‘Pray for boldness,’ archbishop implores faithful at Pentecost vigil

Men and women pray during the vigil Mass of Pentecost on June 3 at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Synod members and others attended the Mass, in which Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron unveiled his hopes for the future of the Archdiocese of Detroit in the years after Synod 16.

Archbishop Vigneron lays out roadmap for future of Archdiocese of Detroit, calling on laity, clergy and families to be courageous witnesses to Christ

Detroit — From the scattered languages of the tower of Babel to the apostles speaking in tongues at the first Pentecost, the methods of communication have varied over the years.

The message of the Gospel, however, has not.

On the eve of Pentecost, 2017, the archbishop of Detroit took to a new platform to announce anew the urgent need to re-encounter the saving power of Jesus Christ in southeast Michigan.

Celebrating Mass at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament before a congregation of synod members and non-members alike, many clad in the fiery red color of the occasion, Archbishop Vigneron announced the release of his official response to the historic archdiocesan Synod 16 in the form of a 40-page pastoral letter, “Unleash the Gospel.”

Read the letter
The full text of Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron’s fourth pastoral letter, “Unleash the Gospel,” as well as a video interview and other resources, is available via a special website, www.unleashthegospel.org.

Speaking in both English and Spanish, Archbishop Vigneron thanked the synod members for their work in helping recommend the changes and priorities that will help guide the Archdiocese of Detroit in the years ahead.

“Tonight, this vigil, in the year of grace 2017, is very much about our synod and our efforts to ‘unleash the Gospel,’” Archbishop Vigneron said. “This is a historic moment for our local Church. The Holy Spirit has worked very hard in our hearts since the synod, and tonight we consecrate the fruits of His labors within us.”

Vigils, the archbishop said, are always about expectations, sometimes serious — such as the vigil of a mother concerned about a sick child — and sometimes joyful, such as that of a child waiting for St. Nicholas on Christmas Eve.

“Our vigil tonight is both serious and light, because we are here to solemnly consecrate and promulgate the work of our synod as celebrated on the feast of Christ the King,” the archbishop said. “We are here to pray about the fruit of that synod.”

Archbishop Vigneron said the pastoral letter is “my witness to what I understood the Holy Spirit said to us” during the synod and its buildup, including a year of prayer and parish dialogue gatherings that involved as many as 11,000 of the Church’s faithful.

Bold new identity

Along with the letter, which was released on a special website, www.unleashthegospel.org, the Pentecost Mass was also a chance for the archbishop to unveil a new crest for the Archdiocese of Detroit, featuring an image of Ste. Anne and a door representing Venerable Solanus Casey — two prominent intercessors for the city. The new seal was displayed on large banners near the sanctuary of the cathedral.

Calling the letter a “charter to guide us in the years ahead,” Archbishop Vigneron said it’s imperative for everyone to pray for the Holy Spirit to descend upon the archdiocese for the gifts needed to accomplish God’s will.

“The first prayer I’d like all of us to be united in would be to pray for boldness,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “This requires all of us to be bold, the same boldness that led Peter to come out from behind the locked doors of the cenacle to begin to proclaim that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.”

The letter’s action steps — which correspond to the nine propositions held up by Synod 16 as important for the archdiocese’s growth — range in specificity and involve both short-term and long-term projects, from a call for priests to offer “radical availability” of the sacrament of reconciliation to a charge for the archdiocesan Central Services to re-examine formation programs for confirmation and marriage preparation.

Archbishop Vigneron said the situation of modern times requires that the demands of the Gospel be responded to with “urgency,” adding that both preaching and catechesis must first seek to foster an encounter with Jesus that makes one thirst for more.

“Whenever possible, we need to invite people to respond to Jesus and surrender their lives to him, and give them concrete opportunities to do so,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “That’s what the Holy Spirit told us in the synod.”

‘No bystanders’

No one can be a bystander in the new evangelization, the archbishop said, and all who engage in it must do so with self-sacrificing love.

“If we love Christ, how can we not seek to share that love with others?” Archbishop Vigneron asked. “Because not only is he the best thing that has ever come into our lives, but it’s what he wants: to be loved by others.”

Pointing out that the Acts of the Apostles ends abruptly with St. Paul’s imprisonment in chapter 28, Archbishop Vigneron implored the Church to think of itself as the “29th chapter of Acts” and to believe that what God promised to the apostles, he promises also to His Church in the present day.

“This is our story. It is our reality,” the archbishop said. “So when we hear God say to Ezekiel about how He wants to restore life to dry bones, we should think of ourselves. Are there not many dry bones here in our archdiocese?”

“But these dry bones can live,” he emphasized. “We know this by faith: God can take what is dead and make it alive. He did it before the sun rose on the first day of the week after Good Friday, and He can do it here.”

Archbishop Vigneron drew lengthy applause when he expressed his hope that in 20 years, the Archdiocese of Detroit would have “so many saints there won’t be enough days in the calendar to hold all the feasts,” adding “Fr. Solanus won’t be the only blessed.”

Celebrating the Mass with the archbishop were each of the Archdiocese of Detroit’s four active auxiliary bishops, Bishops Donald Hanchon, Arturo Cepeda, Gerard Battersby and Robert Fisher, along with several priests and deacons.

Each of the four bishops praised Archbishop Vigneron’s leadership and thanked him for his work on the synod and letter.

“I really feel very proud not only to call the archbishop a good friend but a great leader,” Bishop Hanchon said. “Thank you, Archbishop, for your courage in calling the synod, for listening so well and for being so consequently bold and clear.”

Bishop Battersby echoed those remarks.

“Archbishop, you have spoken words about prophecy,” Bishop Battersby said. “We’re grateful to you because through the Holy Spirit, you have been our prophet to the Archdiocese of Detroit.”

For the dozens of synod members in attendance, the chance to hear from the chief shepherd was a clear sign that the work of Synod 16 will continue boldly into the future.

“The archbishop’s message was just beautiful for the whole Church,” Mariola Vanderest, a synod member from Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish in Sterling Heights, told The Michigan Catholic. “It sends us all out with the joy of missionaries to spread the word of God, with Jesus Christ living in our hearts. It’s a very alive message for the whole Church in Detroit.”