The local church in western Oregon recently had a marvelous experience of what it means to be the Body of Christ in mission for the sake of the Gospel. When we use the term “local church,” we are speaking of the diocesan church under the leadership of the bishop, including all members united as one (priests, deacons, laity and consecrated religious). The experience to which I am referring was our Archdiocesan Pastoral Assembly. 

One hundred and ten parishes participated in the assembly, and well over 300 people attended and offered their ideas for the needs of our church. This represented a large percentage of the 124 parishes of our archdiocese. If your parish did not participate in the assembly, I am sorry for that because we need the presence of all of our communities of faith to be fully this local church. I am also sorry because your parish missed out on a wonderful time to be together with your brothers and sisters from across western Oregon.

The participants in the assembly included the pastors and priests serving in the archdiocese along with representatives from the pastoral councils of each parish that was present. In addition, staff members of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center were present to assist and be in conversation with the participants from the parishes. We hold this assembly every three years in order to focus on the priorities and plans for the Archdiocese of Portland over the next three years.

My message to the pastoral assembly was a call to unity in mission for the sake of the Gospel and the life of our archdiocese. We must be united as one with each other and with our archbishop in moving forward with the mission entrusted to us by Jesus Christ, who founded the church to continue his saving presence in the world. The bulk of the assembly time was spent reflecting on and offering ideas around six pastoral priorities that have been established for the next three years.

These six pastoral priorities have been established by me after extensive consultation at several levels in our local church. The Archdiocesan Pastoral Council discussed them, they have been discussed at the Presbyteral Council, and they were discussed and input given on the local level during vicariate meetings that took place earlier this year with pastoral councils from the local areas.

The six pastoral priorities that we will focus on for the next three years are as follows:

Catechesis and faith formation for all ages (adults, youth and children) — in our schools and our parish faith formation programs.

Divine worship — a need to renew and reform our liturgical celebrations in accord with the liturgical discipline of the church, infusing them with a beauty and reverence that is demanded by the very nature of the sacred liturgy.

Young Catholic adult ministry — a need to connect young Catholic adults more closely to the church, helping them find their place in the mission of the church at this time in their lives.

Marriage and family life — a need to help marriages and families realize their vocation as the “domestic church” and to particularly assist wounded and struggling marriages and families.

Vocations — a need to create a “culture of vocations” to help young people discover and answer the Lord’s call in their life, with an emphasis on promoting and encouraging local vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.

Works of mercy — to continue the spirit we have experienced during this Jubilee Year of Mercy and to promote our Catholic witness through the exercise of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

The participants in the pastoral assembly had the opportunity to discuss these priorities within their vicariate groups and to offer concrete ideas and suggestions for the development of achievable objectives that we can work on together as a united church over these next three years. The new Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, which was elected at the end of the assembly, will now take those ideas and suggestions and help me formulate a concrete strategic plan for moving these priorities forward. The plan will include a listing of what will be the responsibility of the pastoral center staff, the parish and the vicariate. 

I came away from the assembly energized, encouraged and hopeful for what we can accomplish with God’s grace over the next three years to strengthen and renew our local church in western Oregon. But we must work together as a united church. We can no longer afford division, a congregational and libertarian spirit in our parishes, or an unwillingness to work together with our bishop on common priorities and objectives. The stakes are too high. And we must always keep in mind the supreme objective and mission of the church. That is the salvation of souls. So let’s roll up our sleeves, pray for God’s help and get going!