Let us go forth to build the kingdom of God
Editor: Bishop Vásquez, this month we celebrate the closing of the Diocese of Austin’s 75th anniversary. Please tell us what this year of celebration has meant to you and our diocese.
Bishop Vásquez: This yearlong celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Diocese of Austin has been a wonderful opportunity for us to express our gratitude to God. During these 75 years, God has blessed us and has been working through us to build up his kingdom. As we conclude this celebration, it's also a time for us to look forward and discern how the Holy Spirit sends us forth to continue the mission of Christ. As a church we look to the future with confidence and filled with hope that Christ will be with us until the end of time.
Editor: This last year has been filled with so many blessings. What are some of the highlights for you?
Bishop Vásquez: One blessing is our Encountering Christ Capital Campaign. I continue to be amazed at the generosity of our people. In the midst of a global pandemic, we have raised more than $90 million to support our clergy, strengthen our parishes, form emerging disciples and help us to embrace discipleship. I am so grateful for the prayers and support of this endeavor.
Another blessing has been the building and dedication of several new sanctuaries in the diocese. To consecrate a new church is a joyful occasion for me and our people, and we have done this five times this year! On their own, the parishes on the eastern edge of Austin would not have been able to build new churches to meet their growing needs. However, thanks to the generous donations to the capital campaign, St. Joseph Parish in Manor, Santa Barbara Parish in Hornsby Bend and San Francisco Javier Parish in Austin now have beautiful churches for worship. This is a wonderful accomplishment and proof of what can be done when we come together as the body of Christ. I am so thankful to God for the vibrant faith that is evident throughout Central Texas.
Editor: What are you looking forward to in the years ahead?
Bishop Vásquez: As we look at 2024, one of my priorities is our young people. How are we keeping our young people connected to and growing in their Catholic faith? How are we helping them witness to their Catholic faith in the midst of a culture that is in many ways anti-Catholic and anti-faith? As clergy, religious and laity, we must accompany our youth on their journey of faith.
Another big priority is vocations. How do we promote a vocation to the priesthood or religious life? How are our lay people — our families — promoting vocations? Our priests are aging, that is no secret. Therefore, the importance of encouraging and inviting men to consider the call to the priesthood is paramount. We need good, holy and healthy priests to serve our people in the diocese.
Editor: Tell us about the closing Mass on Nov. 18.
Bishop Vásquez: The closing Mass is Nov. 18 at 10:30 a.m. at St. William Parish in Round Rock. I have invited Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the archbishop of Galveston-Houston, to preside at the Mass; and I have invited the bishops of Texas and beyond to join me as well. I am looking forward to the day and joining our priests, deacons, religious and the laity from across the diocese as we celebrate our past and build on the legacy that will impact the Church of Central Texas for generations to come. Let us gather to pray in thanksgiving for the many gifts we have been given in the Diocese of Austin. Please join us!
Editor: What is your prayer as we go forth?
Bishop Vásquez: May Christ enliven the hearts of each of us in the Diocese of Austin so that we may live out our Catholic faith with goodness, joy and hope. As members of the body of Christ, may we participate in the great mission of the church to bring Christ to others. I ask the intercession of our Blessed Mother who always protects us with her loving mantle and leads us to her Son, Jesus Christ who lives and reigns forever. Amen.
Bishop Joe S. Vásquez is the fifth bishop of the Austin Diocese, which is home to more than 700,000 Catholics. For details, visit the diocesan website at austindiocese.org.