Looking back in order to move forward

3 mins read
Look back at 2023
Father Jorge Torres, then vocation director of the Diocese of Orlando, Fla., uses a censer during eucharistic adoration Oct. 29, 2015, at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, N.Y. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

As we welcome the new year, it’s a time for Catholics both to look back in reflection and to look ahead in hope. The year 2023 was marked by many significant events and initiatives that have continued to shape how we love and live our Catholic faith. On New Year’s Eve, we witnessed the death of Pope Benedict XVI. His funeral Mass was the first major global Catholic event of 2023. In March, we observed the 10th anniversary of Pope Francis’ election to the papacy. Despite hospitalizations for various health events in March, June and November, Pope Francis kept a rigorous schedule, traveling to the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Hungary, Portugal, Mongolia and France.

Here in the United States, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students marked its 25th anniversary, and a new coalition was founded for Catholics to fight antisemitism. A Hawaii Catholic church miraculously survived a disastrous fire, even as other natural disasters claimed many lives. Catholic ministries fought for the right to serve pregnant women in need, Catholic couples for the right to foster and adopt. Dioceses filed bankruptcy as the reckonings of past sins, particularly child sexual abuse, continue to be arbitrated. But as we look back at 2023, we want to focus our review of the past year on three key events, events which will help us look forward in 2024.

A commitment to revival

First, the Eucharistic Revival, a pivotal movement in 2023, sought to deepen our understanding and appreciation of the Eucharist. As the Church in the U.S. entered the parish phase of the revival, many Catholics began to find ways to participate. More than just an intellectual exercise, the revival has offered an invitation to practical spirituality. And if you haven’t yet embraced this call through various means, 2024 will offer many more opportunities. Catholics everywhere can listen to insightful speakers, participate in pilgrimages and processions, attend the Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis (note the new day pass prices!) and, most importantly, commit to Eucharistic prayer in your parish church before the exposed Blessed Sacrament or the tabernacle. This personal commitment to revival in our faith will continue to be transformative as Catholics across the country renew their relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist.

A Palestinian boy cries after seeing the damages at a U.N.-run school sheltering displaced people, following an Israeli strike, in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip Nov. 2, 2023. (OSV News photo/Fadi Whadi, Reuters)

A commitment to peace and justice

Second, horror gripped the world as news spread about the attack Hamas launched on Oct. 7 on Israel. Since the outset of the war, more than 1,200 Israelis have died. As of this writing, Gaza’s health ministry is reporting 18,608 Palestinian deaths. We have written this year about implications that have come from this conflict, including a rise in antisemitism, which must be denounced, and the plight of Christians in the Holy Land, both directly and indirectly impacted by the war. We must not forget, however, the ongoing struggles in Ukraine, Nicaragua and Nigeria. These regions, facing turmoil and conflict, call for our prayers, attention and action. In 2024, we must maintain our commitment to peace and justice worldwide, recognizing that our faith calls us to be peacemakers in a troubled world.

Members of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops start a working session in the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall Oct. 18, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

A commitment to active participation

Finally, the first session of the Synod on Synodality was a milestone in Church history, unlike any synod before, emphasizing the importance of discernment and participation. Beyond the significant documents and the first session in Rome, the synod called for grassroots involvement. It was an invitation for all Catholics to speak up in their parishes, to take ownership of their faith, and to be actively involved in their local community. While the participation in preparatory listening sessions may have been limited, the synod’s documents encourage us to be more engaged. As we step into the new year, let’s embrace this call to active participation. Let’s volunteer, partake in parish activities and, most importantly, engage in meaningful conversations about our faith and community. If you are concerned about ideologies or confusing messaging, make your voice be heard to your pastor and your bishop.

As we look forward to 2024, let’s carry these lessons and experiences from 2023 with us, continuing to grow in our faith and commitment to the Church and the world. Let’s make 2024 a testament to our renewed spirit and our unwavering dedication to the teachings of Christ.

Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board

The Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board consists of Father Patrick Briscoe, OP, Gretchen R. Crowe, Matthew Kirby, Scott P. Richert and York Young.