parish convocation delegates can apply for micro-grants to support evangelization efforts. In addition, $10,000 each year will be made available to help the young people of our diocese grow in leadership and missionary discipleship through the Padre Apla Leadership Program. In their “ora et labora,” (as St. Benedict himself put it) that is their “prayer and work”, what a blessing the Sisters of Mount Saint Benedict have been for the faithful of this local church. What a blessing they continue to give of themselves for God’s work here in the Diocese of Crookston. Thank you Sisters and God bless you always.


Advent is short but it’s sweet and jam-packed with excitement. The Messiah is coming! Jesus is coming!

In Advent, we are like Zacchaeus, who upon hearing that Jesus is coming, runs ahead and climbs a tree so that he can see Jesus when he draws near. And lo and behold, Jesus stays at his house that day.

In Advent, we are like Mary and Joseph, expectant with the joy of pregnancy, filled with wonder and awe and excitement in anticipation of the birth of Jesus. Jesus is coming. God is at work now and nothing can hold him back.

During Advent, we strain to prepare to see the days unfolding before us with eyes open and heads held high. The advice Jesus gives in the Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent this year is clear: be awake, be alert, don’t be perplexed or confused about life and don’t be weighed down by anything, especially the anxieties of daily living.

Advent is the time to make the effort to really improve in our relationship with Jesus, to make him all the more the center of our day, of our life. I pray that your Advent is a grace-filled and exciting experience this year!