About 207,000 Roman Catholics live in the 10 counties that make up the Diocese of Lansing. It contains 84 parishes and 34 schools, and it provides charitable assistance to more than 125,000 people each year.
Today, Bishop Earl Boyea will observe the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the diocese with a special Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in downtown Lansing.
WKAR’s Kevin Lavery spoke with Bishop Boyea about the some of the difficulties the Catholic Church is facing in America today. But first, he asked him what he felt was a significant achievement of the Lansing diocese.
BISHOP EARL BOYEA: To me, the most significant thing is the camaraderie of the group of priests who live and work here and minister in this diocese. I think they’ve always had a great camaraderie, and that’s evidenced even to this day, and that stands out from a lot of other dioceses.
KEVIN LAVERY: We have seen across the country a clergy shortage, falling attendance, especially in urban parishes. What have we been able to do in four years in this diocese to restructure and how has that gone over?
REV. BOYEA: That’s a very good question. In fact, the process began well before I came. Most of it was done, in fact, by the time I arrived. I simply had to implement it, and we have been doing that. I think generally the experience has been that where we have merged parishes, there’s been a greater degree of cooperation, better use of resources and renewed enthusiasm in many, many ways. So I think it’s generally been a good experience.
Now, whenever you have these experiences, someone is going to feel hurt, and I understand that because they’re attached to their parishes, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. And I understand that those things happen, but I think by and large, it’s been a very positive experience for us.
LAVERY: In looking at the news release about the 75th anniversary, you have a quote that says “we now begin an evangelization effort that will touch every person in these 10 counties.” What is this evangelization effort?
REV. BOYEA: I’m glad you asked that as well, because in fact, this 75th anniversary is not so much about looking back, it really is about looking ahead. I wrote a pastoral letter and I’ve asked all of our parish councils particularly to take that pastoral letter and use it as a tool to help them understand how they’re strengthening their own Catholic faith, what things we can do to try to draw back Catholics who have wandered away from the church, and how we can really work at evangelizing our culture and bringing in new people. So, I’m hoping that our parish councils will really take this on.
LAVERY: Just this week, the Obama Administration’s health care mandate took effect that requires most employers to include contraception as part of their health insurance policies. Certainly the Catholic Church is very adamantly against this. The mandate is set to take effect a year from now for faith-based organizations. What has been the Lansing diocese’s role in supporting the opposition?
REV. BOYEA: The biggest role that we have played is urging people to pray; to pray that really our constitution will be respected by our government officials. And we are also involved, obviously, through the Michigan Catholic Conference through the lawsuit against this mandate. It’s really sad that a government agency can define what the constitution means and get away with it. That’s just not very appropriate at all.
LAVERY: What’s your observation on how the Catholic Church wherever it is, is able to reach people in the times and the circumstances in which they live and be able to adapt, but still adhere to its core values and not have the secular world tune out to the message?
REV. BOYEA: It strikes me that we are really fighting an uphill battle against a very dominant culture, which as you say is very secularized. All we can do is try to be faithful. To be honest, the truth of the matter is we have to be better Christians. We have to show how love: love of God, love of neighbor really does affect us and is a light in our midst. I don’t think we’ve always been very good Christians, and if we are better Christians, I think we will have a greater impact upon our culture.
I recognize that’s not an easy thing to do, but nonetheless I don’t know any other way. And again, I think that the most important thing is looking ahead: to fire up our people, the people of the diocese of Lansing in order to help them become a light in the midst of our broad community. We need to help our people in this section of Michigan to be better people.