The year was 1968. It was the year we first orbited the moon, the 747 jet liner made its commercial debut, the average rent for a three-bedroom house was $130/month, milk was $0.34/gallon, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, Intel corporation was founded, the Beatles released the White Album, zip lock bags were first sold, and the infamous Big Mac debuted at the golden arches for a whopping $0.49.
The year was 1968 – and today on that date in history, the diocese of Saint Petersburg was erected – and so today we celebrate our golden jubilee, our 50th anniversary! How about a round of applause for the Golden Jubilee!
Yesterday in the Jubilee mass at the Cathedral, Bishop Emeritus, Robert Lynch was the guest homilist. It was a great homily reminding us of our jubilee themes: to be grateful for the past joyous in the present and hopeful for the future. He recounted some of the great moments of the past at the founding of the diocese. The first bishop, Bishop Charles McLaughlin, nicknamed Hurricane Charlie, had a private pilot license and a great vision for the future of the diocese. He flew everywhere over the five counties looking for places for new parishes, new schools, and new facilities that would one day serve the Catholics and all the citizens of the diocesan area. In his own way, Bishop McLaughlin began to sow the seeds that would become the diocese. And in those 50 years, “the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.” It is the mystery of the Kingdom of God in this time and place.
The seasons have come and gone and from the seeds first planted, other bishops and followed. All planted seeds, parishes have grown, children have been educated, and the faith and the people have grown. There are now 470,000 Catholics in the five-county area. All of whom the parishes and diocese strive to serve with a variety of ways.
But it is not just our own fields in which we sow the seeds of the Good News of the Kingdom. There are 3 million people who live in diocesan area. We serve them also. Not because they are Catholic, but because we are Catholic. Catholic Charities provides nearly 2,000 units of housing (permanent, permanent supportive, transitional and temporary) and shelter (temporary and emergency) for both families (with or without children) and adults. It provides medical services, migrant and immigrant support, pregnancy and life services.
There is a lot of water under the bridge since 1968 and all that has happened since. Lots of changes, but then that’s the nature of things – things change. But some things haven’t changed. We are still at people called to build the Kingdom of God in this time and place.
The vision of the all our previous bishops have helped to build the diocese and Catholic community of the Tampa Bay region. Our present leader, Bishop Gregory Parkes, spent his first year listening to the people of the diocese and has published a vision for the next three years. It is a vision that proclaim we are to “Courageously Live the Gospel.”
Bishop Parkes asks us, as individuals and as a parish to take on three characteristics as people of the Kingdom
- Proclaim the Good News – that is, know the good news, be able to chat about it over the backyard fence, and most importantly, figure your what it means in your life.
- Invite other to share the Faith. Invite others to join you at church, in parish activities – and accompany them in their journey of faith.
- The Encounter with Mercy. Experience, more deeply, the Mercy of God in the Sacraments, spiritual reading, and especially prayer. Know the Mercy of God in your life – and then share it with others.
Notice the movement? It from interior to exterior. From internal conversion to external action – living the faith from inside to out. Bishop Parkes has also offered demonstrable goals in three areas
- Serving the Poor
- Each deanery will launch a Catholic Impact Initiative that addresses one local community issue and mobilizes cross-parish creativity.
- The Diocese will establish 8 – 10 new locations of affordable housing facilities for families and/or singles.
- Accompanying Youth and Young Adults
- All parishes to enhance youth ministry supported by additional staff at the diocesan level
- Establish a new Catholic elementary school in a needed location
- Focus on increased student participation at campus ministry communities for all local
- Sharing Our Faith
- A joint diocesan/parish initiative for family ministry as a seedbed of evangelization
- Establish parish ministries that invite and accompany new people – parishioners and people seeking God in their life.
The seasons indeed come and go. Things change. Change is coming to our parish. It is estimated that within 3-5 years there will be 20-30,000 new residents within 1.5 miles of the church. The neighborhoods north of I-275 are changing, growing, and filling with young families. We are landlocked here in downtown. Grateful to the Grandolf family that allows us free use of parking, the Jesuits who built this magnificent church, and the families of Tampa that made it the Heart of downtown. We are joyful for the families and people here and now – people who come from 151 zip codes – people who make our parish a welcoming and faithful home. And we are hopeful for our future.
A new season is coming. A new vision for the parish is needed. And we have been working on it. How will invite our current families to belong and more deeply engage? How can we grow ministries for families, for service, for faith? How will we welcome the people who are coming? What about parking, facilities, masses? What about the North Campus? We are working on it.
A new season is coming for you and your family. What will be your vision?
It is a new 50 years. Things change, but the important ones remain the same as they have since Jesus proclaimed his parables. We are a people called to courageously live the Gospel. We are the people through whom Christ builds the Kingdom of God.
Fear not. Live courageously.