2010-12 «Being Catholic: a call, a challenge



 Diocese of Timmins – October 2010

 Being Catholic, a Call, a Challenge

+Mgr Paul Marchand, S.M.M. Bishop of Timmins

 2010-12 «Being Catholic: a call, a challenge Page 1

Pastoral Letter                                                                                                                      October 1, 2010

Note: This document is only a tool among many others. It is intended for those who wish to reflect a little more deeply on the meaning to give to the 2010-2011 diocesan priority.

Being Catholic:

A Call – A Challenge


The theme chosen by the Diocesan Pastoral Council as the 2010-2011 pastoral priority encourages us to ask a fundamental question related

to our ‘identity’. In fact,‘Catholic’ is how we define ourselves when we complete a census form or when people

ask uswhat religion we belong to. We spontaneously reply: I am ‘Catholic’. But what is behind this word “Catholic” that we accept as

forming part of our identity?


These lines do not claim to answer this question, that is as complex as it is formidable, in any exhaustive fashion.  They simply hope to shed

some light, especially on the words: ‘call’ and ‘challenge’. Many other things remain to be done over the course of the

year in order to bring this diocesan priority to a successful conclusion. My only hope is that through these few paragraphs, discussions will

begin and a deeper awareness will grow as to who we ‘are’.


It seems to me that this is a very good time to work on this question. Indeed, it often takes a crisis for us to ask ourselves real questions:

Recently, one of my friends admitted:“I discovered who I was after my car accident. On my hospital bed I went into my

 innermost being to take hold of the real foundations and pillars that had always supported me.”


The Church we identify with when we call ourselves ‘Catholic’ is currently experiencing a major crisis, as much in its institutionsas in some of

its people. Might this situation also provide us with an opportunity to ask ourselves real questions about our identity as: ‘Catholic’?


A. Being Catholic: A CALL

What does this say?


1. Since our youth we have discovered that there is a reason why we are on earth. Instinctively, we seek ‘to leave our mark’, ‘to make

a difference’, ‘to achieve something great while making an achievement of ourselves’. This youthful idealism very often is what leads us to

choose the profession, occupation and even the state in life that we want to commit ourselves to and to take sometimes difficult and laborious

means to achieve it. It’s as if there were something innate in our human existence, even before our birth. Would this not be

our very first call?


2. Several Bible stories point in this direction, for example the story of the call of Jeremiah. It is said: ‘Before I formed you in the

 womb I knew you, before you were born, I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet.’ (Jer 1:5)The back-ground of this

story is the story of the creation of the world where it is said that God:‘is the creator of  all’ (Gn 10:16); that he

‘formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into him the breath of life’ (Gen 2:7) Later, when speaking to the

Hebrew people, Jeremiah put these words into the mouth of God: ‘Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.’

 (Jer 18:6) For his part, Job affirms “YOU clothe me with skin and flesh and YOU knit me together with bones and sinew’.

 (Job 10:11-12) Saint Paul thoroughly agrees when he says:‘When God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace…’(Gal. 1: 13-17)

It means that ‘something’ is imprinted, inculcated into our being from the very beginning that might qualify as: ‘a first call’. The

Second Vatican Council qualifies it as: ‘human vocation’. It speaks of it as a plan attached to the coming into the world

of each individual and which is absolutely unique to each person. This call forms part of me as a human person because it is: ‘me”. There you

have it!


3.According to Vatican II, our ‘Christian vocation’ was grafted onto this human vocation. Christoph Théobald, in his

work,Vous avez dit vocation? (p. 96), explains by commenting on the Vatican II document Gaudium Spes (19, 21), that

BeingChristian, is a ‘new way of dwelling within our humanity’. Our Christian vocation brings new meaning to

our human vocation. God calls us not only to leave our mark on the world, but to mark this world in ‘the manner of the

children of God’. In other words, through our baptism we are called to make the world better ‘according’ to what we have

become through our plunge into the life of the Risen Christ. We are called to mark the world in the manner

 of Jesus.


4.It goes without saying that these two calls, mysteriously deposited into our hearts, the first even before our birth and the other through our

baptism, cannot be revealed to us and developed without the help of many intervening parties. Yet, spontaneously, parents, teachersand all

those involved in the world of education, set everything up to help students discover and develop their own talents, whether that be in the field of the arts, sports, management, computers, mechanics, engineering, law etc…


Similar help is needed to make this new call tied up to our baptism grow in order that it may dwell our human vocation

 in the manner of Jesus, tint the talents we have received in the light of our Christian faith, live our daily life according to the Spirit Jesus

bequeathed to us and bear witness to who we truly are: baptized human persons. For we who declare ourselves Christians and Catholics, these

 two calls are in fact components of a single identity. Obviously we cannot bring this help to others in a serious and

effective way, or even discover and intensify our identity for ourselves as adults, without meeting many challenges, especially in today’s



B. Being Catholic: A CHALLENGE. What does this say?


 ‘Being Catholic’, in the society of the 21 st century can become a real challenge with the arrival of the technological

revolution and all of the new pressures being placed, not only on the youth, but also on parents, families and those around them. Some

choices have to be made. I will enumerate a few of them:


1.Develop an ability to listen in order to hear what is happening within us, what is ‘appropriate’ for us as individuals.‘To listen’ in

a world full of so much noise might appear daring, unrealistic, even ridiculous. Nevertheless it’s a necessary step for anyone wanting to

fulfil his life and to take from it all the happiness that arises by answering the calls appropriate for him. No one can hear for another the silent

voice that is inscribed in the heart of every human life. In our innermost selves a rich life seeks to emerge in the sense of ‘The best of

ourselves’ as a human being and as a child of God. But at the same time, an infinity of exterior noise seeks to bury it. How do we meet this challenge? …


2.Find models. When one is young or a  child, it’s in the nature of things to seek these models in one’s own parents. We often hear:“How

do you want children to grow as ‘Catholics’ if their parents don’t help them through their example and their own choices?” Or still: “It’s

hard to ask young people to be more ‘Catholic’ than their parents”.


Surrounding milieus should also produce several‘identification figures’ that are able to bear witness to their faith.

“It takes a village to raise a child”, says the African proverb. Where is this village if not in the family, the school and other places

that young people frequent? The call to be ‘Catholic’ becomes a challenge not only for each individual, but for all members of our Church.


3.Accept to leave something behind. How many times did the Lord point out to his disciples that they would not be able to follow him without

leaving something behind? In a society of abundance, ease and comfort, are we able to make choices according to who we truly are and let go of

what is not right for us?


4.Gradually discover that freedom and profound joy that suddenly appears when we become who we are: Christians baptized in the ‘Catholic’

Church.Far from being a human constraint or a social requirement, our baptism calls us to great freedom and  immense joy. It remains

for us to discover this in our everyday commitments and to give thanks for it with others in our community.


 5.Another challenge – and not the least of them – is the consciousness of responsibility that rests within all of us to live according to the

initial call that God addressed to us ‘in secret’ and to give him the Christian colour of our baptism with the choices that flow from it.


Conclusion :

The 2010-2011 pastoral priority invites us then to return to our innermost identity. Let’s not forget the very first word of the theme: the word

Being. Being Catholic is a way of‘being’, a wayof existing in this world that becomes a continuous reply from the

depths of our heart to a silent and love-filled proposition from God. There are other ways to exist such as for people who do not know Jesus or

do not believe in him. But the way that we are talking about today refers directly to the person of Jesus as Son of God and to the Church he



I agree that the crisis our Church is currently experiencing is abundantly nourishing conversations in our kitchens and living rooms. For

several among us this crisis could cause great suffering. But it seems to me that it also offers an invitation to look again at our own human and

baptismal call, especially to revisit this new way of dwelling within our human person as baptized and Catholic people and to meet the

challenges that arise.


Paul Marchand, S.M.M.

Bishop of Timmins


To continue the reflection:

 A few questions


1. Can I identify some calls that I have felt in my life?

2. Can I identify some models that have helped me to realize my human vocation?

3. Can I identify some models that have helped me to grow in my Christian vocation?

4. Can I identify some challenges that I have had to meet in order to be faithful to my calls?

5. How do you feel about the 2010-2011 pastoral priority that is proposed to us?

6. What commitment(s) are you able to make in order for this pastoral priority to come to a successful conclusion?

. as an individual?

. as a community ?

7. Other