Archdiocese’s Unite event will rely on the power of the Holy Spirit
In this week’s interview, archdiocesan communication manager David Hazen speaks with Archbishop George J. Lucas and Father Jeff Lorig, director of Pastoral Services for the archdiocese, about the archdiocese’s upcoming Unite event.
Q: Details about the ArchOmaha Unite event were recently released. Can you tell us more about it?
Archbishop Lucas: Yes, I am inviting everyone in the Archdiocese of Omaha to join me for a special daylong celebration of our faith on June 8, 2019, the eve of Pentecost. It will be held at the CHI Center in Omaha, and we hope to get as many people as we can from every parish across the archdiocese.
Father Jeff Lorig: I like to think of this event as the whole archdiocese going on pilgrimage together, gathering on the eve of Pentecost, asking for the Holy Spirit to come upon us, and allowing Jesus to renew us in his name.
Q: How did the idea for this event come about?
Archbishop Lucas: During the listening sessions that led up to the articulation of our pastoral vision a couple years ago, we heard people very clearly express a desire to have a deeper sense of belonging to the Body of Christ in the local church.
I get to visit parishes across the archdiocese, and thus in my mind and heart, I see everybody together as part of one church. But that is not the experience of many of us, who have a sense we are living past one another in an archdiocese which is becoming increasingly diverse.
Father Jeff Lorig: Sometimes we have the sense of being disconnected from what it means to be church here in northeast Nebraska. Certainly as Catholics, we have that sense of being connected to the archbishop and tied to one mission. And I really think it was the Holy Spirit prompting that in the hearts of the people to say, “I want to belong. I want to be a part of this.” St. Paul talks about it. There are many parts, but there’s one body, and really just a longing to feel that we are one. So, this was born of a desire to create a culture of unity here.
Q: The scope of this particular event is unprecedented in our local church. Why was a large event decided upon, and why now?
Archbishop Lucas: We live in an age of virtual reality, and people are connected constantly by digital means. However, in our experience of the Body of Christ, we know there’s nothing like actually being together in one place and being able to see one another, pray together and exchange ideas.
The first thing, then, is that we all have to come together. I think everybody who participates will find that we have a rich program planned. It will be faith-filled, it will be fun and nobody will be sorry that they were part of it.
Father Jeff Lorig: Yes, it won’t be just like going to church on a typical Sunday. I’ve been to a few World Youth Days, and those are life-transforming experiences. There is so much openness in people at those events and a joy at being together for the same purpose.
Archbishop Lucas: It is also not going to be a typical conference with a lot of breakout sessions and presentations on disparate topics. Most of the day will be spent together in the main auditorium in the convention center. We are going to have some very powerful witnesses of faith from people from our own area, people pretty much like us who have encountered Jesus in a very powerful way. They’ll talk to us about how that encounter has changed their lives, and it will be an invitation for all of us to realize that the same kind of encounter with Jesus is something we can experience as well.
We know where two or three are gathered, the Lord is with us. And so when we have thousands together, we can imagine his presence will be experienced in a very powerful way.
Q: How do you think this event could benefit the church in our present circumstances?
Father Jeff Lorig: There are very serious things going on in the church now that have to be addressed, but that doesn’t mean that God is not alive. That doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit is not still present and calling us to mission.
This will be an opportunity, really, to acknowledge that though we are sinners, Jesus called us to do his work, to complete his mission with him here on earth. So, it won’t just be a barrel of laughs. I think it will be a powerful experience of 15,000 people calling on the Holy Spirit to renew us, to be emboldened in a world that seems to be resistant to the church. I can’t script what the Holy Spirit’s going to do, but I have great confidence that he is going to do something. And I think you’d miss out if you were not there for it.
Archbishop Lucas: I share that same confidence in the Holy Spirit as I think about and pray about this event and invite the Holy Spirit to help shape our planning. I picture the disciples of Jesus after the Ascension. They had been promised the Holy Spirit, and they had been given a mission by Jesus. But they weren’t really sure how they were going to do it, so they were praying. They weren’t really sure what they were going to be given, but they knew if the Lord was asking something of them – if he was sending them out into the world – he was going to give them what they needed. And that was their experience when they received the Holy Spirit. We’ll have the opportunity this coming June on the eve of Pentecost to be together as a group of his disciples whom Jesus is sending into the real world.
We are not ignoring the challenges of the present age. We are not ignoring the scandals or the pain or the hurt that’s been experienced in our church. We’ve been planning this gathering for a couple of years, so it’s not a response to any particular circumstance per se. However, it is a response to the invitation of Jesus to be his disciples and to accept a share in his mission, to go out and to share the joy of the Gospel with others. We’ll be together then, and we’ll call on the Holy Spirit. And I think if we ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to do what Jesus is asking of us, that prayer will be answered.
We know the Holy Spirit is as powerful now as the Spirit was on the first Pentecost, so why wouldn’t a powerful outpouring of the Spirit’s gifts be given to us in this archdiocese at this important moment?
To find out more about ArchOmaha Unite, please visit unite.archomaha.org.