Recently, Pope Francis used the expression “church on the go” by which he invites us to “bear witness by our lives that we have come to know Jesus. It is our lives that speak.” We begin this month of November with the Solemnity of All Saints, a commemoration of all those women and men whose lives have given witness to and have spoken about Jesus. All of the Saints conducted their lives not by words, but by living their faith. They were the “church on the go.”
In my lifetime I have been blessed to know and to be influenced by men and women whose lives of Christian virtue and faith have been examples to me of living the faith. There are so many people who need to experience the love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ and preached by the church. People can be influenced by those who live Godly lives and publicly practice the faith. Their lives speak about Jesus and give testimony to Christ. They are in the “church on the go.”
It is the tradition of our church to hold up for our imitation examples of these men and women whose faith filled living has given testimony to the Lord. Saints such as Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, the Patroness of the Missions whose cloistered life was about offering prayer for the spread of the Gospel throughout the world. Saint Francis Xavier, one of the first Jesuits who, with great sacrifice, went to Asia to preach the Gospel. Saint John Henry Cardinal Newman, an outstanding theologian, recently canonized, who found truth in the Catholic Church. His decision to enter the Catholic Church cost him the loss of family, friends and coworkers. These are “official” saints. The “church on the go” is also peopled by “unofficial” saints whose example of Christian living, of following Jesus Christ, inspires others.
Each of us should consider how our lives can witness to Jesus Christ. It is not necessary to go to a foreign land and preach about Jesus and invite people to our church. Rather, each one of us can be on mission in our own situation of life. In our own work place; in our own family. Each one can be in the “church on the go.” In our own particular unique situation in life. Let me propose some examples:
Two weeks ago I joined those praying the rosary outside an abortion clinic in Cherry Hill. They are involved in the 40 days for life movement. They are a mixed age group of men and women who by public prayer were giving witness to the sacredness of life in the womb. They are a “church on the go” who take to the street to pray in front of a building where the lives of unborn babies are ended.
I have been celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation and meeting catechists, directors of religious education and parish catechetical leaders. They are a “church on the go” who prepare young teenagers for the Sacrament of Confirmation. Their ministry requires a lot of sacrifice. It is hard work which they generously do. They are aware that the future of our church is in their hands. They are a “church on the go” who teach, prepare, form and inform young lives.
On Thursday, Oct. 17, I blessed the beautifully restored extension of Our Lady of Hope Regional Catholic School in Blackwood which was destroyed in the late spring by an electrical fire. Teachers, administrators and children accompanied me and the area pastors as we invoked God’s protection on the building and on all who are involved in the ministry of Catholic education. In that school building the faith is taught everyday by teachers and administrators who educate the whole child: mind, body and soul. Their lives give witness to the Lord by their dedication to Catholic education. These educators are a “church on the go” for their students.
The priests of the diocese recently gathered for our annual convocation for three days of reflection, prayer and fellowship. I had an opportunity to address them and I thanked them for their ministry to the people of the diocese. These ordained men by their selfless service bring Christ to so many people. Some of them labor under difficult situations; many do so alone. They face daily pressures and demands on their time and they do so without complaint. The priests of our diocese pastor the “church on the go.”
The other night I was with 400 major donors to our diocese, who have generously given to the House of Charity – Bishop’s Annual Appeal, or to CATHOLIC STRONG, our recent diocesan campaign, or to the South Jersey Scholarship Fund which provides scholarships to families whose children attend a Catholic school, or the annual Justice For All dinner which supports Catholic Charities. The generosity and charity of these women and men to our various fundraising efforts make possible the “church on the go” in many programs across the diocese.
The “church on the go” publicly witnesses to Christ. It is found wherever women and men, boys and girls, young adults or teenagers, let their faith be seen.
May we be inspired by their testimony and be among their number.
Most Reverend Dennis J. Sullivan, D.D.
Bishop of Camden