Together as one Body in Christ, we will prevail

Jesus at the Last Supper is depicted in a stained-glass window in New York church. The feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, also known as the feast of Corpus Christi, is celebrated today. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)

Archbishop Byrnes’ Pastoral Letter of Sunday, June 18, 2017

The peace of Christ be with you.

On this very important occasion when the Church celebrates the feast of Corpus Christi and the real Body of Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament, I am grateful to address you the faithful.

Though varied in our backgrounds, upbringing and experiences, we are united in Christ. The Body and Blood of Christ, strengthens us, no matter what kind of brokenness we may have.

Pope Francis reminds us that in the Eucharist, Jesus makes himself the food that nourishes and sustains Catholics, even when the road gets rough. “Christ, present among us under the sign of bread and wine, demands that power of love overcome every fracture and, at the same time, become communion with the poor, support for the weak and fraternal concern for those who struggle to bear the weight of daily life and are in danger of losing their faith,” Pope Francis said.

As Jesus pours his endless love upon us, we are called to do the same with one another.

Since arriving in Guam last November, I have seen an amazing faith. At fiestas, Confirmations, processions and other gatherings of the faithful I have been absolutely amazed how the Catholics of Guam have endured in faith, the events of the past 12 months, most notably the scourge of clergy sexual abuse.  I have also been extremely impressed with the quality of people who have come forward to assist me and the Archdiocese during these trying times.  While we may have a secular crisis on our hands I find the spirituality of the Guam faithful to be strong.

For example, it has taken a number of months for some very qualified Catholics, who put in long hours, to come up with a financial picture of the Archdiocese of Agana. We have been sharing the details of our financial condition with the clergy and members of the Catholic schools in the past several weeks. I’m grateful for the tenacity and work of the Archdiocesan Finance Council as well as that of our Finance Officer Josie Villanueva and Father Jeff San Nicolas, the Delegate General of the Coadjutor Archbishop.

I think the condition of the Archdiocese at my arrival can be best summed up by the last verse in the Old Testament book of Judges. “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what he thought best.

There was, and is, no evidence of ill intent on the part of any of the 40-plus parishes, schools or agencies, or their personnel.  As the book of Judges says, “everyone did what they thought was best.”  Unfortunately some entities got in over their financial heads.  We are all parts of the Body of Christ so amputation is not an option.  We must therefore, as the Body of Christ, come together to heal all parts which means we must help those units experiencing financial difficulty.  Using an analogy, in simple terms, we have maxed out our credit cards and payment is due.

Here are a couple of important points that we’ve shared with the clergy and school administrators:

Our legal fees are being paid from a separate source.  No parish or school funds are being used to pay legal fees.

The highly qualified financial advisers who have been assisting us have developed an acceptable plan to bring the Archdiocese back to good economic health but, we will all need to make sacrifices, big and small.

We have a lot of work to do but every action we take will be completed in the upmost transparency.

In the weeks to come, we will work earnestly to share the financial realities and challenges of our Archdiocese – as well as strategies to right the ship – with our faithful. Our meetings with clergy and school administrators will continue and are extending to include dialogue with parish councils.

We understand that there is a trust issue involved which will take time to heal. However, we are all in this together and together, rooted in Christ, I firmly believe we will emerge as a stronger church and Archdiocese.

Sincerely yours,

+Michael Byrnes
Coadjutor Archbishop of Agaña

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