"On one occasion, while they were engaged in the liturgy of the Lord and were fasting, the Holy Spirit spoke to them." Acts 13:2
"Suddenly from up in the sky there came a noise like a strong, driving wind which was heard all through the house where they were seated. Tongues as of fire appeared, which parted and came to rest on each of them. All were filled with the Holy Spirit." Acts 2:2-4
"The new evangelization calls for a clearly conceived, serious and well organized effort to evangelize culture." Church in America (EIA), 70
"Many peoples shall come and say: 'Come, let us climb the Lord's mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may instruct us in His ways, and we may walk in His paths' " (Is 2:3). In the year of the Great Jubilee, on April 7-8, 2000, many co-workers and community leaders of Presentation Ministries (PM) climbed the Lord's mountain at the Paul Jansen Discipleship Center to hear the Holy Spirit instruct them at a Summit Meeting. We gathered to seek the Lord's plan for Presentation Ministries in the third millennium of Christianity.
The idea of a "summit meeting" was first proposed at PM's annual communities' retreat in October 1999. Taking first steps towards the Summit, PM's co-workers and community members spent several months studying and discerning prayerfully what the Spirit is saying to PM through Pope John Paul II's apostolic exhortation, Ecclesia in America (EIA) in which he outlines a pastoral plan for the Church in all the countries of America. An initial, broad consultation was done by correspondence in January, 2000. A second, more specific consultation followed in March, 2000. This became the basis for the Summit Meeting and its five major themes:
We believe the Lord has given us several prophetic messages in the process leading up to the Summit Meeting and in the meeting itself. We must continue to be zealous above all for the gift of prophecy (1 Cor 14:1). Through prophecy, PM's leaders will exercise their ministry as "keepers of the vision."
"I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that all may be one as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; I pray that they may be [one] in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me." John 17:20-21
"It seems timely therefore to form ecclesial communities and groups of a size that allows for true human relationships. This will make it possible to live communion more intensely." EIA, 41
What is the Spirit saying to PM (see Rv 2:1ff) concerning "communio"? The Spirit is strongly affirming PM that home-based communities (HBCs) are at the heart of the universal Church. "The love of Christ impels us" (2 Cor 5:14) to live for the Lord and others in daily, practical Christian community. We must live no longer for ourselves (2 Cor 5:15) and continue steadfastly in "the apostles' instruction and the communal life, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42).
We are called to branch off hundreds of new HBCs. The structural means of doing this is through branching off not only new HBCs but networks of HBCs. The Michigan network is our pioneering effort. Thus, PM would become a network of networks of HBCs.
The spiritual means of proliferating HBCs and networks of HBCs is to deepen the vision of our HBC leaders so that they will let the Lord work through them in deepening the daily living of brotherhood and sisterhood among those in their communities. Emphasizing the charisms of the Holy Spirit and the ministry of intercession is critical in developing growth in quality, which inevitably leads to growth in quantity. Deep "communio" leads to very fruitful evangelization and community building.
"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who lives in Me and I in him will produce abundantly, for apart from Me you can do nothing." John 15:5
"What is expected from the laity is a great creative effort in activities and works demonstrating a life in harmony with the Gospel. America needs lay Christians able to assume roles of leadership in society. It is urgent to train men and women who, in keeping with their vocation, can influence public life, and direct it to the common good." EIA, 44
The goal of lay leadership development is expressed by Pope John Paul II: "The eyes of faith behold a wonderful scene: that of a countless number of lay people, both women and men, busy at work in their daily life and activity, oftentimes far from view and quite unacclaimed by the world, unknown to the world's great personages but nonetheless looked upon in love by the Father, untiring laborers who work in the Lord's vineyard. Confident and steadfast through the power of God's grace, these are the humble yet great builders of the kingdom of God in history" (Lay Members of Christ's Faithful People, 17). PM is privileged to labor in the vineyard to develop lay leadership.
In this area, the Holy Spirit is once again affirming PM. The Lord has given us exceptional gifts in lay leadership development. Our Lady of Guadalupe Bible College is the only Catholic Bible College in the USA. Moreover, both the Discipleship Retreats and the Bible Institute are without parallel in the US (and possibly the world) as instruments for equipping the saints to permeate the surrounding culture with the spirit of the gospel (cf. Catechism, 899). The Lord has given PM great and rare gifts. Consequently, He expects much of us (Lk 12:48). We must seek God's will about how to form branches of Guadalupe Bible College. This will facilitate offering some of the Discipleship Retreats and Bible Institute Seminars in other parts of the USA and world.
Because our teachings are not for beginners, we need to prepare people for our teachings, especially by conducting Life in the Spirit Seminars. In the past we depended on others to do this. But it seems necessary to do more of this ourselves. A structured use of the book, "Conversion Conversations" and widespread teaching of the Discipleship Retreat, "Living in Reality," can be very good ways of introducing newcomers to the body of teachings in PM. The seminar on "How To Teach the Bible" would then be a great way for new Bible students to take a giant step forward in knowing, living, and teaching God's word.
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, murderess of prophets and stoner of those who were sent to you! How often have I yearned to gather your children, as a mother bird gathers her young under her wings, but you refused me." Matthew 23:37
"The formation process for young people must be constant and active, capable of helping them to find their place in the Church and in the world. Consequently, youth ministry must be one of the primary concerns of pastors and communities." EIA, 47
Of all the aspects of the Summit Meeting, youth ministry was most frequently and emphatically brought to our attention. Our present youth ministry is strongly encouraged to minister to other young people in basic evangelization, especially through Life in the Spirit Seminars. PM's youth ministry should proclaim faith in Jesus as the Way to purity and freedom. Also our youth ministry should be extended to younger and older ages by continuing to offer Life in the Spirit Seminars to 6 to 12-year-olds, and supporting young adults (ages 18-35) as they evangelize younger people.
Our young people need to be equipped to give so much more in evangelization. They should be strongly encouraged to do the Discipleship Retreats, especially for the purpose of knowing and living their vocations. Some young people may be called to be students of Guadalupe Bible College. It was also suggested that several young people in PM should do an apprenticeship or "co-op" program in some of the ministries of PM. To bring forth a leader of the apprenticeship program is crucial for the development of youth ministry in PM.
"The king will answer them: 'I assure you, as often as you did it for one of my least brothers, you did it for me.' " Matthew 25:40
"Faced with the grave social problems which, with different characteristics, are present throughout America, Catholics know that they can find in the Church's social doctrine an answer which serves as a starting point in the search for practical solutions. Spreading this doctrine is an authentic pastoral priority." EIA, 54
"The 'new evangelization' which the modern world urgently needs and which I have emphasized many times, must include among its essential elements a proclamation of the Church's social doctrine. Centesimus Annus, 5, emphasis by Pope John Paul II
The Holy Spirit seems to be calling us to build an ongoing relationship of service with our brothers and sisters in another part of America (see EIA, 5). We should pray to select a church with which we are already working. The main purpose of this relationship is not for PM to help this church but for the Holy Spirit to work through this church to teach us about the universality of the Church and her missionary outreach.
To better educate ourselves about the Church's mission work, we should teach widely the Church's Social Justice Catechism. This will help us discern the Lord's will about direct service to the poor by HBCs in the context of forming inner-city HBCs. Finally, we are called to reach out more extensively to Hispanics in the USA.
Working for social justice begins in our hearts as we repent and forgive our enemies. It includes forming our consciences to be free from our contraceptive, abortifacient culture; simplifying our lives; and living as fully as possible in Christian community. It is quite possible that our response to the Holy Spirit's call to social justice will be the most important factor to prevent PM from being strangled by the "ubiquitous tentacles" of the culture of death (Gospel of Life, 21). Pope John Paul II has taught: "I therefore exhort the disciples of Christ and all Christian communities from families to dioceses, from parishes to religious institutes to carry out a sincere review of their lives regarding their solidarity with the poor" (Mission of the Redeemer, 60).
"Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations. Baptize them in the name 'of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.' Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you. And know that I am with you always, until the end of the world!" Matthew 28:19-20
"Knowledge and use of the media, whether the more traditional forms or those which technology has produced in recent times, is indispensable. Contemporary reality demands a capacity to learn the language, nature and characteristics of mass media. Using the media correctly and competently can lead to a genuine inculturation of the Gospel." EIA, 72
This area was the occasion for great enthusiasm at the Summit Meeting. In addition to providing our publications and media recordings to much of the world, the internet seems to be the vehicle by which PM can have an international, 24-hour a day, radio station and also establish branches of PM, including branches of Guadalupe Bible College, throughout the world.
We need to do this while maintaining our emphasis on simplicity and poverty, which has always been the calling of PM. Pope John Paul II has taught: "Individual Christians will be able to carry out their mission effectively to the extent that they make the life of the Son of God made man the perfect model for their work of spreading the Gospel. The simplicity of his manner and his choices must be normative for everyone in the work of evangelization" (EIA, 67).
Finally, in imitation of Jesus, we must, even in a high tech world, make personal, one-to-one evangelization our priority. Pope Paul VI taught: "It must not happen that the pressing need to proclaim the Good News to the multitudes should cause us to forget this form of proclamation whereby an individual's personal conscience is reached and touched by an entirely unique world that he receives from someone else" (On Evangelization in the Modern World, 46).
"I am engaged in a great enterprise and am unable to come down; why should the work stop, while I leave it to come down to you?" Nehemiah 6:3
"As the Church's Supreme Pastor, I urgently desire to encourage all the members of God's People, particularly those living in America where I first appealed for a commitment 'new in its ardor, methods and expression' to take up this project and to cooperate in carrying it out. In accepting this mission, everyone should keep in mind that the vital core of the new evangelization must be a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the person of Jesus Christ, that is, the preaching of his name, his teaching, his life, his promises and the Kingdom which he has gained for us by his Paschal Mystery." EIA, 66
Pope John Paul II has encouraged us to look at God's work in America with attitudes of gratitude and hope (EIA, 75), especially in the midst of spiritual warfare. The Summit Meeting itself was an exceptional grace for which we should always be thankful. As we shared with the HBCs and ministries represented at the Summit, it became overwhelmingly obvious how blessed are the 41 HBCs and 40 ministries in PM. The Lord has done for us more than we can ever ask for or imagine! (see Eph 3:20)
The Summit Meeting was also a sign of hope. It was a special gift from the Lord to us for the Great Jubilee. The Lord has given us "a future full of hope" (Jer 29:11). The Lord is giving us a much bigger harvest. However, one wonders where the workers for this harvest will come from. That this was not addressed at the Summit Meeting is disconcerting to say the least. However, PM's full-time workers and life-long members are exceptional signs of hope, and we know that our hope will not leave us disappointed (Rm 5:5). One of PM's greatest needs is a team of leaders to raise up more full-time workers, life-long members of PM, other leaders, and more workers.
PM is named after Mary, Our Lady of Presentation. We believe with the bishops of Vatican II that Mary is "a sign of sure hope" (Lumen Gentium, 68). She will help us be disciples of Jesus and raise up disciples to work in Jesus' harvest. Because the application of this Summit is primarily the responsibility of PM's HBC leaders and ministry leaders, we commend these leaders to her maternal intercession in a special way.
In conclusion, "since we for our part are surrounded by this cloud of witnesses,
let us lay aside every encumbrance of sin which clings to us and persevere in
running the race which lies ahead; let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus" (Heb
12:1-2). "He Who calls us is trustworthy, therefore He will do it" (1 Thes 5:24).
Issued on the eve of the
Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
December 12, 2000