Most Rev. John Vlazny Archbishop Emeritus of Portland
During the beautiful days of the Christmas season the new year begins. In the days before Christmas the church again proclaims the story of John the Baptist’s birth. Nowadays friends and neighbors ask much the same question about newborn children as we heard asked about St. John, “What will this child be?” Well, when 2013 rolls in on January 1st, our question will be quite similar, “What will this new year be?” We wonder. We pray. We hope for the best.
In the calendar year 2013 the Lunar Year, observed by many cultures in the Far East, will fall on February 10th. This time it will be the Year of the Snake, the sixth in the cycle, following the dragon years, reoccurring every twelfth year. I was born in the Year of the Buffalo. Snakes apparently make good scientists, sociologists, investigators and even spiritual leaders. Maybe a number of future priests will be born this year. All these speculations are very entertaining, but we all know that every year is a good year to be born, to live, and even to die. The gift of life comes from God, who knows us and loves us all with equal devotedness. But there are days when some of us need his attention and care more than others. But throughout 2013, as in every other year, God’s unwavering attention will be upon each one of us. Praise God!
You already know that I anticipate the year 2013 with great interest and some uncertainty. I presume that early in the year a new archbishop will be installed and I will become an archbishop emeritus. An installation committee is already at work under the leadership of my Special Assistant, Mr. Todd Cooper, trying to plan all the events that will surround the welcome of our eleventh shepherd. I myself shall be moving out of the Archbishop’s Residence next to the cathedral into a new home on the property of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon. Thank you, sisters! I shall begin the new year making my annual spiritual retreat with the bishops of Region XII up at the Archbishop Brunett Palisades Retreat Center in Federal Way, Washington. Later in the year I hope to make another spiritual retreat in the Holy Land, a gift of the pilgrims who accompanied me to Israel last March.
Here in the archdiocese the winter months will be busy with preparations for the arrival of the new archbishop. A new Archdiocesan Pastoral Council will begin its work on Saturday, January 19th. I certainly am grateful to all those who have served these past three years. Lent will begin early on February 13th with Easter on March 31st. We shall be celebrating the annual Chrism Mass a few days earlier than usual, on the Wednesday before Holy Week, March 20th. Cathedral school parents usually offer some marvelous hospitality to the assembled presbyterate on that day and, with spring break occurring during Holy Week, it would be difficult to host the priests in the very gracious style which has been their custom.
A very important part of our Lenten observance next year will be the Year of Faith focus on the sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession. Plans will vary from parish to parish. I have asked all pastors to provide greater opportunities for the sacrament of Reconciliation in parishes throughout Lent. I am hopeful we can agree on one particular Saturday when the sacrament will be available throughout the day, or at least for a longer period of time than usual, across the archdiocese. We shall also have an effort to welcome people back to more active participation in our shared life of faith.
Springtime, as usual, will be the paschal season when we shall be singing our alleluias and the bishops will be traveling around the archdiocese confirming our young people in their Catholic faith. The Eager Vigil celebrations in all our parishes are always special occasions when our neophytes become Catholics and candidates for continuing conversion receive the sacrament of Confirmation, which they had not received as youngsters. A special Year of Faith observance will be scheduled around the archdiocese in the various regions on Pentecost Sunday, the birthday of the church. Once again we will be relying on planning to take place at the vicariate level for the coming together of as many people as possible to celebrate the loving relationship which is ours with the Lord, inspired by the Holy Spirit who comes to strengthen us and renew us whenever we approach the sacraments. Then in late spring, on June 8th, eight new priests will be ordained for service here in the archdiocese, God willing. What a joy it will be for the new archbishop! They are all good men and I encourage you to pray for them in the coming months.
Summertime is usually a time when parish and archdiocesan activities slow down a bit. Undoubtedly the new archbishop will be leading a pilgrimage to Rome where he will be receiving his pallium from Pope Benedict XVI on June 29th, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. The pallium is a special vestment worn over the chasuble by an archbishop, a symbol of his special relationship with the Holy Father as the lead bishop in his province. I would like to make that trip with the archbishop and his companions. It will bring back happy memories of my own visit to receive the pallium fifteen years ago. Summertime will also include the World Youth Day pilgrimage in late July. Michal Horace, our Archdiocesan Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, will be leading our young adults to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil for that special celebration. Two years ago I traveled with our young pilgrims to Madrid. It was an exciting experience, a real celebration of faith, a time when the young folks gathered with their contemporaries from across the globe in thanksgiving to God for their Catholic faith.
The fall is always the time for the ordination of new deacons, a significant group of servant-ministers, growing in number every year. Those ordinations in 2013 are scheduled for October 26th at the cathedral. By then I am hopeful that we will have established the beginnings of a program of sister parishes across the archdiocese. Our hope is to encourage a greater sharing of time, treasure and talent between parishes within the archdiocese, which will help strengthen our solidarity as a local church and give parishioners an opportunity to reach out by the sharing of their gifts to others in our Catholic family. More affluent parishes can sometimes share some of their fiscal treasures with others that are less fortunate. Those with special talents can share them more widely by partnering in liturgical celebrations, catechetical programs, picnics, fiestas of all kinds. Before winter sets in, I trust that the new church building for Shepherd of the Valley Parish in Central Point will be well on its way to completion and give the new archbishop an opportunity to preside at its dedication.
Yes, 2013 already looks like it will be a time filled with activities and celebrations. The things I have mentioned are the ones we are planning. They say that if you want to make God laugh, “Tell him your plans.” God knows. We don’t. But we entrust all we are and all we have and all we do to His gracious and loving embrace. As always, I suggest, “Let God. Let go.” Happy New Year!