Each of the past four years of my time here as bishop of the Diocese of Burlington have been marked by a particular theme. We began with Pope Francis’ call for the

celebration of a Year of Mercy in 2016, followed by the Year of Creation linked to Francis’ encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Sì,” and finally, this year’s celebration of the Year of the Family. During each year’s celebration, volunteers and

diocesan staff have coordinated a wealth of opportunities for us to pray, reflect, and act upon God’s mercy, God’s creation, and God’s gift of the family. I thank all who have worked so hard to make all of these endeavors possible and successful.

For the past year and a half, the people of the Diocese of Burlington have also been engaged in a Diocesan Synod. Out of all of the surveys, consultations and meetings, the Synod delegates, comprised of representatives from each parish or parish-cluster as well as clergy and religious, have discerned three priorities that will direct our pastoral work here in Vermont: evangelization, vibrant parishes and good

communication. Each of these priorities are seen, not as unique silos, but intertwined one with the other. In order to evangelize, you need to have vibrant parishes and good communication. Vibrant parishes are built upon people

who revel in the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ and are alive with an evangelical faith. That faith, that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life in and through his Holy Church, has to be communicated across a wide variety of means. Each of these priorities in the end is focused toward the creation of disciples, children, men and women who are believers. In light of this, I have designated this coming year as the Call to Discipleship.

A disciple of Jesus Christ understands Him to be the way, the truth and the life. It is Christ who points us toward the Father, to be one with Him, as He is one with the Father. It is Christ who told us that the Father will send us the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, so that we will not be left orphans. It is Christ who established the Church upon the rock of His apostles to go and make “disciples of all in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” To be a disciple is to embrace the fullness of faith in the Church and it’s teachings. To be a disciple is to live in the gift of the Church’s sacraments.

The Call to Discipleship is personal and communal. It calls us out of ourselves to go and spread the good news that Jesus is Lord and Savior of all. As we venerate the first of the disciples, Mary and Joseph, during this Advent and Christmas season, may we be open to responding to the promise of salvation found in their child Jesus as they did.

—Originally published in the Dec. 15–21, 2018, issue of The Inland See.

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