Maryland priest hopes summer convocation sparks missionary renewal

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

By Colleen Dulle

Md. (CNS) — For Father Mark Bialek, being a priest means enabling his
parishioners to evangelize in new ways.

can’t just sit comfortably anymore in our parishes and our chanceries and in
our homes, but we have to actually go to where the sheep are,” Father Bialek
said, comparing the church to a flock.

Bialek will attend the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel
in America,” a national gathering in Orlando, Florida, from July 1-4, to learn
about evangelization and share ideas with other Catholic leaders.

invitation-only convocation aims to equip attendees with strategies and best
practices for preaching the Gospel in a way that reaches today’s culture. It is
based on Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of
the Gospel.”)

Bialek told Catholic News Service he has high hopes for the convocation.

think it’s going to be a time of renewal where we go from maintenance to
mission,” Father Bialek said. “It’s no longer business as usual within our
parishes and within our dioceses. We have to respond to the call of the Gospel
in our own day and in our own age and find a way of proclaiming the Gospel in a
way that people hear.”

his 11 years as a priest in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Father Bialek said he
has learned that it’s important to be vulnerable and courageous and continually
to evaluate his parish’s work as a missionary vehicle.

hopes to share this knowledge with the other participants at the convocation.

Francis said that he wants pastors that have the smell of the sheep, so I’m
hoping that I’d be able to bring the experience of working in the parish,
ministering every day,” Father Bialek said.

convocation will include several sessions dedicated to healing the wounds left
by the clergy sex abuse scandal that gained international attention in 2002.

these wounds has always been part of Father Bialek’s ministry: He was entering
the seminary just as the revelations began to come out.

think it was a very unsettling time where there seemed to be more questions
than answers. There was a lot of anger that was coming, too, from all
directions,” he said. “To understand where those emotions were coming from, to
understand the experiences that some people had unfortunately gone through, the
hurt and pain that people had experienced, there was no getting away from it.”

priest said it gave him hope to see that even as the scandal continued to be
uncovered in different cities, men continued to come to the seminary.

think the discussion was, how can we bring healing and comfort to those who
have been affected and be agents of change within our ministry? And we kind of
realized that this was going to take a lifetime,” Father Bialek said.

said it comforted him to think of the priests who had impacted him positively
when he was young, like Father David Leary, who had talked with Father Bialek
and the other altar servers about the faith and his different ministries.

I grew up and as I got more involved in the life of the parish, I wanted to be
more like Father Dave,” Father Bialek said.

Father Bialek wants to provide that same kind of nurturing environment in his
own parish.

truly feel a mission and a call to be a witness of joy, to proclaim the Gospel
and to make sure the parish is an environment where all are protected, where
dignity is upheld from the youngest to the most seasoned parishioner,” Father Bialek

said Pope Francis is leading a renewal in how the public views the church.

the pope’s election in 2013, Father Bialek said he has seen more people
returning to Mass and the sacraments, a change he attributes to Pope Francis’

think that if we can just get a glimpse, a glimmer, just a spark from his
apostolic ministry and we can translate that back to our own dioceses and our
own parishes, I think the church is going to be alive and well,” Father Bialek

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