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Bishop Paul Sirba: Lent and our strategic plan have much in common

During Lent we pray. Our prayer invites us to a deeper communion with Jesus. We offer him ourselves in an ever-growing relationship.

We fast. We give up things and stuff, the clutter, so as to rediscover the value and worth of all the good gifts we have been given by God.

Bishop Paul Sirba

Bishop Paul Sirba
Fiat Voluntas Tua

We give alms. We see the face of Christ in others and respond to our brothers and sisters in need. In giving we become free and generous. What we have received we are to give as a gift.

Getting back to the basics, the fundamentals, what is essential, informs our Lent.

Lent is a blueprint for the implementation of our strategic plan. The image presented in St. John’s Gospel 15:1-4 is, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.”

Over the past few years we have implemented a good part of our strategic plan.

With the upcoming assignments in July, I hope to have implemented 90 percent of the plan. The implementation began in 2012 and will mature in 2017. You can review our strategic plan and implementation on our diocesan website (www.dioceseduluth. org).

Conversations have already begun for the next phase of strategic planning, which opens us up to “the how” of the New Evangelization.

While the process has been at times painful — it hurts, initially, to make the cut — overall it has been fruitful. Your spirit of sacrifice and the new seeds planted in the offering are already beginning to bear fruit. Fertile soil is being cultivated. The New Evangelization is taking root. Pope Francis is leading us to go to the fringes and invite people to the wedding banquet.

Some of our priests and parishioners are already going door to door. Surprised but receptive neighbors are saying, “We didn’t expect Catholics to be doing this!” Let’s continue to surprise!

Large agenda

Planning for our Eucharistic procession, at the conclusion of our 125th anniversary on Sept. 12, will give us another level of witness. Our theme, “Celebrating 125 years: Our Story, Our Faith,” provides an opportunity to thank Almighty God for all he has done for us and to trust where he is leading us.

As the people of God, we will continue to address the availability of priests and deacons and ask how we can help them live healthy lives.

We will pray for vocations to the priesthood, permanent diaconate, religious life and holy marriages in our diocese.

We will consider changing demographic trends and the available resources with which we have been entrusted and discern how we can best announce the Kingdom of God.

Like our Lent, the implementation of our strategic plan is not a diminishment but an opening to growth in the Holy Spirit. God calls us to ongoing conversion so as to open us to his will and the spread of the Good News.

Saints are the people who really change our world. By our Baptism we are all called to be saints. Lent at its core is about becoming the people we are meant to be in the mind of God.

Bishop Paul D. Sirba is the ninth bishop of Duluth.