Things That Change; Things That Don’t

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

The Church, like the world in which it lives, is a dynamic reality always subject to change. And it’s true of the Church Universal as well as the local Church.
The changing Church has been on full display recently. We’ve seen the end of an era with the death of Pope Benedict which in some ways concludes the seamless Benedict-John Paul chapter of Church history. Pope Francis has certainly initiated changes in the Church, not so much of doctrine, but of style and emphasis. Repeatedly, the Holy Father has insisted on the need for the Church to change; to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and for members of the Church to walk together, embracing a new vision of ecclesial life and ministry.
And changes are evident closer to home, too, including here in our Diocese of Providence. Our auxiliary bishop recently retired, and we have joyfully welcomed a new coadjutor bishop who will succeed me when I retire. Our priests are aging and retiring but a new, if smaller cohort of men, is being prepared to carry the torch of priestly ministry. And the Diocese is increasingly dependent on and grateful for the ministry of international priests who bring their zeal and their cultural experiences to serve God’s people here in Rhode Island.
And many changes are occurring in our local parishes as well – the sharing of pastors, merging of parishes, closing of churches, changing of Mass schedules, to name a few.
We shouldn’t be surprised by or fearful of these changes, for the Church is a living community traveling through history, and for 2,000 years change has been a constant.
In the midst of change, though, it’s also reassuring to think about the things in the Church that don’t change. These are the solid pillars that sustain our faith. We can point to the constant presence and the providence of God who watches over our journey; the guidance of Jesus, our Good Shepherd, who never abandons his flock; the comforting presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist that feeds us on our pilgrim way; the inspiration and intercession of our Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, and all the saints and angels, who pray for us constantly before the throne of God.
So, as we look at and sometimes fret over, the changes taking place in the Church, we should never forget the good and beautiful things that never change. They give us comfort and hope, patience and perseverance in times of uncertainty.
Something to think about: Do changes in the Church worry you or give you hope?