‘Be the arsonist of the divine love’: Thévenot
By Rev. Janusz Bizewski
During the month of August, the clergy of the Diocese of Prince Albert received a written invitation from the office of the bishop about the new evangelization. They were reminded of the book distributed during the February conference, held at the new cathedral in Saskatoon, entitled: On Good Soil: Pastoral Planning for Evangelization and Catechesis with Adults, published by CCCB. With the help of this guide pastors were to consider a renewed understanding of their mission and its relevance to various areas of ministry in deaneries and parish communities within the diocese. This gathering of clergy took place Aug. 30 at St. Agatha Parish, Shellbrook.
This event was the fruit of prayer and group discernment. The ad hoc diocesan new evangelization committee had been summoned by the bishop in January 2012 and consisted of laity and clergy.
Dr. Michael Averyt linked the newness of this day with a symphony of personal gifts and talents revealed and celebrated. The day provided clergy with a touch of the new Pentecost, the manifestation of the Holy Spirit not only working for them but through them.
Rev. Tru Le welcomed all on behalf of the parish. The task of facilitation was shared by a few individuals: principally by Bishop Albert Thévenot, M. Afr., Rev. Gerard Legaspi and Christine Taylor.
Thévenot reminisced, “During my first Christmas in Africa, I had no Christmas lights, no tree, no carols and all lavish adornments so often taken for granted while in Canada. There our only crèche was the Word of God.”
“It was the first time I had heard some of our priests’ stories of vocation,” said Warren Dungen, director of Youth Ministry, “The day gave the ordained an opportunity to be real with one another, to contribute to the way of articulating personal faith journeys. It invited them to listen to and learn from one another.”
During session one they pondered: How did Jesus make you aware of the call to your particular vocation? Who were your significant role models? How did they inspire you at the time?
The plenary session turned into a platform for the authentic witnessing to their love for Jesus Christ. A number of participants found Rev. Matthew Nguyen’s story of survival as a refugee who arrived by boat very moving.
Session two emphasized personal sources of strength by posing additional questions: What inspires you in your priesthood today? What aspects of your priestly life are invigorating, life giving? What is the fire that keeps you persevering in your vocation? Why are you still a priest today?
Legaspi shared, “God’s providence continues to operate in mysterious ways in our unique stories.” Deacon Michael Fahlman remarked, “I think that the bishop wants to challenge us to evaluate how we, the clergy, are equipped to meet the needs of the new evangelization. He has done this by getting us to reflect on our own vocations.”
For Rev. Jim Kaptein the strength and inspiration comes from “getting a better hang of the liturgy, meeting with people I minister to and the sense of hope as inscribed in the Book of Revelation, which can be put in a simple way. After all the trials and tribulations, God still wins.”
Meanwhile, Rev. Roque Concepcion relies on “spiritual directions, support of laymen and women with whom I can share my joys and sorrows, because I’m still falling in love with God.”
Session three challenged the ordained leaders to think with their hearts. This almost cathartic experience utilized specific questions as if they were surgical tools for personal heart examination. The bishop shared his insights, “We are sowing the seeds, invite people back to church, not by setting unrealistic expectations for yourselves, but by always being in love with Christ. Do we find joy in serving the Lord?”
Rev. George Canto from the Nipawin parish shared his dramatic experiences from the seminary in the Philippines. Thanks to support he received from his family and the many prayers of his devoted grandmother, next year he will celebrate his 25th priestly anniversary. He also has recognized cultural shock as an obstacle in his priestly life. Legaspi added that what continues to challenge his priestly efficiency is “a busy schedule and prejudice.”
Session four recapitulated daily discoveries by posing more open-ended questions regarding the shifting focus in priestly ministry, which seems to oscillate between two approaches, maintenance and mission. When asked about the personal hopes for the Year of Faith in the diocese, Thévenot said, “The Year of Faith is to help us unwrap the universal call to holiness. It is also an invitation to exercise the ministry of presence, which becomes a constant call to live as stewards of love, forgiveness, compassion, mercy, healing, faith, hope and life-giving attitudes cultivated in our interpersonal encounters.”
Thévenot challenged the priests and deacons to act by trusting God, to teach in peoples’ languages and to feed the people with the Word of God. “The Year of Faith is to help us answer some pertinent questions: Why do I want to preach the Good News to the people of today? How can I make faith relevant? Why do we need Christ in our life at all? The mission is not ours; it belongs to Christ.”
In reference to the eucharist, he said, “When we are celebrating the eucharist we must ask ourselves ‘How can I truly imitate the One whom I have celebrated?’ The eucharist offers us a glimpse of Christ, who loves us and forgives us, and this is the Good News to be shared with others!”
This meeting of the ordained leadership in the Prince Albert diocese recognized the time of God’s favour and blessing. It convinced the clergy that an authentic experience of life-giving communion with God is possible. They renewed a sense of unity, they became inspired and strengthened. Thévenot rekindled in the ordained the sacred flame of love for the Lord.
The bishop’s final remarks left each person with a challenge to be the arsonist of the divine love in one’s own hearts and in the hearts of other people.