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A message from the bishop

Conversion is a lifelong process (March 2015)
 
My dear friends,
 
St. John Paul II wrote in Ecclesia in America that, “In this life conversion is a goal which is never fully attained: on the path which the disciple is called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, conversion is a lifelong process.” Lent is a wonderful opportunity for this continued spiritual journey. Not only is Lent a season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, but it is a reminder for us that if you stop learning, you stop growing.
 
Just as a doctor or an attorney has to constantly attend continuing education courses and an auto mechanic has to keep pace with new technology, as Catholics we
must continue learning and exploring our faith. We not only have a mind and body; we also have an immortal soul. Just as we strive to keep our bodies fit and healthy, so also we should have a similar care for our soul. The Spiritual Fitness column on page 11 illustrates helpful practices of this care each month. We are pilgrims here on earth, “for here we have no lasting city.” (Hebrews 13:14) We are destined to be forever one with God and the saints in heaven. If we truly believe that, then throughout our life we will use our minds and hearts to continue to grow in knowing, loving, and serving God—to the benefit of others and of all God’s creation.
 
All spiritual growth is a gift from God. We cannot manufacture it any more than a farmer can force-feed the growth of a field of corn. You might buy the best seed that produces abundantly, but you are still reliant on the sun and rain for nourishment. We have to put ourselves in a position to receive what God wants to give us. One of the ways we do that is with a vibrant spiritual life. When we converse with God
in prayer, the time spent tells us in a very concrete way that God is important to us and that our spiritual life is something that we prize.
 
The same can be said of other ways we enrich our spiritual lives. We do that by opening ourselves to things that will help us know, love and serve God more and more. It might be a parish program, a retreat experience, visiting Catholic websites, a class at the Catholic Information Center in Grand Rapids or other
diverse forms of spiritual enrichment. There are many ways to put ourselves in a position where we can invite God to dwell in us and work through us.
 
This lifelong process of conversion is of great importance for our teachers and catechists. Many of them have been certified through our catechist certification program, Echoing the Gospel, so that they can accurately share the truth about what we believe as Catholics and what the Church teaches. This is most important with our younger Catholics who need to hear it and be exposed to it. If we are going to share in our baptismal call to be missionary and be able to proclaim God’s love by what we say and do, then we have to know what we’re talking about. We have to be enthusiastic, be able to share our faith and be able to explain the basics of our faith accurately and coherently.
 
Of course, we do not travel along this spiritual journey alone. We are saved as God’s people. It is natural and supportive to spend time with fellow Catholics celebrating our common faith. By being together, we support each other, learning together in prayer and worship. The Diocesan Women’s Conference and Diocesan Stewardship Conference, both on March 21, are great opportunities for this experience of spiritual solidarity (Page 28). Those events, along with the upcoming KEPHA Men’s Conference on March 14, are just a few opportunities that can help us reinvigorate our faith during this season of Lent. Last year at the Men’s Conference, I saw generations coming together and praying, being nourished spiritually by what the speakers were saying about their encounter with Christ. To go to a church and see 800 men and boys—grandfathers, fathers and sons—together in prayer is very powerful!
 
On Ash Wednesday, we were exhorted to repent, believe in the Gospel, turn away from sin and believe in
the Good News. That is great advice—divine advice—for the entire year! Conversion is a lifelong, in-season and out-of-season dynamic in our lives. Lent reminds us of this truth and bids us to continue along this path beyond the Lenten season. May God give us the grace to seek to change our lives in accordance
with his will in the days ahead! 
 
Sincerely yours in the Lord,
Most Reverend David J. Walkowiak