Celebrating 75 Years of Manifesting the Kingdom

In this New Year of 2014, our Archdiocese of Washington will celebrate its 75th anniversary as a family of faith in the nation’s capital and the five surrounding Maryland counties.  This diamond anniversary will offer us a chance to reflect prayerfully on our historic legacy, our current challenges and our future opportunities.

A special highlight of the 75th anniversary year will unfold on Pentecost Sunday, June 8, when the first Archdiocesan Synod is convoked.  On a day when we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide the Church, the Synod will present recommendations and issue guidelines for how we can be the best Church we are called to be in the key areas of worship, education, service, community, stewardship and administration.  For the past year, some 200 laywomen, laymen, religious, deacons and priests from across the archdiocese have been meeting in Synod preparatory sessions to chart a blueprint for the future of this local Church.  Just as the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles gathered in the upper room at the first Pentecost, we have prayed for the Holy Spirit’s guidance on the Synod’s work.

Fittingly, the theme of the Archdiocese of Washington’s 75th anniversary year is “Manifesting the Kingdom,” reflecting our ongoing legacy as witnesses of the risen Christ called to reflect and build his kingdom here on earth.  Like a diamond, we shine the light of our faith and the light of Christ’s love as we live and share our faith by carrying out the call of the New Evangelization.  In his recent apostolic exhortation on the New Evangelization, Evangelii gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), our Holy Father wrote, “I invite all Christians everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ… I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day.”

That encounter with Jesus, and our effort to manifest his kingdom, has been the story of our Archdiocese of Washington  since 1939 when Pope Pius XII established the Archdiocese, which first was comprised solely of the District of Columbia and was expanded in 1947 to include the surrounding Maryland counties.  The Catholics in that newly established community of faith traced their roots to the settlers who landed in Maryland in 1634 and attended the first Catholic Mass in the English-speaking colonies and through them all the way back to the disciples who walked with Jesus 2,000 years ago.

Throughout these 75 years, our Catholic community has prayed and worked for justice, marching for civil rights and for the right to life, supporting programs for the homeless and the poor, advocating for newly arrived immigrants, and expanding housing for the elderly and ministries to people with special needs.  This work to manifest God’s kingdom by extending Christ’s love to our neighbors continues today through our Catholic Charities and other archdiocesan agencies, and through our parish outreach programs.  In our Catholic schools serving our young people and in our archdiocesan and parish religious education programs serving all ages, we seek to deepen our faith so we can share it and build a better world.

During Blessed John Paul II’s Mass on the National Mall in 1979, and later at Pope Benedict XVI’s Mass at Nationals Park in 2008, the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Washington prayed with the successors of Saint Peter, the first pope, demonstrating our connection to the universal Church and our link to those first disciples who witnessed the risen Christ.

Our Archdiocese of Washington’s work of manifesting the kingdom of God continues to unfold today along city streets, in suburban neighborhoods and in the rural countryside.  The people of our archdiocese come from many different countries and speak many different languages, but we are united in one faith.  In this our diamond anniversary year, we know that the most precious jewel we have is our Catholic faith, made beautiful by the radiance of the Gospel story we are called to live and share.  This is our moment, this is our time to honor our Archdiocese of Washington’s historic legacy by making history of our own as we manifest God’s kingdom in today’s world. Happy Anniversary!