You can read Archbishop Dolan’s presidential address in its entirety elsewhere; here I offer a few points from the address to reflect upon:

our most
pressing pastoral challenge today
is to reclaim that truth, to restore the
luster, the credibility, the beauty of the Church “ever ancient, ever new,”
renewing her as the face of Jesus, just as He is the face of God. Maybe our
most urgent pastoral priority is to lead our people to see, meet, hear and embrace
anew Jesus in and through His Church.

Because, as the chilling statistics we
cannot ignore tell us, fewer and fewer of our beloved people — to say nothing
about those outside the household of the faith — are convinced that Jesus and
His Church are one. As Father Ronald Rolheiser wonders, we may be living in a
post-ecclesial era, as people seem to prefer

a King but not
the kingdom,

a shepherd with
no flock,

to believe
without belonging,

a spiritual
family with God as my father, as long as I’m

the only child,
without religion

faith without
the faithful

Christ without
His Church.

So they drift from her, get mad at the Church, grow lax, join another, or just give it all up.

If this does not cause us pastors to shudder, I do not know what will.

The reasons are multiple and well-rehearsed, and we need to take them seriously. 

To invite our own beloved people, and the world itself, to see Jesus and His Church as one is, of course, the task of the New Evangelization. Pope Benedict will undoubtedly speak to us about this during our nearing ad limina visits, and we eagerly anticipate as well next autumn’s Synod on the New Evangelization. Jesus first called fishermen and then transformed them into shepherds. The New Evangelization prompts us to reclaim the role of fishermen. Perhaps we should begin to carry fishing poles instead of croziers.

Two simple observations might be timely as we as successors of the apostles embrace this urgent task of inviting our people and our world to see Jesus and His Church as one.

First, we resist the temptation to approach the Church as merely a system of organizational energy and support that requires maintenance.

Our urgent task to reclaim “love of Jesus and His Church as the passion of our lives” summons us not into ourselves but to Our Lord. Jesus prefers prophets, not programs; saints, not solutions; conversion of hearts, not calls to action; prayer, not protestsVerbum Dei rather than our verbage.

God calls us to be His children, saved by our oldest brother, Jesus, in a supernatural family called the Church.

Now, and here’s number two: since we are a spiritual family, we should hardly be surprised that the Church has troubles, problems . . . to use the talk-show vocabulary, that our supernatural family has some “dysfunction.”

As Dorothy Day remarked: “The Church is the radiant bride of Christ; but her members at times act more like the scarlet woman of Babylon.”

Archbishop Timothy Michael Dolan, PhD
Archbishop of New York

President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops