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As Jesus selflessly gives Himself, never holding back, to the ultimate measure of giving His life for us, and now giving Himself through the Eucharist, so are we called to share ourselves just as generously, making sure that our faith in God is the priority in our lives. (Bishop Paul J. Bradley, Loving God and Our Neighbor, Living Eucharist as Mission, Pastoral Letter on the Eucharist, p.26.)

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
 
I would like to begin this month’s issue of With Joyful Hope: The Bishop’s Leadership Briefing with a word of thanks to you, the pastoral leaders of our beloved Diocese of Kalamazoo, for all the ways you have helped our Year of the Eucharist to begin so prayerfully. If you have been following the events listed in our diocesan weekly enewsletter, The Insider, you are aware of all the activities taking place in our busy diocese. What has impressed me is not only the number of new activities taking place as part of our "Year of the Eucharist" (which are significant), but also the way in which Eucharistic themes are being integrated into all aspects of our lives as missionary disciples called to love God and love our neighbor.
 
I pray that we will all continue to ask the Holy Spirit to reinvigorate the Church here in southwest Michigan with a deep devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. May we always seek His nourishment and His grace as we carry out our pastoral responsibilities in His Holy Name.

 
Reflections on Lent: Returning to the Lord
(from my Homily for the First Sunday of Lent) 

 
Lent is a 40-day “retreat” that challenges us to pay particular attention to how we are living our lives, and to make whatever adjustments that are required to get us back on track, if we’ve wandered off course. And, if we’ve really gone astray, and have stopped practicing our faith, Lent is the perfect time to come back to the Lord and start over again.
 
During Lent, we hear a lot of words that have “re-“ as the prefix, such as: “re-pent”, be “re-conciled”, “re-new”, “re-solve”, and “re-turn”. As I’ve been preparing for Lent this year, and considering what “resolutions” I will be focusing on, that last word—return—as the one that has been grabbing my attention.
 
Our lives are made up of little journeys, and bigger journeys. We “come and go” to different places each and every day. We get up, and prepare to go somewhere---to school, to work, to the store, to be involved in the responsibilities of each day; and at the end of the day, we return home.
 
Sometimes, we have to go on a trip---away from home for a day, or a week, or longer; and then our return home is something we usually anticipate, and depending on the nature of what has taken us away from home, we might be longing to return home.
 
While I was away from the Diocese recently, I happened to be in a place that had a sign at the Exit which read: “Every Exit is really only an Entrance to someplace new!” I found that very fitting and somewhat profound. We’re always going from one place to someplace new, even if those “new” places are as familiar as our homes, because we come back there with new experiences.
 
But even more than our daily comings and goings, our whole life is a journey, and one day---at the end of our life’s journey---we will make that ultimate “return to the Lord.”

That’s why our Lord, speaking thru Joel the Prophet (cf. Joel 2:12-18) says: “Return to Me with your whole heart.....return to the Lord, your God.” And He reminds us that there is an “urgency” to paying attention, so that we are ready for that ultimate “return to the Lord”.
 
That’s what St. Paul means (cf. 2 Cor 5:20, 6:2) when he says: “We implore you.....we appeal to you.....Be reconciled to God....Now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation.....Return to the Lord.”
 
The resolutions of prayer, fasting, or works of mercy that we make during Lent should help us respond to what we heard when we received the blessed ashes: to “turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel”. Sinful choices turn us away from God; our Lenten resolutions need to help us to find ways to “re-turn” to God.
 
Jesus tells us not to pray, fast, or give alms like “the hypocrites do”---doing those things just for show, or so that others can see what we are doing. No, Jesus tells us to keep this between “me and God”; “don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing”; “go to your inner room, close the door, and pray in secret”, “when you fast, put a smile on your face---don’t look glum or sad” (cf. Mt 6:1-6, 16-18).
 
During these next 40 days, let us pray that, with God's grace and our firm resolve, we will stop turning away from the Lord through sinful choices, and re-turn to the Lord by loving God and neighbor with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength. When we do, then we will know what it means to repent, to be reconciled, to be renewed in Christ, to resolve to be faithful to the Gospel, and we will be ready to return to the Lord, each day. And at the end of all our days, when we “exit” this world, we will “enter” into the new and never-ending Life with God in Heaven.

 

Pastoral Visits: Loving God and Our Neighbor: A Pastoral Conversation with Bishop Bradley

During this “Year of the Eucharist” here in our Diocese, it is an added blessing for me to be making Pastoral Visits to each of the Parishes/Collaboratives over the course of the next months. 
 
My major goal for these Pastoral Visits is to spend some “quality time” with pastors, and the members of Parishes/Collaboratives, as we discuss and plan together for the ways to strengthen our Faith, and to fulfill the mission of the Eucharist, in the ways we live and give witness to our Faith in Jesus in our everyday lives. It is my hope that we will “Ignite the Faith”, a process that was so powerfully launched at our Eucharistic Congress last October. 
 
It is my intention that each pastor and I, along with the leaders of each Parish/Collaborative, will be renewed in our efforts “to move from maintenance to mission” throughout the Diocese. At the end of this year of meeting and praying with each Parish/Collaborative, I am confident that, enflamed by the Holy Spirit, we will be ready to: 1) share the Good News of Jesus in new and creative ways; 2) reach out to those in need---those on the “peripheries” as Pope Francis says---through the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy; and 3) be ready to evangelize one another, as well as those whom we need to welcome back to the practice of the Faith, or to join our community of Faith for the first time.
 
Rooted in our gratitude and love for Jesus in the Eucharist, each Pastoral Visit will include the celebration of Holy Mass and a time of Eucharistic Adoration with Benediction, at the beginning and/or conclusion of each visit, depending on the Pastor's judgement. I also will visit each Parish within the Collaborative (if there are multiple sites), as well as the Parish Catholic School (if applicable). I also will meet with the Pastor and other Clergy assigned to the Collaborative, as well as to meet with members of the Parish Staff. I will also meet with those members of the Parish and Finance Councils who may be available. Finally, I look forward to a general meeting with the Faithful members of the Parishes within the Collaborative for a time of Pastoral Conversation. 
 
It is most appropriate that my pastoral visits are beginning in Lent during this "Year of the Eucharist" as we pray for a changed heart and deeper devotion to the Holy Eucharist and the mission Jesus calls us to as we love God and our neighbor as Jesus loves us. May the Incarnate Son of God and His Blessed Mother Mary journey with us as we visit each Parish/Collaborative in this Diocese.
 
Bishop greets family after Benediction prayer at St Mark Parish, Niles
 
 

 
 
   
In light of the growing concerns regarding the parish visits, and being mindful of those concerns, I have decided to postpone any parish visits currently scheduled through Easter. The visit to St. Augustine Cathedral Parish and School on Friday, March 13, will still take place. 

Words of Challenge and Hope: A Message from Pope Francis

Even more than a duty, prayer is an expression of our need to respond to God’s love which always precedes and sustains us. Christians pray in the knowledge that, although unworthy, we are still loved. Prayer can take any number of different forms, but what truly matters in God’s eyes is that it penetrates deep within us and chips away at our hardness of heart, in order to convert us ever more fully to God and to his will.
 
Despite the sometimes tragic presence of evil in our lives, and in the life of the Church and the world, this opportunity to change our course expresses God’s unwavering will not to interrupt his dialogue of salvation with us. Lent offers us a unique opportunity to let God speak to us “where we live” as sinners who want, and need, the redemptive love of Christ crucified.


 
Today too, there is a need to appeal to men and women of good will to share, by almsgiving, their goods with those most in need, as a means of personally participating in the building of a better world. Charitable giving makes us more human, whereas hoarding risks making us less human, imprisoned by our own selfishness (Message for Lent 2020).
Liturgical Guidelines during Coronavirus

    In light of the continued progression of the Corona Virus, and out of an abundance of caution, I have directed all priests/deacons to implement the following steps:
 
                1. Direct that the Sign of Peace should be a non-touching gesture;
                2. Suspend the distribution of the Precious Blood during Sunday and weekday Masses to the Faithful;
                3. Encourage people to receive the Sacred Host in the hand rather than on the tongue, though that must still remain the Communicant’s option;
                4. Ensure that all holy water fonts are emptied and cleaned after each Mass if possible, and then replenished and blessed.
                5. Add a special Prayer of the Faithful at each Mass in regard to this public health crisis.
 
Also, if people are sick, they are not obliged to come to Mass.
 
We will continue to monitor the situation, and advise of any further steps that we might need to take as they develop.
 

My Prayer for You


As we go through this Season of Lent, let us keep our eyes on the Cross of Christ which leads us all to the Joy of Easter and the Promise of Eternal Life---to live forever in Paradise re-found!

 
Faithfully yours in Christ,
 
Most Rev. Paul J. Bradley
Bishop of Kalamazoo

Upcoming Events:

 
Wednesday, March 10: Pastoral Visit to St. Monica Parish and School
Friday, March 13, Pastoral Visit to St. Augustine Cathedral and School
Saturday, March 14, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Encountering Christ: Joyfully Unleashing Your Gifts
Saturday, March 14, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. , Monthly Energizer


  
  

In case you missed it:

Epiphany Radio Show: Deacon Louis Zemlick hosts a weekly show on the Sunday Readings - check out this episode where he and I discuss the First Sunday of Lent Readings. Tune-in on WKZO to listen live each Sunday.

 

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