A Workshop for Pastors and Pastoral Council Delegates, Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey, St. Leo the Great Church, Lincroft, October 12, 1996
By Mark F. Fischer, St. John’s Seminary, Camarillo, CA
When Gaston Schmidt invited me to come east to visit you, he sent me your 25-page document from 1993, entitled “Parish Pastoral Council Models for the Diocese of Trenton. This is 25 pages, I want to remind you, of very dense text, beautifully laid out, very professional. It covered the following topics:
- the definition of parish councils,
- the types of councils,
- the characteristics of outstanding councils,
- the rationale for councils,
- the differences among councils, and
- practical concerns and problems.
When I first waded through this material, I thought: Chuck Padula, and the other DPC members who drafted this document, knew what they were doing. The paper is intelligently written, based on extensive research, illuminated by experience. What can I possibly contribute to a group that does its homework so thoroughly? What can a guy from Los Angeles possibly tell the DPC and the priests of Trenton?
But then I put my fears to rest. Out West we know a lot about New Jersey, at least from our own perspective, which is that of the entertainment industry. We know that Asbury Park is of immense historical importance as the home of Bruce Springsteen, and that life at Princeton was faithfully mirrored by Walter Matthau in the movie I.Q. My wife and I even own some Lenox china, and we have a few pieces of Belleek, although we do not usually allow our three sons to dine on it. We may be a little hazy about Washington’s crossing of the Delaware, but we know that Madonna crossed the Hudson when she was “Desperately Seeking Susan.” All this should build confidence in my knowledge of the parish council scene in Trenton.
If you remain sceptical, however, you may be even more troubled by my next confession. For I would like to tell you that in Los Angeles we are expert in parish councils, that most of our parishes have them, and that I come with a stock of secrets to help you establish and renew councils here. But I cannot say that. In fact, the number of parish councils in the Western states is considerably lower than in the East. Let me tell you how I know.
Two years ago, I undertook a survey of the 175 dioceses in the U.S. I wanted to find out how many parish councils there are. Ninety-eight out of 175 dioceses responded to my survey, and they confirm that there are more councils in the Eastern part of the country than in the West. Only 49 percent of L.A.’s 288 parishes have councils. So believe me, we in the West are in no position to brag to you.
The prize does not belong to the East, however, but to the Midwest. Midwestern dioceses have a higher percentage of parishes with councils than Eastern dioceses. Overall, when I looked at the 18,764 parishes in the U.S., more than three-quarters of them have councils. The 1986 “Notre Dame Study of Catholic Parish Life” confirms that statistic. My home state may lag behind the rest of the country in the number of councils, but that does not steal any thunder from pastoral councils nationwide. The number of councils suggests a real American success story.
Moreover, the U.S. bishops continue to support councils. They do so by publishing guidelines for councils, by mandating the existence of councils, by establishing diocesan pastoral councils, and by employing support staff for councils [Transparency A]. More than 80% of bishops publish guidelines and mandate councils, and more than 60% have their own council with support staff. We have to realize that we are part of an enormous movement in the U.S. Catholic Church. Three-quarters of 18,764 parishes have councils, and if each council has ten members, then almost 150,000 Catholics are sitting on councils at any one time.
I am proud to be part of this immense and participative movement in the Church. And I would like to take a few minutes this morning to share with you some of what I’ve learned about pastoral councils.
How I Learned about Councils
But some of you might want to ask how a seminary teacher got into pastoral councils. When I completed my studies in 1983, I could not get a teaching position in theology. Instead, I took a newly-created job with my home Diocese of Oakland, California, which was laying plans for the creation of its first-ever Diocesan Pastoral Council. My job was to help organize the preparatory meetings and the two weekends of the diocesan convention. The task of the convention was to define general diocesan goals and to elect a 20-member Diocesan Pastoral Council. The DPC would then study the goals and recommend to Bishop John Cummins objectives for meeting them.
The convention was a great success, the DPC was elected, and all was going well. One day, the chairwoman of the DPC, a lay woman named Gesine Laufenberg, stopped into my office. We talked for a while, and then Gesine said, “Mark, are we doing what other dioceses in the U.S. are doing? Do they have diocesan conventions and elect DPCs just as we do?”
Well, I must admit: the question floored me. I hadn’t a clue. I had been so busy during the previous 16 months that I never stopped to see what other dioceses were doing. So I gave her the answer that any good bureaucrat would give. I said I’d look into the matter. And to tell the truth, by the time I knew the answer, Gesine’s tenure as DPC chairwoman was long above.
But I think of her fondly–she died of cancer last year–for her question prodded me into an investigation which has kept me busy for more than a decade: the question of what dioceses in the U.S. are doing to promote consultation, especially through pastoral councils. I began by studying publications from other dioceses. And one of the first I found was a series of six pamphlets, published by the Diocese of Trenton in 1980. There was a 24-page booklet on The Function of a Parish Council, and other booklets on starting councils, the structure of councils, constitutions and by-laws, and the theology of councils. Reading these materials, I gradually learned there was more to councils than what I had learned in my home diocese of Oakland.
Overview of the Presentation
In my remarks today, I will begin by sketching the situation of parish pastoral councils in Catholic dioceses throughout the United States. In particular, I would like to note what appears to be a fundamental shift in the council movement, a shift in our understanding of councils. This is a shift from the view of councils as coordinators of parish ministries to a view in which councils are seen as planning bodies. In this new view, councils have the task of clarifying the parish’s mission or task and planning ways to achieve that mission. This shift in vision implicitly criticizes what we in the council movement have been doing, and it is important for us to understand the criticism. This is the first part of my talk.
In the second part, I would like to offer a definition of the council ministry: how it helps us respond to our baptismal call to share responsibility for our Christian communities. This definition is based on my experience as a pastoral council member. It is not based on any experience as a pastor, for I obviously never have been one. But as a seminary professor, I have an advantage that pastors do not have: the opportunity to read what the experts say about councils and in that way to form an opinion. This enables me to offer advice without having to take it myself.
Part I: Pastoral Council History: Mistakes We Have Made
Three big problems continue to face the pastoral council movement. These have to do with the purpose of councils, the role of pastors, and the way by which councillors are selected.
A. The Council of Ministries?
Let us begin with the purpose of councils. This purpose has never been clarified by the U.S. bishops, who have never published a document about parish pastoral councils. We have to “read between the lines” of the Vatican II and post-conciliar documents in order to grasp the documents’ true intention. The problem lies with the Vatican II Decree on the Apostolate of the Lay People, one of the council documents which recommends the establishment of councils. The laity decree states that councils should be set up to assist the Church’s apostolic work, and that these councils “can take care of the mutual coordination of the various lay associations and undertakings” (par. 26). A number of popular publications in the United States have misinterpreted this decree as calling for a full-blown structure of parish standing committees, all under the authority of the parish council.
The main job of what certain authors call the parish “council of ministries” is to coordinate the parish’s ministries through commissions or standing committees, such as evangelization, education, liturgy, and the like. The tasks of the parish council are, in this scheme, seemingly endless–to provide a forum for parish issues, to model shared responsibility, to foster communication, to reconcile parish divisions–and somewhat unrealistic. The most unrealistic, in my opinion, is a purpose to which some people still subscribe. They say the parish council’s job is to plan and coordinate the overall policy of the parish; or, as one publication pretentiously puts it, to “ensure that ministry takes place.” The parish council sets policy and and delegates to each commission the issues which fall within its purview.
I believe that this is a mistake on three counts. First, ministry will continue whether the parish council is coordinating it or not. Second, the coordination of all parish ministry is beyond the scope of a volunteer group which meets two hours per month. Third, policy setting and delegation are administrative tasks which do not harmonize with the consultative role of the pastoral council. The “council of ministries” approach too closely resembles the management style of a city council.
B. Ratifying by Participation?
The second mistake made by the council movement has to do with the role of the pastor. Some publications suggest that the council, with the pastor as one among other members, should take the initiative in setting council agendas. If the wisdom of the parish community resides in the council, they say, the council should be the true decision-maker. The role of the pastor then becomes a limited one. His job is merely to participate with the council in its search for truth. The council makes the decisions, according to this theory; the pastor merely ratifies them by his presence and participation. In the interest of promoting lay leadership, initiative belongs to the council.
I take issue with this point of view. It minimizes the pastor’s role as “presider” in the council and downplays the consultative nature of the council’s work. A genuine pastor is more than a mere participant in the council. He communicates his vision to the group not merely “by his excitement and enthusiasm,” as some might suggest, but by leadership. He ought to be the one, I believe, who actively consults the council by defining problems, exploring solutions, and deliberating which solution is best for the community. This is not clericalism or authoritarianism. It is leadership. A good pastor focuses a task, frees the gifts of councillors, and in this way shapes the mission of the parish. To minimize the role of the pastor in the name of lay leadership is to misinterpret pastoral leadership. It turns pastors into wimps.
C. Representative Councils?
The third common problem which has troubled the council movement is its overemphasis on the “representative” nature of the council. Most guidelines for parish councils published by dioceses recommend that council selection be “representative.” By this they usually mean what canon 512 in the 1983 Code of Canon Law says about diocesan pastoral councils, namely, that members be selected in such a way “that the entire portion of the people of God which constitutes the diocese is truly reflected.” Parish council guidelines usually state that all councillors should put the good of the parish before that of the group which they represent. But by suggesting that councillors should represent different constituencies, or that they should reflect the demographic profile of the parish, the council guidelines have led to abuses.
We abuse people, I believe, when we elect them to councils without providing them or us with opportunities to test whether they have a real gift for the council ministry. Instead of using the gifts of councillors to develop pastoral plans and solve pastoral problems, we subject them to what the Portland canonist, Father Bertram Griffin, calls “the growing sense of boredom on parish super councils where the only action month after month is hearing reports from committees, commissions, and organizations, each having a reserved seat on the board.” I would say that having qualified councillors is more important than ensuring that the council has so many members of this parish organization, race, or culture.
The Diocese of Trenton has not avoided all of these mistakes. The 1993 document on “Parish Pastoral Council Models,” for example, refers to the lay facilitator of the council as a “president.” This is a problem, since canon law states that the pastor is to preside over the council. The lay facilitator ought not to be described as a “president,” I would say, but as a chairman or chairwoman. In most respects, however, the document suggests that Trenton is a progressive leader. No one says that a pastor’s role in Trenton is merely to ratify the council’s decisions by his presence, participation, excitement, and enthusiasm. Your document, “Parish Pastoral Council Models,” has preserved an understanding of the role of the pastor and the importance of election committees.
Part II: Defining the Pastoral Council Ministry
Let us now move away from the local scene, and reach for a national perspective. The mistakes made in the council movement in over the past thirty years have shown us what the council ministry is not. Now I would like to suggest what the council ministry is. I will present my definition under three headings: purpose, scope, and gifts.
First, the greatest ministry of the council is pastoral planning. That is its main purpose.
Second, the ministry extends to practical matters, to what is true for a particular people in a particular parish at a particular time. That is its scope, and the role of you pastors is to keep the council focused on it.
Third, the ministry of the council is charismatic. By that I mean that councillors require special gifts and the ministry of the council is itself a gift to the parish.
So I propose that we view our ministry as pastoral planning which discerns practical wisdom through the gift of dialogue.
Let us begin with pastoral planning. That is the main purpose of having a pastoral council. The council does pastoral planning when it shares with the pastor its experience of the parish, when it identifies needs, when it studies problems and the various solutions to them, and finally when it recommends to the pastor a particular solution or course of action. It helps the parish see where it is and where it should be going. Some people describe the shift from planning to coordinating councils by speaking of a shift from “parish” councils to “pastoral” councils. But I think we are merely asking councils to be what the best parish councils have always been: truly pastoral.
The pastoral planning role for the council is sanctioned by official Church documents, such as the Vatican II Decree on the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops (which introduced the concept of the “pastoral” council) and the Code of Canon Law (which extended the concept to parish councils). Such an official pedigree, incidentally, cannot be claimed by those who view the council as the chief policy maker of the parish or the administrative coordinator of all parish ministries. That is the so-called “parish” council role, the role which the planning or “pastoral” council has superseded. The pastoral planning role is also realistic, realistic for a volunteer group which only meets for a few hours monthly. But the main argument for the pastoral planning model is not that it is officially sanctioned and realistic. On top of these, the pastoral planning model allows the council to share in parish governance. It does so by helping steer the parish in a direction which is wise, timely, and apostolic or mission-centered.
Let me give you an example. When I worked for the Diocese of Oakland’s pastoral council, one of our goals was to improve the parishes’ sense of community and their evangelical outreach. We linked these two because, if a parish not a real community, then it has no evangelization or good news to share with alienated Catholics and the unchurched. Now some might say: “We gather weekly for Mass and there the gospel is preached.” But if that is all we mean by community and evangelization, then we are just maintaining the status quo–and leaving the aggressive formation of community to the Assemblies of God, the Evangelicals, and the Pentecostals, whose sense of mission is crystal clear.
The Oakland DPC considered recommending to the bishop that he mandate hospitality, census taking, and home visitation. But we could not decide which was our first choice. So we left the choice to the parishes. That, we felt, is appropriate for a diocesan council. It honors the principle that decisions should be made at the lowest suitable level. But it is not appropriate for a parish council, whose job is to help pastors make decisions at the parish level. The council cannot allow others to advise the pastor in the council’s place. Good pastors want to know what their options are and what the pros and cons of each might be–that is why they establish councils in the first place.
This is what the planning council offers. Council members who focus on pastoral planning (as distinct from the coordinating of parish ministries) have to consider the basic mission of the parish. They have to digest what the parish offers, give it a taste-test, as it were, and like good cooks, decide what ingredients are missing in order to achieve a balanced Christian diet. That is the essence of pastoral planning: stating the parish mission and then studying the parish with the goal of recommending ways to achieve the mission–not just to maintain the status quo and the size of the weekly collection.
If pastoral planning defines the purpose of the council, what defines its scope of operations? This is the second part of my definition of council ministry. By scope I mean the realm of council operation, the council’s area of competence. The scope of the pastoral council, I submit, is practical wisdom, and that brings us to Greek philosophy.
Practical wisdom is a term from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. It refers not to those truths which are always and everywhere true, such as the truths of natural science and mathematics, but to the wisdom in practical matters which depends on a community. There is no “always and everywhere” answer to the question about my parish’s most urgent need. The way to get at this question is not by consulting an expert, for experts do not know the parish as well as we who live in it. Instead, we get at it by consulting parishioners.
The pastor has the decisive role, I believe, in the success of the parish council. Why? In order to answer this question, we have to bring up another theme from Greek philosophy: the importance of the question. The pastor has the decisive role because he poses the questions. He is the one who can most effectively direct the council’s attention, because he has the main responsibility for the parish. He is the one who wants and needs to know the pastoral reality.
Of course, there are some pastors who just do not want to know. Once I was asked to meet with a Southern California pastor about his council. I asked the pastor, “What could your council do that would really help you?” He answered that the council could help him know the needs of the parish. I then asked him if the council had ever done a needs assessment. He said that yes, they had identified a list of parish needs, including a program for young adults, the hiring of a music director, the taking of a parish census, and the restoration of the American flag which had once graced the altar.
“Did you take their advice?” I asked. He replied that most of their suggestions were pie-in-the-sky and too expensive, but he did restore the American flag to the altar. “Why did you respond to that recommendation?” I asked.
“I wanted to show them,” he said, “that I was listening.”
At the opposite extreme one might think that, in the name of developing lay leadership, a pastor should take a relatively passive stance, allowing the council to develop its own agenda. Perhaps one might think that, for the sake of empowering the laity, he should disempower himself. I disagree. Councils exist to help pastors confront pastoral problems, weigh solutions to them, and make wise decisions. If the pastor lets the council develop its own agenda, he may find it going where the council is most at ease, and not where the parish needs help.
Ultimately, the role of the pastor in the council is to assume the mantle of Socrates, the Greek philosopher who had a special kind of wisdom. Unlike his adversaries, who thought they had all the answers, Socrates at least recognized his limits. He knew that he did not know all. This Socratic ignorance is not weakness, but strength. By recognizing the limits of his knowledge, Socrates knew what questions to ask. By asking questions, he empowered his friends to get at the truth.
When you pastors accept the mantle of Socrates, you empower the council. You unveil the area in which more reflection is needed. Doubtless by asking questions you are, like Socrates, confessing the limits of your knowledge. But you are also opening the door to mission, letting light and fresh air into a room that may have been too long closed, and inviting the council to turn to the parish’s most urgent problems.
The Charism of the Council
Practical wisdom defines the scope of the council, just as pastoral planning defined its purpose. This brings me to the third and last part of my definition of council ministry. I have argued that councils are more successful as pastoral planners than as coordinators of a system of ministries, and that practical matters are the realm of the council’s competence, not technical or administrative matters. All of this presupposes that the council has a particular gift, the ability to reach the truth in conversation. This is what I call the charismatic aspect of council ministry.
Let us begin with the gifts which a councillor needs. If we take seriously what I have said about the council as a pastoral planning body, a body whose main task is to discern the practical good of the parish community, then this will have consequences for councillor selection. Planning takes patience, a willingness to reflect, and a desire to listen. The impatient parishioner, the one who wants to rush a judgment and “get on with the job,” the parishioner whose mind is made up in advance–this parishioner lacks the gifts necessary for council membership.
Not long ago, I was invited to spend an evening with a Southern California parish council. The parish had just elected some new members, and my job was to talk about the role of the council. The council, I said, discerns God’s will for the parish by assessing needs, clarifying priorities, recommending plans to the pastor–not by implementing programs itself or engaging in parish administration.
This irritated one of the newly-elected members. She said that she did not join the council to merely assess needs and recommend plans, but to “make things happen.” Newcomers to the parish do not know about its many programs, she said, because the pastor does not inform them and the programs do not publicize themselves. She joined the council to make it a more effective communicator–not to engage in a mere discussion group, thank you very much.
As I drove home that night, I thought about how ill-suited she is for the pastoral council. She had, for starters, criticized the pastor and the parish’s programs. But criticism has a place; that was not the problem. The main problem was her utter misunderstanding of the role of the council, which is to study pastoral problems and recommend solutions. For her, no study was necessary. The council’s job is to act.
Is it possible to discover who has the gift for practical wisdom before the pastoral council election? Is it possible to get those who have the necessary patience and skill onto our councils? The best opportunity to welcome the gift and recognize who has it, I believe, is the parish assembly. Whenever a pastor calls a parish town hall meeting, he invites an outpouring of gifts. The meetings combine opportunities to learn about parish life and also to influence that life. They are a way of helping lay people prepare themselves for their service to the Church as consultors–a preparation about which canon 231 speaks. In a parish meeting, people can see who has skill in deliberation and who does not. Participants are then in a better position to gauge their own gifts and what the pastoral council ministry requires.
Choosing parish councillors in a parish assembly, or in a series of parish meetings, is the advice of Benedictine Sister Mary Benet McKinney. In her 1987 book Sharing Wisdom, she proposes that the selection of parish council members take place over a series of meetings. The ostensible purpose of the meetings may be to discuss the parish council or mission. But a more important reason is to enable parishioners to judge whether participating in a council is their vocation. By spreading this discernment out over a number of meetings, participants can get to know one another. They can gauge one another’s spirituality and commitment. And finally they can make a decision, perhaps by nomination and election, about who should be on the council.
To be sure, this process is less “open” than a parish-wide election, at least in the sense that fewer people are involved in the final decision. And the councillors chosen may not be “representative” in the sense that every parish organization has a council voice and the council makeup represents the demographic profile of the parish in miniature. But the involved will have gotten to know the pastoral council’s purpose. They will have learned about their own gifts. And they will have had a chance to measure what other interested people might bring to the council.
Part III: From Coordinating to Planning Councils
In my definition of the council ministry as “pastoral planning which discerns practical wisdom through the gift of dialogue,” I have tried to correct the mistakes which we in the council movement have made. These are the mistakes of taking on too many responsibilities and trying to be the grand high coordinator of parish committees, of minimizing the pastor’s role for the sake of promoting lay leadership, and of overemphasizing the “representative” nature of the council to such a degree that we overlook the parishioners who are truly gifted for the ministry.
But whenever I tell people about the shift in focus from coordinating councils to planning councils, I fear that I will be misunderstood. The first misunderstanding is about the transition from coordinating to planning. Some might wrongly conclude that we should abruptly stop what we have been doing in our councils, make an immediate about-face, and begin to march in a totally different direction–even if that means trampling on the feelings and convictions of our fellow council members (or even our pastors), who have a long history in the council ministry and are not ready for the new direction.
Another misunderstanding is no less dangerous. That is the misunderstanding that, since coordinating is out and planning is in, we must all become professional planners. Parish council meetings must adhere to rigid timetables; every council must meet the appointed deadline for completing mission statements, goals, and objectives; and all of us must become technicians of parish management. In short, parish council candidates without a Ph.D. in organizational behavior need not apply.
The Pastor’s Role
How do pastors and their councils avoid these mistakes and shift from one style of council to another? I believe the impetus has to come from the pastor. Every pastor has a vision of what his parish can become. But the good pastor knows that his vision will remain a mere vision until others make it their own. The vision must be applied, and making that application is a practical task. It requires an ability to share the vision and invite others to discern how to apply the vision. It requires, in other words, good and prudent counsel.
We Catholics can get discouraged, I think, when we reflect on the declining numbers of priests. The 1993 book by Richard Schoenherr and Lawrence Young, Full Pews and Empty Altars, presents some sobering statistics. It estimates that, by the year 2005, there will be 21,000 active diocesan priests, down from 35,000 in 1966. Almost half will be 55 or older. And the decline in priestly ordinations is a more significant cause of the priest shortage than resignation and retirement. Hearing statistics such as these, we might draw the pessimistic conclusion that parish councils will soon be unneeded because there will be no pastors to consult them.
I respond that there will always be leaders in the Church, and these leaders will always need advice. Pastoral councils were not created to run the parish in the absence of priests, but to assist the ministry of governance by studying pastoral problems and recommending solutions. Indeed we could ask, what pastoral problem is more pressing today than the decline in the number of priestly leaders–and what problem is more worthy of a council’s time and reflection?
Once a pastor poses a question, such as the question of leadership, or of ministry, or of governance, he invites an outpouring of spirit. And today, the spiritual resources of the Catholic community in the U.S. are particularly rich. Father Philip Murnion, in his 1993 publication New Parish Ministers, states that 20,000 lay people and religious are employed at least 20 hours a week as parish ministers in half the 19,000 Catholic parishes in the U.S., excluding parochial schools. This statistic testifies, I believe, to the growing sophistication of the Catholic laity overall. Only some are employed in the parishes, to be sure, but many more donate their time (and knowledge) to parish ministries, including ministries of consultation.
Whenever pastors consult their parishioners, they draw them into the mystery of parish life. By inviting their practical wisdom, they invite a distinctly local perspective. Pastors usually know the theology of Church and of community-building, but they do not always know their neighborhoods as well as those who have lived in them for a long time. Councils advise pastors about what is appropriate for the community. By asking the council to help him plan, a pastor shares responsibility for parish governance. This is different, as I say, from overburdening the council with the responsibility of executing and administering a parish plan. The council helps develop the plan. Its role is research and design. Once the plan is approved, then the task of implementation begins, including the recruitment of volunteers. But that is not the council’s job. Practical wisdom is.
Having seen some mistakes of the council movement, we are now in a position to make more informed choices. Pastoral planning, we can say, is a better task for a council than trying to coordinate parish ministries. Coordination is important, but it can be left to the parish staff. Let the parish secretary handle the coordination of parish resources and facilities. Give council members a chance to look at the parish future they want for themselves and their families.
About leadership, I would say to you pastors: exercise your leadership in the council. Share it with your councillors, but do not forget that lay leaders have their own spheres of influence. Let them exercise leadership in their own ministries. Pastoral governance is primarily the pastor’s. The council may well deliberate how the parish can develop lay Christian leaders, how lay persons can lead small Christian communities, how the parish can better utilize lay staff, how existing lay leaders can be strengthened, and how we can draw leaders to the ministries of priesthood and religious life–but remember, the council is not a lay leadership “supplement” to the pastor. You pastors are the main leaders, disciples not only of Jesus but also of Socrates, strong enough to admit that you do not know all.
And finally to you pastoral council members I say: you have committed yourselves to the important and arduous process of giving counsel to your parishes. Do not waste your time busying yourself about every detail of parish life. Focus on what is important. Define your mission, but leave the parish’s overseas mission collection to the ushers. Evaluate your parish, but don’t feel you have to sit in judgment over the liturgy committee, the school board, or the finance council. Develop plans for achieving the mission, but don’t feel you have to carry out those plans yourself. Council meetings are an opportunity to see the parish from the viewpoint of God’s kingdom. Pray well and be patient. Do not get distracted by lesser concerns. Keep your eyes on the prize of God’s kingdom, the mission of the clear-sighted and obedient Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit moving your brothers and sisters. Hold fast to your Christian vision. And may God, who has begun a great work in you, bring it to conclusion.