‘One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic’

Dear Friends, 

Whenever I meet folks from Alabama, Michigan, or other friends, one question keeps recurring: What was the most surprising discovery for you in Alabama? I had posited various answers, but I didn’t have any verification of my experience.

Now having been here for two years, my answer is much clearer. The surprise for me is the unexpected surge of the Hispanic Catholic population and its growing need to enhance Hispanic Ministry throughout our entire diocese. This has occupied my mind and prayer more than anything else. What I realize now is that the Diocese of Birmingham is like a complex fascinating quilt replete with diverse fabrics, textures, and colors delineating its beautiful reality. Each is important; each must be honored and cherished; each must be seen in the context of the whole.

Almost every parish I have visited now requires ministerial outreach to the Hispanic community. This piece of the fabric of our diocese is especially noted for its focus on family, faith, and feasting. In November/December, the rich cultural heritage rises to the fore, especially with the Solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Juan Diego, and other festivals of faith and family. One cannot imagine a gathering in our Hispanic community without something to eat! Retreat days for men, women, and youth are jubilant with song, color, festive foods, and devotion. I am genuinely inspired. Our diocesan team — Maria Jose Bonilla and Krysthell Castillo — have animated various groups, helping faith formation teams and pastors go the next step in intercultural immersion.

Perhaps the overarching thought that comes to mind is this: As a faith family, we are ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC, and APOSTOLIC. These four unique marks of the Church describe the fact that our faith family is connected by a special bond.

ONE refers to our one faith in the name of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and one baptism in Christ which unifies individuals regardless of their place of origin.

HOLY implies that all are called to be part of a Holy people, set apart to build up God’s Kingdom. The “call to holiness” invites us to become saints!

CATHOLIC implies “universal.” In other words, we hail from every corner of the earth and the heart of Christ’s teaching touches every searching heart with elements of truth, justice, freedom, beauty, and joy.

APOSTOLIC refers to the fact that we don’t cling to the good things that God is doing in a miserly way but share them widely and abundantly, as if to sow seeds of faith wherever we go. It is apostolic to go out on mission.

The marks of the Church are truly evident in Hispanic Ministry in a very special way. We walk together in faith to witness the strength of our bond with each other in Christ.

On my part, I am learning Spanish (whenever I don’t confuse it for Italian!). Day by day, I am joining many of the priests and pastoral workers who are meeting the challenge of ministry in central and northern Alabama.

May Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Americas, and St. Juan Diego deepen our solidarity with our Hispanic sisters and brothers in faith. ¡Viva Cristo Rey!

‘Una, santa, católica y apostólica’