“There is an urgent need… to see once again that faith is a light, for once the flame of faith dies out, all other lights begin to dim. The light of faith is unique, since it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence. A light this powerful cannot come from ourselves but from a more primordial source: in a word, it must come from God. Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives. Transformed by this love, we gain fresh vision, new eyes to see; we realize that it contains a great promise of fulfillment, and that a vision of the future opens up before us.”                                                                                                                 — (Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis) 
By Barry Schoedel

All Catholics are invited to reflect upon some serious questions during this Year of Faith: Is there an absence of light within us? Do we encounter a darkness within ourselves that is difficult to comprehend and confront? Do we also see these at the level of family, community, state and Church? Are we willing to admit that there is a lack of illumination both within ourselves and in the World that demands a more complete response? According to Pope Francis above, there is a light that is unique, the light of faith, which illuminates the human person and community in a way that no other light can. This light doesn’t come from a gimmick, from technology, from social status, from worldly success, nor power. It is encountered through repentance and humility, the only way to approach the living God. In humility, in Christ, we participate in the vision of God, rather than the vision of man. The light of faith allows us to see with hearts that are transformed by love and mercy – with a willingness to participate in our common priesthood in a way that is sacrificial, prophetic, and sanctifying. The Year of Faith has been a way for the Church to begin at the beginning of the faith life anew: seeking anew the luminosity of faith, which is the light that comes from Christ. Importantly, we are not asked to do this alone, but instead as One Body, the Church. We are invited to act as Christians who are in communion with the visible sign of unity, the local Ordinary—the Bishop, and the Holy Father—the Bishop of Rome. Our shared unity in faith involves us deeply in the life of the Church, which is why at this moment in the Year of Faith we are preparing for the Second Diocesan Synod in the Diocese of Juneau. As One People we are called this year to participate in a Synod that has been convoked by our Bishop, Edward J. Burns. Many of us are likely learning about what a Synod is for the first time. And perhaps it is helpful to understand this definition more deeply, in a spiritual and theological way. Despite its administrative aspects the Synod is an ecclesial, theological event, a movement of the Holy Spirt and God’s People. It is a movement that seeks to purify, that seeks to renew, that seeks to liberate and that seeks to inspire. It’s success depends not as much on our administrative acumen, but on the fidelity, hope and love with which we approach this call. It is an opportunity for us as One People to be transformed by an encounter with the living God and to see with a fresh vision. Illuminated by Christ’s presence, we are asked to discern what the Church in Southeast Alaska is called to at this moment, to more effectively communicate her reality as the Sacrament of Salvation for All Peoples. Based upon that discernment we make recommendations to the Bishop to better orient and guide the Ministry of Christ. Those recommendations that the Bishop approves become a roadmap of sorts for us to reference in respect to the Mission of the Church in the upcoming years. In particular, we are considering these recommendations in light of the Church’s call for a New Evangelization. As this sacred event begins to take shape you are encouraged to visit our Synod website to learn more about the event and how to participate. Please, also, let us begin to pray and think together about how we can better do justice to our vocation to holiness and mission as the People of God in Southeast Alaska. Holy Spirit, fan the embers of faith in us, that through our loving sacrifice the fire of Christ’s love may illuminate the hearts of All Peoples in Southeast Alaska. Amen. Barry Schoedel is the Diocesan Assistant for Evangelization and Technology and a Synod Preparatory Commission Member.