Signs of Spring

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Bishop Thomas J. Tobin - Without a Doubt

It seems that spring is in the air – not just in terms of the weather, but also in the life of the Church here in the Diocese of Providence. Spring always brings with it new life and as I survey the Church in Providence I find signs of new spiritual life just about everywhere.

And not to discount any of the challenges and problems we have – and they’ll always be with us, I guess – there are indeed lots of positive things going on too, a few of which I mention here.

First, we can see the signs of life in the enormous generosity and charitable works of our people. For example, in response to the terrible earthquake in Haiti, our people have donated nearly $1 million to assist that troubled land, perhaps the largest single collection in the history of the diocese. Members of the community have also been very generous in supporting the Keep the Heat on Campaign, and I have no doubt that our annual Catholic Charity Fund, now underway, will draw generous support. Along with these special efforts, the faithful continue to do their very best to support our parishes and schools every week. The generosity of our people is a sure sign of spiritual life.

Another sure sign of life was found in the Rite of Election that took place at the Cathedral on the First Sunday of Lent. At that ceremony, over 200 individuals, accompanied by their sponsors and family members, expressed their desire to become Catholic at Easter; there are other catechumens and candidates throughout the diocese as well. The faith of our new Catholics is a source of pride and joy for the Church.

Another impressive event held at the Cathedral recently was the Mass for the presentation of Scouting and Youth Ministry awards. It was really encouraging to see so many fine young people – more than 100 – receiving well-deserved recognition for their hard work and outstanding achievements in a variety of fields. Equally inspiring were the adults present that day who generously share their time and talents to lead our young people in Scouting and Youth Ministry programs.

Last Saturday I had the joy of participating in the annual Religious Education Workshop Day sponsored by our diocese and held at Bryant University. There more than 1,000 people, folks deeply involved in the life and ministry of the Church, came together to pray, learn, discuss, support one another and refresh their commitment to Christ and His Church. We are grateful for their involvement and we congratulate all who worked so hard to make the event such a resounding success!

Another very hopeful sign for our diocese is the emerging formation program for a new group of permanent deacons. Our twenty-two candidates have completed the first phase of their discernment and have now moved on to the more formal part of their education. I’ve met with each candidate individually and have been impressed by their diverse backgrounds – both personally and professionally – but also by their common desire to serve the Lord and His people – work that will be formally commissioned when they are ordained deacons.

In the last few weeks I’ve also had a couple of very enjoyable Catholic school visits – at St. Philomena School in Portsmouth and St. Augustine School in Providence. At both schools I found dedicated administrators, teachers and staff and amazing students, youngsters learning their secular lessons, but more importantly, growing in the knowledge and practice of their faith. The success of these two schools is replicated in the other fine Catholic schools throughout the Diocese as well.

Another important sign of life for our diocesan Church is found in the quiet nook of Our Lady of Providence Seminary where twenty-two young men, from our diocese and others, are studying for the priesthood. Recently I spent an evening at the seminary, visiting for dinner and an informal discussion with the guys. The seminarians are intelligent, responsible and respectful, and I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. We spoke about the Season of Lent, evangelization, the involvement of the Church in public affairs, immigration reform, the need for strong catechetical programs, and a variety of other topics.

And finally, another sure sign of life for the Church is the Year of Evangelization taking place in the diocese. The diocese has produced resources and has sponsored a number of programs that have had an impact – including the Evangelization Congress last fall, regional workshops, television ads during Advent and Christmas and radio ads during Lent. Equally impressive are the creative efforts that many of our parishes have undertaken, either individually or in concert with other parishes – to raise the profile of the Church, talk about our Faith and invite folks to come home to the Lord. While it’s very difficult to quantify the results of our campaign, there’s little doubt that it is making a difference for the Church in our community. To all those who are part of this historic effort – thank you, and congratulations for your good work!

Well, this is just a survey of some of the great things happening in the Church in the Diocese of Providence. There are many others, no doubt, and if I’ve missed your favorite, I apologize. But, it’s a great time to be a Catholic in the Diocese of Providence. Just look around. The signs of spring are everywhere.