Two hundred years ago, in 1817, the Society of Mary (the Marianists), the congregation of which the priests at St. Joseph are members, was founded by Blessed William Joseph Chaminade. The French revolution, 28 years previously, had completely altered French society and the French church. Father Chaminade’s response to the new cultural reality was to stress the need for a missionary spirit. As an affirmation of this approach he sought and was granted by the Holy See in 1801 the title ‘Missionary Apostolic.’ I feel privileged, in this Marianist bicentenary year, to be the pastor of a community deliberately planning its future on the single foundation set by Pope Francis and affirmed by Archbishop Lori that all of us must be missionary disciples to meet the needs of our cultural reality.
Of the six possible emphases suggested for Pastoral Plans by the Archdiocese of Baltimore, three are stressed in our plan, namely, the need to help people Encounter Christ, to offer Accompaniment to those same people as they grow in their relationship with Christ, and together with them to experience Liturgy. I find helpful the imagery in the post resurrection account of the walk of Jesus and two disciples to the town of Emmaus. When we begin our encounter with Jesus, we are like the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, who ask each other: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us?” Jesus offers us more than the initial encounter. Just as he “interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures” he helps us to grow in confidence and deepen our understanding. This unfolding growth will lead both the accompanied and accompanier to know the resurrected Christ “in the breaking of the bread.”
I dedicate the implementation and the living out of this Plan to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She, the woman of faith who said yes to the Holy Spirit, who enabled the Word to become flesh within her, and who was quietly faithful even to standing at the foot of the cross, will help us. As St. Elizabeth said to Mary in the gospel of today’s feast: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Our efforts will be blessed if we implement this Plan in the spirit of Mary and her way of being a disciple.