LOGAN — Bishop Oscar A. Solis celebrated Mass on the first Sunday of Advent with the community of St. Jerome Newman Center in Logan.
Before the Mass, he met with students who are involved with the Newman Center.
“You are not only the future of the Catholic Church, but you are leaders,” the bishop told the dozen or so students who gathered for a late-afternoon snack prior to the Mass. He added that the Church recognizes the gifts of young people and that they have something to contribute to the Church’s mission.
“Everything that you do here at the Newman Center needs to be prayer-based” to help build the Church, he said.
Bishop Solis asked those gathered for suggestions on how to attract young people to the Church, and how to keep people their age involved. He also listened to the concerns they voiced. For example, they asked how to bring the faith into daily situations without making other people uncomfortable.
Being genuine in sharing beliefs while acknowledging differences is important, Bishop Solis said, adding that because of differences “we create more divisions and polarizations in our community, in our society” rather than transcending boundaries.
Several of the students said the Newman Center has been a blessing, and that the activities there have served as an outreach to the wider community. They also thanked Benedictine Sister Marilyn Mark, who also oversees the Newman Center, for welcoming them. Sr. Marilyn is also the pastoral associate and music director of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish.
Bishop Solis applauded the activities the students mentioned, saying that engagement with others in the faith community and accompanying one another on the spiritual journey are important and this also can bring Catholic identity to others.
“Each one of us, by virtue of our baptism, are missionaries,” he said. “We have the mandate to go out and proclaim the Good News to others.”
Joy is the mark of the true Christian believer, he said.
In addition, he urged them to make it a point to live their faith, to talk about how faith can be applied to current issues, to learn about the faith to be able to answer questions about what they believe, and to share the joy of the faith. Celebrating the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, is important, too, he said.
During his homily at the Mass, Bishop Solis focused on the season of Advent, which is an important time of grace because it is an invitation to prepare for the coming of Christ, he said.
The readings of Advent set the tone of anticipation and preparation, he said. In the Gospel for that Sunday, Jesus spoke of cataclysmic events, with people dying of fright. However, “the message of Advent is not about fear,” but rather the signs of the end times should be a source of joy because in the midst of the disasters and troubles of this world, “there is hope because God is coming, and God is already with us,” he said.
People should take the advice St. Paul gives in the letter to the Thessalonians, to live lives of holiness and to love one another, and be people of conviction in faith in Christ, the bishop said.
“It is unfortunate that we are absorbed by surroundings that take away our focus on Jesus, and especially the reason why we celebrate Christmas – Christ,” he said.
Within daily activities, it seems as though most people give Christ only a moment, “so we have to regain focus in our life, to see to it that God is the center of our life and everything that we do,” he said.