April 19, 2013
As I emphasized in my last column, there have been a lot of changes in the Church lately, both locally and in the Universal Church. But one thing remains the same, and that is the mission Jesus Christ has entrusted to us to live and proclaim the Gospel message.

Our new Holy Father, Pope Francis, has been giving us a living example of the humility and spirit with which we must go about our mission to proclaim the mercy and love we have found in Jesus. It is the spirit of a servant. The Holy Father is reminding us that the Church is called to serve the needs of the world.

Of course the primary need of the world is for the gift of salvation that is offered to us through the life giving death and glorious resurrection of our Lord. During this Easter season we continue to celebrate that Jesus has freed us from sin and death and has opened up for us the way to eternal life and to a peace and happiness that this world simply cannot offer.

But Jesus, during his earthly ministry, also taught us that we are to have a special, what we might call a “preferential” love and care for the poor. This concern for the poor, the marginalized, the stranger and all those is need is also deeply rooted in all of Sacred Scripture long before the days that Jesus walked among us in the flesh. We are called to care for the modern day “widows and orphans” mentioned in the Old Testament.

Pope Francis, long before he was called to be the successor of St. Peter, demonstrated this love and care for the poor in his ministry as a priest and bishop. We have heard the many touching stories of how humble and concerned he was for the poor, the sick, the imprisoned and all those whom society so easily forgets, looking the other way. Our new Holy Father has continued to call us to this ministry of service.

Most of you are getting the message by now that the so-called “New Evangelization” is at the very top of my list of priorities as your new archbishop. What may not be so obvious yet is that an essential part of our efforts together in this area will be our outreach in charity to the poor and vulnerable, especially in western Oregon. The New Evangelization will be largely emptied of its power and effectiveness if we do not witness to the love of Jesus Christ in our care for those in need.

During the ad limina visits of the U.S. bishops to the Vatican a little over a year ago, many of us visited the new office established there for the New Evangelization. There we learned that the New Evangelization will be conducted on three “fronts.” They are: the sacred liturgy, catechesis and faith formation, and charity. The Holy Mass helps form and sanctify us for the Church’s mission, being the source and summit of the Christian life. Especially in the wake of decades of poor catechesis, we need to be re-catechized in the full and beautiful content of our Catholic Faith. There is no doubt that this will have to happen.

But if we are to effectively witness to our faith before others and lead them to Jesus Christ and his Church, we must show his love and mercy before our neighbors in how we care for the poor. That will cause people who have fallen away from the Church or who are outside the Church altogether to stand up and take notice. They will see the face of Christ in us as we seek to recognize him in the poor.

I would like to invite all of you to help care for those in need in a very concrete and practical way by supporting the good works of Catholic Charities. It is the time for their annual fundraising campaign and they are counting on all of us to help them fulfill their mission to help care for those in need among us.

Through our generosity we can help them do the works of mercy and charity for the poor, the homeless, refugees and immigrants, families in crisis, new parents and “at risk” children and youth. As your new archbishop, I will be making my own gift, following the loving example of Pope Francis, and in support of this important work of evangelization. Please join me and be as generous as you can in these difficult times. May God reward your kindness and generosity!