by JORDAN MCMORROUGH
CHARLESTON — A rainy, chilly Pentecost Sunday saw people who were received into the church or baptized at the Easter Vigil services throughout the diocese come together at a Mass for Neophytes at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
Bishop Robert J. Baker was the presider at the mid-afternoon liturgy, which celebrated the spirit’s role and activity in the church.
“Pentecost is the day the church became manifest to the nations. In that sense we celebrate today the birthday of our church,” proclaimed the bishop in his welcome.
In the homily, Bishop Baker said, “The Catholic Church is much bigger than our own historical time or geographic location. Thank God it is also much bigger than our own present crisis of credibility.”
The Catholic Church was formally proclaimed on Pentecost by the coming of the spirit upon the apostles, the bishop explained, and that spirit would be with us, reminding us of the presence of Jesus, until the end of time.
“Our church is a community embraced by God, our living father, who receives us back from our sometimes sinful condition, in our contriteness of heart, and welcomes us with this divine mercy.”
Bishop Baker said that while the church has saints and sinners, it’s the saints of the church who best reflect its identity and its holiness and who best provide a model for following Christ.
“Saints too remind us that holiness of life is a universal call, a call that is made to us today and every day of our lives,” he told the newest members of the household of faith. “Now that church, one holy, Catholic and apostolic, embraces you. And that church looks to you to embrace the world you live in with the love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
The bishop offered two suggestions on how the neophytes might as new Catholics embrace the world they live in with the love of God.
First, he encouraged them to join the diocese in its current efforts at evangelization, especially Disciples in Mission.
“Consider joining that effort, which is an attempt to involve you in going out and making disciples,” he said. “If your parish does not have an organized effort, the diocese will be happy to give you information on parishes in your area that do.”
Second, Bishop Baker asked the parishioners to be a neighbor to their brothers and sisters inside and outside the Catholic community.
“There are so many ways you can be a neighbor to others and reflect the love God has for you, and you for God.”
He cited many programs in the diocese to reach out to needy people, from parish St. Vincent de Paul Societies to Catholic Charities, efforts underway to welcome Hispanics and those of other ethnic communities, and inner city programs and rural outreach efforts.
The bishop promoted the Diocese of Charleston Volunteers, which encourages Catholics to volunteer a year in a variety of ways, from seafarers ministry to leading RCIA programs. “The opportunities are endless,” he said.
“As neophytes in the Catholic faith we don’t expect you to do it all right away, or to do it all by yourself,” Bishop Baker said. “Remember that what we do is not our own work. It is the work of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, working in and through us, his church, his people.
“It is in his power and in his name that the Holy Spirit will work great wonders in you and through you, in the world in which you live.”
The bishop concluded by reciting the prayer of St. Francis.