In one weekend, Bishop Alexander K. Sample of Marquette, Mich. will traverse his diocese in a cross-shaped travel path in a symbolic effort to place the diocese under the “sign of the cross” during the Catholic Church’s Year of Faith.
Bishop Sample said Oct. 4 that the cross is “the sign of our faith.”
From Oct. 20-21 he will travel 1,140 miles north, south, east and west across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. His travels begin with Saturday morning Mass at Our Lady of the Pines Mission in the northern town of Copper Harbor. He will then move south to the city of Menominee, where he will celebrate Mass in the afternoon at Holy Spirit Parish, the Diocese of Marquette says.
On Sunday he will celebrate an early morning Mass at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Ironwood in the peninsula’s west, before making a long drive to Drummond Island in the diocese’s east for evening Mass at St. Florence Mission.
Bishop Sample will carry a handmade cross for a procession at each of the four churches.
Internet users can follow Bishop Sample’s journey on Twitter at twitter.com/BishopSample and on Facebook at the page www.facebook.com/theupcatholic.
“I want to do this so that everyone can plug in and be a part of it,” Bishop Sample said.
The bishop’s journey follows his release of an Oct. 1 pastoral letter on evangelization and the Year of Faith titled “We Wish to See Jesus.” It outlines his plans for the diocese in the next year. The Year of Faith was inaugurated by Pope Benedict on Oct. 11, 2012 and will last until Nov. 23, 2013.
Most of his pastoral priorities focus on practicing Catholics. He said Catholics’ faith and commitment to Jesus Christ must be strengthened first before they can share Jesus and the “gift of faith” with others.
Bishop Sample stressed that Catholics must take the universal call to holiness “very seriously” whether they are laity, clergy or consecrated religious. All Catholics must come to know Jesus in prayer and parish and mission communities must become “schools of prayer.”
The Sunday Eucharist is the summit of faith and its celebration must be “the heart of every disciple’s life,” he added.
The bishop stressed the importance of the Sacrament of Penance, calling on every Catholic to “rediscover the beauty and power of this great gift that Jesus has given the Church.” He urged Catholics to remember they depend on “the grace and power of Christ” and not their own efforts. Catholics must also renew their attentiveness to the Holy Scriptures and the tradition of the Church’s teaching.
Finally, they must proclaim the Word of God and their Catholic faith to others, including friends, family members, neighbors and co-workers who no longer go to church.
“This effort is not to be left to priests, deacons and consecrated religious alone. It is not the responsibility of so-called ‘experts,’ but must become the burning passion of every believer to share Jesus Christ and the gift of faith with those who do not yet fully know him,” Bishop Sample said.
The bishop also described three “fronts” for evangelization: the liturgy, charity, and faith formation.
“(W)hat we pray in the Sacred Liturgy and how we celebrate the sacred rites both expresses what we believe and, at the same time, forms us in that same faith,” he said.
He said for over a generation Catholics “have not done the best we could to hand on the gift of faith” through catechesis. This means both adults and children need to learn the fundamentals of the Catholic faith.
Bishop Sample emphasized that charity and kindness to the poor, the suffering and those in need can be “one of the most powerful ways in which we evangelize.”