My dear sisters and brothers, it is a great pleasure for me to be here as your bishop to celebrate with you the 100th anniversary of your parish. As with many of the parishes in our archdiocese, the first priests to come to Shaunavon over one hundred years ago celebrated Mass in various homes throughout the district. For over 100 years now, the Catholic Community has lived and celebrated its faith in this community.
We know the church is not first of all a building of wood and plaster. Rather the church is a building constructed out of “living stones”. In other words, all of you who are parishioners here and all of those who came before you - as St. Paul wrote:“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”
This community of baptized people, this community that is the church, has come together in three successive church buildings since the first basement church was built in 1914. This community of faith endured many challenges and hardships over the years. Yet the people persevered and for a century now the parishioners of Christ the King have been God’s dwelling place here in Shaunavon, and through the Holy Spirit who has lived in them, God has been present here. And today, through the same Holy Spirit, God is present here in you.
That also means that Christ the King parish, through a hundred years of history, has continued to carry out the mission that Jesus has given it. And that mission continues today. Each of us, through our baptism, has been given a share in the mission that the Church continues to carry out in the world in which we live today.
I would like to quote for you the teaching of our Catholic Church which says that we who are the living stones which make up the temple of God“are by baptism made one body with Christ and we are established among the People of God. In our own way we share in the priestly, prophetic, and kingly functions of Jesus Christ. We carry out our own part in the mission of the whole Christian people with regards the church and the world.”(Lumen Gentium, 31) This is what we believe about who and what we are. It is a very special thing.
All of those people who came to this community and who struggled to build it and ensure its future through good times and very difficult times, did so out of the deep conviction of their Catholic faith. They knew that their faith in Jesus, God’s Son, was their salvation and the salvation of the world. They knew that their faith in Jesus, the Christ, would bring them to the fullness of life with God forever.
They passed that faith on to the generations that followed them. To live that faith was not an easy matter, nor is it today. The challenges we face today as a church are very different from those the founders of this parish faced. But the faith remains constant.
After his resurrection from the dead, Jesus told his church: “Go out to the whole world proclaim the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”(Mk 16:16) In those words of Jesus we are taught the mission of the Church, the mission of every Catholic parish.
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, last year released a document written for the whole Catholic Church entitled “Evangelii Gaudium,” “The Joy of the Gospel.” He calls for a great change in the Church. He calls all of us to take up a new phase of evangelization. I will quote a couple of lines for you:
17. Here I have chosen to present some guidelines which can encourage and guide the whole Church in a new phase of evangelization, one marked by enthusiasm and vitality.
He goes on to say: I hope that all communities will devote the necessary effort to advancing along the path of a pastoral and missionary conversion which cannot leave things as they presently are. “Mere administration” can no longer be enough. Throughout the world, let us be “permanently in a state of mission”.
For us, this means that he calls our Archdiocese of Regina to become a missionary diocese and he calls the people of Christ the King Parish in Shaunavon to become a missionary parish. And he calls each person who is a member of this parish to see themselves as a missionary disciple of Jesus Christ. Indeed he calls us all to adopt this new way of evangelizing “in every activity which you undertake.” (18)
We Catholics are not used to this word “evangelization.” Billy Graham was an evangelist. The Evangelical churches were evangelists. Now the Pope is calling us to be evangelists! The word evangelist means letting people know the good news. The Pope says that we don’t proselytize. We attract.
Our faith in Jesus Christ brings wonderful things to our lives. It gives us hope, meaning, security and freedom from fear and happiness. We need to let that happiness show and when we do, we are evangelizers. When we deliberately let happiness show, we are being missionaries.
We bring this Good News to those around us by the witness of our lives. As we live our Catholic faith so that it can be seen by all around us, we proclaim to our world the Good News of God’s desire for a world of justice, love and peace. And for all people who will believe, the promise of eternal life.
One hundred years ago, we sent missionaries to the far parts of the world. Now, one hundred years later we are called to be missionaries to our own communities. We can do that and it will bring vitality and enthusiasm back to our parishes. We look forward to good things in the next one hundred years.