Monday, April 23, 2012

A Voice on the Multicultural Church

All fourth-year college and pre-theology students at Mount Angel Seminary take a course entitled "Ministry in a Multicultural Church."  The course is taught by Ms. Kathy Akiyama and features a number of guest speakers from outside of the seminary.  One of the students in this year's course, Felipe Jimenez, a seminarian for the Diocese of Las Vegas, has submitted this reflection on a recent guest speaker.

If You Walk Blameless, Your Very Presence Will Move People - by Felipe Jimenez

Brother Robert Rodriguez from the Franciscan order started his lecture on March 19th saying, "We are in a time where people are looking deep."  I am in agreement with him.  It is a time when people are looking for real people.  In other words the people of God are expecting, as he said, "ten times bolder from a priest."  It is very important to understand the signs of our times.  We live in the middle of secularism where people are taking God away from their lives, in schools, at work, in the family.  This is a challenge for the priests in our time.  It is not only important to be a priest but to become a holy priest, a priest who can completely give himself to the people of God.  Persons in the Church are in need of God.  There is a misery but instead of being a physical misery, it is a spiritual poverty.  People need God in every sphere of their lives.  The priest ought to be there to solve the conflicts of daily parish life.  The priest needs to be aware of three things as Brother Robert said: to pay attention, to have a curious mind, and to ask questions.

Felipe Jimenez

To pay attention is to be aware of what is happening in his surroundings.  He needs to see what are the needs of his parishioners.  If he pays careful attention he will find out the ways of how to feed his people, the people of God, with the right spiritual food.  The priest needs to observe and work with the different groups in his parish, to advise the people who work in the different ministries.  Also he needs to be ready to receive those who are coming for their first time.  The priest needs to be available to almost every group in the parish because on him relies the good and healthy function of the parish in which he is in charge.  To have a curious mind is to always be attentive to what is happening.  He needs to have special attention with the people who cooperate with him in the life of the church, as well as be sensitive with the spiritual needs of his parishioners.  The priest must activate the greatest virtue of his vocation, love the people.

I remember a couple of years ago, I met Sister Teresa in the corner of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel in Saint John Neumann's Church in the Diocese of Las Vegas.  I was assigned to work there that summer.   She was a beautiful soul.  I did not know she was a sister from a religious order.  Every morning before I started my day in the parish I would go to the chapel and she was always there; she looked at me and I looked at her and in the middle of us was the tabernacle with Jesus in it.  I did not know what was going through her mind when she would see me.  One day she approached me and she held my hands and said to me, "You will be a wonderful priest.  You do not need to talk a lot because if you walk blameless, your very presence will move people."  These words impacted my life.  We became good friends, and a few months later I received the news that she had died.  Hearing Brother Robert's lecture reminds me of Sister Teresa's advice; it is as if she was telling me to be a holy priest, transparent, honest, and ready to serve, love, and go to the people of God, not just wait for them, but to go out and reach them for the glory of God.

When the Lord appeared to Abraham in his advanced age, he said to him, "Walk in my presence and be blameless.  Between you and me I will establish my covenant, and I will multiply you exceedingly" (Gen. 14.1-2).  Nowadays, people are tired of hearing only words because they have been hearing the same things over and over.  Now people are in great need of good examples.  The people of God want to see real men in the ministry of the priesthood, a man of God.  As God encouraged Abraham to be faithful, Jesus also said to his disciples, "Be holy, as your heavenly Father is holy" (Mt. 5:48).  To be holy is to accept that the reign of God is here and now among us.  Therefore priests should always pay attention, have a curious mind, and ask questions.  When priests decrease their mediocrity, generosity will increase and they will be able to give themselves out of love to others for the kingdom of God.

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