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Development and Peace

Lay Formation Alumni annual enrichment day held Oct. 27, 2018 in Saskatoon, featuring guest speaker Bishop Mark Hagemoen

By Teresa Bodnar- Hiebert, 2013 Lay Formation Alumnus           

A group of some 50 Lay Formation alumni joined Bishop Mark Hagemoen Oct. 27, 2018 at Queen’s House in Saskatoon for a day filled with inspiration and evangelization.

The morning began with celebration of the Eucharist in the Queen’s House Chapel, which was live streamed on the Lay Formation Facebook page (reaching over 450 views to date). 

Bishop Mark Hagemoen began his presentation by sharing a story of a 20-foot cross that stands atop barren rock at Trapper’s Lake Retreat Centre, in his former diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith. He showed a lovely bright photo of the cross, taken at 1 am, at the end of summer. He contrasted the summer challenge of constant light and birds singing to the same area’s winter of constant dark. “You’d think the darkness of winter is the problem. Also, the brightness of summer is another problem. What a spiritual journey, when you think about it.”

As for his theme, the bishop said: “What I’d like to talk about is evangelization, evangelization, new evangelization.” 

Bishop Mark shared a few findings from pollster and sociologist Angus Reid, as described at a recent diocesan Study Day. Surveys have revealed that the words “religion” and “evangelization” have negative connotations for many Canadians. As for the two most liked words, they are “mercy” and “forgiveness.”

In spite of those findings, for people of the faith, the “new evangelization” is a powerful, important phrase, with Bishop Mark passionately sharing many examples to describe and to emphasize the new evangelization. 

He first of all cited Pope Paul VI’s apostolic exhortation, which was very influential during Hagemoen’s own seminary days. “As an evangelizer, Christ first of all proclaims a kingdom, the kingdom of God; and this is so important that, by comparison, everything else becomes “the rest”, which is ‘given in addition’,” according to the exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi #8. The document continues, stating that  “the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church” [Evangelii Nuntiandi #14].

Bishop Mark challenged his listeners with this scenario “If you said to people, good faithful Catholics, ‘What’s the most important thing we do?’, responses would include: ‘go to Mass on Sunday’, ‘imitate Christ’, or ‘pray every day’.” He went on: “This document basically says… that the most important thing that the Church does is evangelize – this constitutes themission of the Church. That’s an amazing statement.”  The bishop stressed that it is the entire Church’s task and the task of all the People of God to evangelize, to proclaim Jesus to the world.

All of the people of God share in the work of the apostles. Bishop Mark used examples from Jesuit theologian, Hans Urs Von Balthesar to explain “apostolicity as the fullness of Ministerial Priesthood and Common Priesthood to accomplish the Mission of Christ in the World.”

Excerpts from The Fullness of Faith: On the Centrality of the Distinctively Catholic (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1988) by Hans Urs Von Balthasar are too profound to paraphrase:

  • “While the Church is apostolic insofar as much of ecclesial governance is entrusted to and exercised by the twelve apostles, this guarantees an official structure and mission that endures through the ages and can be verified.Such structure provides the framework for the charismatic dimension of the People of God” (98)
  • “….it is the charismatic dimension in all the members that shows and guarantees the fullness of apostolicity; it would be meaningless, therefore, to reduce this to a nuda succession (bare succession). All the same it remains a skeleton without which the Lord’s ‘Body’ cannot stand upright.” (99)
  • “The Body of Christ fully formed…generates a plurality of missions, charism, theological and spiritual movements in the Church…and although there is so many, the net does not break.” (99)

Bishop Mark went on to teach about a variety of Church models, as well as presenting diocesan and parish organization diagrams. He emphasized prayer and allowing the Spirit to lead us.

The bishop shared a quote from St. John Paul II to Austrian bishops: “Your greatest pastoral task (as bishops) is not administration or planning, but is intimacy with the Triune God.  From this will come your ‘plan’.”

Another powerful quote he shared was from then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s conclave address four days before his election as Pope: “The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost. The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials. The bishops, particularly, must be able to support the movements of God among their people with patience, so that no one is left behind. But they must also be able to accompany the flock that has a flair for finding new paths.”

Bishop Mark also applied the New Evangelization to responsible service, governance, and administration. Authority is always linked to service and “the mission orients everything,” he said.  

Quoting Archbishop Emeritus Adam Exner, OMI (Vancouver), Bishop Mark said: “Authority in the Church must always be linked to the responsibility to serve (the Body of Christ) versus power. Anytime in human history the shortcut is made to power, we have always seen throughout human history – including in the Church – great problems and transgressions.”

He also shared another inspiration from Pope Francis: “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the center and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures.” (Evangelii Gaudium, # 49)

“Governance and administration is the litmus test to how mission-focused a church organization is,” Bishop Mark explained the role of parish finance and pastoral councils. A healthy finance council wants to know the pastoral priorities so they can guide stewardship, he explained, noting that you don’t start with the money, you start with pastoral priorities. 

Bishop Mark further spoke about stewardship; recognizing and discerning gifts, resources, and charisms in each parish. He also reinforced that sacraments give the grace for those charisms.  He shared a story of his parish in BC, describing his own spiritual journey through a stained-glass windows project highlighting the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, and how those mysteries relate to the New Evangelization as seen by St. John Paul II.

Later in the afternoon, Harvey Chatlain shared a Lay Formation Alumni perspective. Harvey reminded us how every Vatican II document mentioned Laity. He shared the beginnings of Lay Formation in 1987, in which Bishop James Mahoney, Sr. Cecile Fahl, SMS, then-Fr. Gerry Wiesner, OMI (now Bishop Emeritus of Prince George diocese), Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI, and Gisele Bauche answered the call.

Harvey Chatlain shared stories of past evangelizing teams and faith formation. He pointed out the frequent disconnect between faith and how we lead our lives and reminded us that it is not “just one hour on Sunday.” He shared a saying of Bishop Wiesner’s: “The biggest gap is between what we know we’re supposed to be doing and what we are doing.” Harvey reminded fellow alumni that our life stories are sacred and shared how God touched his life.

There are over 800 graduates of Lay Formation, and Harvey lovingly reminded us that we are all witnesses. We all have a part in the New Evangelization.

Mark your calendars for the third weekend of October, 2019 for the next Lay Formation Alumni Fall Gathering with Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI.  Everyone is welcome!



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