GARY – “This is the age of the laity in the Catholic Church. Praise God that you have responded and put yourselves in service to God,” Bishop Robert J. McClory told 16 graduates on May 17 as he conferred upon them Certificates of Completion for the Diocese of Gary’s Lay Ecclesial Ministry Program during a Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Angels.
“Allow the Holy Spirit to use you, always trusting in the Spirit to lead you,” advised the bishop, who touched on the close community created by the LEM students during three years of courses that included reading, lectures, discussions, writing and service projects focused on Church history, Scripture, ministry, morality and social justice.
“You had good classes and good teachers, but you also had ‘heart knowledge,’ a sense of community,” the bishop said in his homily. “You supported each other and (displayed) a sense of solidarity, of fraternity.”
He likened their bond to that of Christ’s apostles in the day’s first scripture reading, Acts 14:19-28. “They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, supposing he was dead, but … ‘he got up and entered the city,’ said Bishop McClory. “The Lord miraculously revived Paul … and that strengthened the spirit of the disciples. When they got back, they called (all) the disciples together to report to them.
“They made sure they supported each other and shared the word of God,” he added.
As for the work ahead of the lay ministers, the bishop recalled two of the Ten Principles of Missionary Discipleship in his recent Pastoral Letter “We Proclaim Jesus as Lord!”
Principle No. 4: “This is God’s work, not our own” relates to the words of Pope Francis that, said the bishop, “In the life of the Church, God takes control. No words of encouragement would be enough unless the fire of the Holy Spirit burns in our hearts. He is the soul of the Church.”
Describing his own “libation days,” Bishop McClory said that sometimes — like Paul, who said he “poured himself out, I’m spent, I’ve poured out the last drop of what I had in me,”I say to the Lord, ‘I don’t know what I have left, (but) I’m turning it over to you.’”
“But when you see the Lord doing something amazing, you know it’s God working through you, because you thought you had nothing left,” added the bishop.
Next the bishop spoke of Principle No. 5: “Prayer and hard work will be required of us, nonetheless.” In the day’s passage from the Acts of the Apostles, he said, there is a reference to “outright persecution (of the apostles), yet they found joy (in doing the work of God) and kept going.”
“I want to thank you for pouring yourselves out into the lay ecclesial ministry, and thank your families for their support; you made this a priority together,” Bishop McClory told the LEM graduates.
Thirteen of this year’s 14 male LEM graduates have applied and are discerning to continue studies toward the diaconate, along with as many as eight 2021 graduates, which could create one of the largest diaconate classes in the history of the Diocese of Gary, according to Deacon Dan Lowery. Deacon Lowery is turning over leadership of the diocesan diaconate program to Father Leo Gajardo as he accepts senior deacon status this summer.
“This is a very talented group of really faithful men, and as our current roster of deacons is aging, it will be great to have an influx in terms of numbers and talent,” said Deacon Lowery, who credited the success of the Diocese of Gary’s deacon formation program to the late Ann Verbeke, who developed the program with Bishop Emeritus Dale J. Melczek. “Bishop Melczek actually played a big role in developing the national strategies as the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) committee for the deacon formation program.”
Bishop McClory recognized the service of Deacon Lowery by presenting he and his wife, Barbara Lowery, with a gift basket and a tribute. “We want to honor and thank Deacon Dan Lowery, who has given so faithfully to the Diocese of Gary,” said the bishop. “What we all long to hear is ‘Well done, good and faithful servant,’ and that is our message to you today.”