Bishop: Visioning With the Eyes of the Heart
by Bishop Joensen | September 17, 2021
Faith practiced without a heart wholly turned toward God in a radical manner so that all our initiatives are prompted and oriented by his Spirit, is like cycling without a chain: one might be able to coast for a while, but at some point, one will lose steam and hit the wall. In a biblical sense, the heart is more than the seat of emotions and passions; the heart is the center of one’s whole being. It is the place where God can encounter and enliven us so that all we do follows from this abiding partnership.
God ignites our desire to be good for one another, so that our love for God, neighbor and self are more seamlessly united. We step up to take responsibility for our share in God’s promise, God’s own vision of what life in community, including the community of the Church that is the Diocese of Des Moines, can be.
God gives us his own Son to save us. We gladly receive him as the Incarnate Word who charts our direction and relieves us of the need to enter into every situation as though we’ve been handed a blank slate. God speaks his love language to us in personal prayer, in communal celebration of the sacraments, and in our service rendered to others. Jesus refreshes our baptismal calling so that we translate the gifts he showers upon us into ground-level patterns of relating that are meant to draw everyone into communion with the heart of Christ.
Jesus knows we are capable of more love; he calls us to be more bold, more prophetic, more visionary by discerning with what St. Paul calls “the eyes of the heart” (Ephesians 1:18) how we might embody Jesus’ presence in an even more compelling, attractive way. We live for God in a world that too readily, too fearfully defaults to living solely for itself.
This past August 29th, at All Saints Parish in Stuart, Iowa, after months of preparatory discussion and prayer, something significant in the life of our Diocese was more formally set in motion: a group of 21 people from our Diocese representing diverse parishes, ages, ethnic and racial affiliations, professional backgrounds and personal perspectives came together to embark on what we intend to be a Spirit-led process of strategic visioning for our local church over this next year and beyond. More details were in the July edition of The Catholic Mirror (https://www.dmdiocese.org/news/news-diocese-launches-strategic-visioning-process).
This visioning steering group is composed of more lay women than men, and is joined by two priests, one deacon couple and supporting staff members from the diocesan pastoral center. All of them have prayerfully said “yes” to the invitation to participate, and I am grateful to all of them for their generous willingness to commit themselves to this process, including co-chairs María Gabriela Matamoros of St. Boniface Parish, Waukee, and Dan Kinsella of St. Patrick Parish, Imogene.
We have engaged Dan Ebener of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, a man of deep Catholic faith with vast experience facilitating visioning processes for both non-profit and corporate organizations, and a noted author in the area of organizational leadership, to help facilitate our journey forward. I have been impressed with Dan’s docility to the Spirit in setting forth a dynamic process that will unfold in three phases: (1) Phase One research and formational phase through December of this year. This phase will involve one-on-one interviews with various constituents, and then will be extended into a series of more than 30 focus group listening sessions (conducted mainly via Zoom) that will include parishioners representing our entire diocesan family as well as persons involved in our mission of education and faith formation. We will also seek to engage persons who no longer identify with the Catholic Church, who are inactive or who may have disaffiliated for whatever reason, as well as gain perspectives from leaders in our larger communities and other faith traditions.
(2) The Phase Two planning phase from January through April 2022 will draw together the results of the research phase and allow the strategic visioning steering committee to incorporate their own formative experiences and reflections. They will develop strategies and goals that will translate into actions steps that compose the scope and substance of the Strategic Vision. The articulated Vision will be subject to final review and revision through the Easter Season culminating in the Feast of Pentecost. If all goes as planned, (3) Phase Three implementation phase of the Strategic Vision will begin as early as July 1, 2022, and will continue for two-three years and beyond.
It should go without saying that I will be keenly engaged and involved throughout this process. I approach my second anniversary as your bishop at the end of September, and have been privileged during more recent months of the pandemic to finally engage many of you in person throughout the Diocese. I have some intuitions and hopes for the form of the vision that will emerge from this process. Yet I humbly recognize that if I were to prescribe beforehand the major features of the vision I would risk becoming a sort of self-appointed Pharisee who thinks he has God’s ways all figured out by himself.
We all have our respective senses of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and a member of Christ’s body in these remarkable times; unless we are humble enough to mingle our personal visions together and patiently place ourselves under the tutelage of the Spirit, cultivating trust and the willingness to speak from our hearts to one another, we’ll be wasting our time. And none of us wants that.
Exciting and yes, demanding, possibilities are before us, thanks to the God who never gives up on us. God wants no person, no capacity to receive the Spirit-infused Word who is his Son, to go to waste. Together, united in heart and mind, I hope we may be inspired, discerning, and ever poised to support this initiative by prayer and any opportunity given to participate. God’s Kingdom vision presses on, calling us to assist him in bringing forth communion where love is exchanged, and life flows uphill and downhill with the pulse of Spirit propelling us. We keep true faith with Christ and one another, with hearts that see what God wants us to see, so that we can go where God wants us to go.