As I prepare to write this week’s article, we are nearing the end of the Easter Octave. For eight days, we have heard the beautiful Gospel accounts of the risen Jesus’ encounters with His companions. We have heard how their fear, sadness, confusion, disbelief, and despair were transformed when they met Jesus. Whether in the garden, along the roadside, near the sea, or in the upper room, their hope and joy were restored. The Lord had risen. He was in their midst.

Easter is not just one day or one week. It is a whole season that stretches all the way to Pentecost Sunday. The Church wants us to keep the message of the Lord’s Resurrection in our minds and hearts. She wants to awaken our memories to God’s power and presence in our lives. The Easter season is a time to think about our response to the good news of Jesus’ resurrection and our call to share this good news as “missionary disciples.”

In the midst of spring, when the Church celebrates the new life won for us by Christ’s triumph over sin and death, we begin to plan and think about the HOPE Appeal. As you know, this appeal is the annual fundraising campaign conducted by the diocese to support vital, diocesan-wide programs and services.

This year we celebrate the 39th annual HOPE Appeal. The appeal touches every parish and community in our diocese. It provides support for families, married couples, youth ministry, and faith formation programs; strengthens the services of Catholic Charities, our ethnic apostolates, and Catholic outreach; assists students in our Catholic schools; strengthens the education and formation of clergy, religious, and lay ministers; recruits and trains lay pastoral leadership and revitalizes vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.

Just as the early Church was built up by the faith and hope of the first Christians, the Church today needs to be built up by us — the living stones — who are committed disciples of Jesus. The many ministries that carry on the work of evangelization in our diocese require funding. I consider it a responsibility but also a privilege to ask for your assistance on behalf of these vital ministries. I ask you to support the HOPE Appeal this year.

Recently, I read a reflection that made a distinction between admirers and disciples. An admirer keeps himself personally detached. He fails to see that what is admired involves a claim upon him, and thus he fails to be or strive to be what he admires. The admirer never makes a true sacrifice. He plays it safe.

On the other hand, the disciple is a follower who aspires and strives with all his strength, with all his will to be what he admires. He desires to follow the pattern marked out by the master. St. Paul summed up discipleship when he said he wanted only one thing: to follow the pattern of Christ’s suffering so he could share in the joy of the resurrection (Cf. Phil 3:10).

The HOPE Appeal needs disciples — people truly committed to following Jesus. It needs people who actively engage in spreading good news by their personal witness and through their generous support of diocesan ministries. When you think about your HOPE Appeal gift this year, please consider the blessings and gifts you have received and how these can be shared with others.

If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.

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