March 2, 2012
West Texas Catholic: Bishop Zurek, March is United Catholic Appeal month throughout the Diocese of Amarillo. What is the importance of the United Catholic Appeal and why should we, the local church, support this appeal?
Bishop Zurek: My answer is very simple: The mandate of Christ is to “go out and teach all nations everything that I have commanded you.” Therefore, we have a teaching ministry, we have a charitable ministry, we have a health care ministry. All of this can be put under the umbrella of Social Justice. It is the mission of Christ that is now expressed and lived in the Church. In order to do that mission, we need funds. We need funds to run my office, and then to carry out all the apostolates and the assisting infrastructure, to help those directing different departments to make their departments efficient and effective.
WTC: There are numerous apostolates throughout the Diocese of Amarillo. Let’s highlight a few of those that receive United Catholic Appeal funding, beginning with Campus Ministry and what a great job Father Daniel Dreher is doing at the Catholic Student Center at West Texas A&M University.
Bishop Zurek: In the last three years, Father Daniel has doubled and tripled the number of young people who are attending the campus ministry activities, programs and liturgies. I could not be more proud of that program; it has grown and has become effective; it has become attractive.
We are very serious in the Church in regard to the Faith Formation of our young adults. We want them to be great leaders in our Catholic communities and also in our civic communities as good citizens. Campus Ministry and their formation do this. It’s an incredible program, it’s something we should all be very, very proud of…and something we must continue.
WTC: The United Catholic Appeal also funds catechesis throughout the Diocese of Amarillo and the office of Faith Formation, led by Sister Janet Marie Abbacchi, SSND.
Bishop Zurek: Faith Formation is the key for our future. Again, Jesus said to go out and teach all nations everything I have commanded you to do. Catechesis is not just learning doctrine.
Catechesis is learning the teachings of Christ that come to us from the Gospel and is given as doctrine of the Church today. But that’s only one component. The other component of catechesis and Catholic education should be to form the people into a love for and a relationship with Jesus Christ as our Savior and our Redeemer.
Everything begins with and continues with Jesus. Everything we do in Church is related to Jesus. All we do as Church must emanate from Him and be seen in the words and deeds of our lives. Catechesis helps us to form people, young and old alike, as St. Paul would say, ‘into the mind and heart of Jesus.’ Knowing the teachings, knowing how to articulate them and most importantly, living them this is the heart of catechesis! As I give this interview (on Feb. 17), the first reading of Mass was from James, who reminded us that ‘Faith must be lived. Faith without good works is dead.’
WTC: The United Catholic Appeal also funds vocations and our future priests of the Diocese of Amarillo…
Bishop Zurek: It helps to foster the vocation team and develop the materials they need for promotion of vocations. It helps to educate our young men who are in the seminaries, but it also funds the Permanent Diaconate program of the diocese. We are about to enter into another program this Fall, beginning with the discernment period. We could not do this obviously, without the contributions that come from the United Catholic Appeal.
I have ordained in this past year one priest (Father Haider Quintero) and I ordained 16 deacons, of whom we are very proud, and there’s obviously plenty of work there. We need to continue to foster vocations so we will continue to have men at the ambos to preach the Word of God and at our altars to celebrate the Sacraments for our people.
WTC: The United Catholic Appeal also funds those brothers and sisters that are incarcerated. Prison Ministry is a very important part of the United Catholic Appeal…
Bishop Zurek: It is extremely important. I’ve been told by the prisoners as I go celebrate the Eucharist there or to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation or Confession, that without the presence of the Church, through its ordained ministry, through priests and deacons, the prisoners tell me, ‘There would absolutely be no hope for us, Bishop.’ With the presence of the Catholic Church through its ministers and lay people who assist, they tell me they have hope.
They realize they may never get out of those walls, and that they may meet their Creator without leaving their cells, but they have hope in the Redemption that Jesus Christ brought for them on the Cross itself.
WTC: One other note about the United Catholic Appeal—it’s a way of having communio with the local Church…could you please elaborate?
Bishop Zurek: It is one of the few things we do in which every parish, every mission and every individual can be involved. One of the greatest characteristics of the Church that we say we believe in every time we recite the Creed is communion; that is, a coming together in unity as the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Communio is the Latin word for communion, meaning we not only have communion with Christ and each other as we receive the Eucharist at Mass or a Communion Service, but anytime we gather and do something together as a diocese, like the United Catholic Appeal, it’s a diocesan effort through its departments who make ministry possible; it concretely shows that we are the one Body of Christ in this part of the vineyard known as the Diocese of Amarillo.
Communio is extremely important. Communion of all the people in a given parish, spiritually united with the people in other parishes, with the priests, the deacons and the Bishop create this communion in the diocese. Then, through the Bishop this communion extends with every other diocesan bishop, and hence when in union with the Pope, this communion reaches its fullest reality as the communion of the entire Catholic Church in the world. As Jesus said in John’s Gospel, this tells the world that Jesus was ‘sent by the Father!’