God has called each of us as parish leaders to help build the Church. The call and challenge for each of us is just as real, just as important, and just as total as the call on the life of any other Catholic leader, including the earliest disciples. When Jesus walked along the Sea of Galilee, He called to some fishermen, “Come follow me.” He promised that if they laid down their nets and followed Him He would make them fishers of men. These men were some of His original disciples, and they knew Christ’s call was so important that they left their secular occupation to follow Jesus. In much the same way, Jesus calls each of us to follow Him today. He is not necessarily asking us to leave our secular occupations like he asked those fishermen so long ago, but He is asking us to put Him first in our lives and to busy ourselves with building the Church. In many cases, in fact, God wants us to serve Him, to build His Church through the secular occupations we have chosen.
Without a doubt, whatever we have chosen as an occupation, serving Christ and building His Church must be our top priority.
The Church is the “Bride of Christ” and the “Sacrament of Salvation.” It is through the Church that new disciples are born and in the Church that disciples mature. This, forming disciples of Christ, is the most important work to be done in the whole world, and each of us has been called to take an important part in this work.
How do we know what to do? How do we go about building the Church? Where do we find the plans?
Some people erroneously think that building Church, particularly building their parish or diocese is no different then building a successful business. But it is! It is much different! The goal of building the Church is to change hearts, a goal which only God can really accomplish. It is a goal which God deeply desires to accomplish. And, it is a goal, for which He enlists our help. God wants to set all of our hearts on fire for love of Him and His work, just like he did for those disciples on the road to Emmaus.
Certainly our secular society and professional education has not prepared us for this work. However, the Holy Spirit, sometimes called the “Architect of the Church,” has the plan. We need to become good listeners. We need to open ourselves to the workings of the Holy Spirit as he works within us and guides us to carry out God’s work, to serve as His instruments on this earth – building the Church together with Him.
This is where things like annual leadership retreats come into play. A retreat offers us an opportunity to spend time alone with the Lord, to allow Him to draw us deeper into the mystery of who He is and who we are and what He is doing in our lives.
Our annual parish leadership retreats offer us an opportunity, every year, to devote some special time with the Lord as He directs us in the ways of discipleship. We take time to meditate on the Scriptures, allowing Jesus to open up His Word to us. Then, as we grow deeper in our understanding of what God wants of us, we can exclaim, just as the first disciples did on the road to Emmaus when they exclaimed “oh how our hearts burned” as He opened up the Scriptures to us.
God has placed an extremely important call on each of our lives. It is vital that we spend time discerning how we, as parish leaders, can best answer His call. What, in particular is the Lord calling each one of us to? Is He asking us to drop our nets? Probably not. But He is definitely calling us to be fishers of men. We must discern how we can most effectively fish for Him.