Celebrating the millennium: A moment of conversion
Last July, I sent a letter to all the pastors of the archdiocese
presenting in general terms the plans for our celebration of the
Great Jubilee. I want to share that letter with all Catholics
now in order to help parishes and individual Catholics structure
their ordinary activities around this time of grace:
The year 2000 is to be a moment of grace when we encounter Jesus
Christ anew, a moment, therefore, of conversion. Christ changes
us by giving us his gifts: new life, the Gospel, the sacraments,
apostolic governance. These transform us personally and collectively,
so that we live no longer for ourselves but in Christ and for
him and his people. We are disciples.
A disciple of Jesus Christ must share the gifts he or she has
received. The church is formed in sharing the gifts of Christ.
Sharing the spiritual gifts is called evangelizing. Sharing the
material gifts is called stewardship. Both are necessary to the
life of the authentic disciple of Jesus Christ.
Gods grace in Jesus makes us DISCIPLES who are EVANGELISTS, sharing
the Gospel, the sacraments and apostolic governance; and STEWARDS,
sharing time, treasure and talents.
Its pretty straightforward, and I hope these ideas and the purpose
of marking the millennium will not get lost as we move through
the various activities around the millennium celebration.
What are these activities and whats the time line? There are
three phrases: first, we will evangelize ourselves as parish staffs;
second, we will focus on evangelizing our parish communities;
and third, we turn our focus to evangelizing our neighborhoods
in the city and suburbs.
Within the first phase:
° The pastor and his co-workers will ask for the grace to turn
again to Jesus Christ.
° In September, each parish staff will receive a set of tapes
and commentaries to help reflection and common prayer on the absolute
centrality of Jesus in their lives.
Within the second phase:
° Each pastor and parish staff will call their parish to conversion,
either through a mission preached by them or one preached by a
° The parish missions will take place at the beginning of or in
Lent l999. Again, the central message will be the Gospel kerygma:
Jesus Christ is Lord. The churchs understanding of her Lord will
be set forth as a call to conversion, to revitalize the gift of
faith first received in baptism.
Within the third phase:
° The parishes will begin a small group program, preferably Disciples
in Mission, so that faith sharing by groups of believers will
encourage Catholics to share the faith even among those who do
not believe in Jesus Christ or whose faith is dormant.
° Three Lenten periods of small group sharing in 1999, 2000 and
2001 will help Catholics become evangelizers and will prepare
parish communities to welcome those who want to know Jesus Christ
from within his body, the church.
° Programs of adult catechesis may develop to give Catholics more
confidence in presenting the Gospel.
° I hope that this phase will include concentrated attention to
the sin of racism, beginning with the implementation of the archdiocesan
task forces recommendations (still to be published after they
are examined by the Presbyteral Council and the Archdiocesan Pastoral
Council). Other concerns will undoubtedly surface as our community
becomes more aware of the gap between the Gospel and the accepted
standards of our society.
A few major liturgical and devotional events will mark the Jubilee
Year: ecumenical prayer services in various churches to pray
in the new millennium with all our brothers and sisters in Christ;
perhaps a Corpus Christi celebration in Soldier Field to mark
the year 2000 as a Eucharistic Year; a gathering at St. Mary of
the Lake, Mundelein, in October of 2000, focused on our leaders
(priests and other ministers) and the development of vocations;
and a number of pilgrimages inside and outside the archdiocese
(e.g. World Youth Day in Rome).
Finally, we will establish a Millennium Campaign to put our parishes
and schools on a firm financial foundation at the beginning of
a new millennium and help us to become better stewards. Similar
campaigns have already begun in other dioceses as an integral
part of the millennium celebrations. Here in the Archdiocese of
Chicago, we hope to raise substantial funds primarily for the
benefit of our parishes and schools. A formal planning and consultation
process, involving parish leaders, will begin this fall. The Millennium
Campaign will also be discussed during the 1999 Winter Vicariate
In all this, the common purpose is personal conversion to Christ
and consequent sharing of his gifts as widely and generously as
possible. Details of programs can be decided in the parishes as
long as the common purpose is understood and pursued. What is
needed far more than enthusiasm, which is ephemeral, is conviction.
Hopefully, our sense of mission as this local church will grow
in the next several years. A church that cannot act has no mission
and is dead.
This moment of a new encounter with Christ in celebration of a
new millennium occurs once every thousand years. May it transform
each of us, our archdiocese and our society. God bless you.
Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Chicago