A few months after I started working at MHT, the parish staff went to the first diocesan assembly. The assemblies were the fruit of Bishop Boyea’s pastoral letter on evangelization, “Go and Announce the Gospel of the Lord.” Beginning with a year of prayer, our bishop laid out a six year plan to equipe parishes to be communities of intentional disciples so that we may go out and invite others to experience the joy and freedom of having a relationship with Jesus. This pastoral vision included three assemblies, the first two brought together parish staff and volunteers from all over the diocese to share ideas with each other and learn from the expert speakers they brought in.
Attending these events wasn’t like anything I had done before. My experience with the Grand Rapids diocese and the bishops there was okay. There wasn’t anything bad, but there also wasn’t much to get excited about. Sometimes the diocese would spend a year focusing on Catholic schools or prayer or some other theme, but there wasn’t a vision, at least not that I was aware of. Lansing was different, and I was proud to be apart of Bishop Boyea’s vision.
And this vision for discipleship and evangelization wasn’t limited to the assemblies. In the past four years, I’ve been involved with various committees and ministries with the diocese, and all of them, from marriage preparation to catechist formation, have evangelization as their starting point.
I have been especially impressed with Bishop Boyea’s leadership in all this. He has hired some great people to lead the various ministries in the diocese, people who not only love Christ and the Church, but who also have the gifts and charisms necessary to implement the bishop’s vision. I have gotten to know some of the diocesan staff really well and they have been a fantastic resource for me for the ministries I help lead here at the parish.
Recently, Bishop Boyea has really stood out as a leader in the midst of all the scandal in the American Church. Bishop published a letter on September 11th saying, among other things, that he is going to invite an external agency of lay professionals to audit how the diocese has responded to abuse allegations. I really believe that this statement, and the proposed plan of action, is a model for how bishops across the country need to address and lead their flock through this scandal.
All this brings me to the Made for Happiness event last weekend. It was the third and final diocesan assembly. But instead of being limited to parish staff and volunteers it was opened up to anyone. 15,000 people came out to this event that included a four-mile long Eucharistic procession, amazing speakers, and Mass with the bishop that nearly filled the Breslin Center.
Kristina and I, along with nearly 200 other MHT parishioners, were at the assembly. We brought our red wagon and walked with the kids for the last half of the procession and then somehow kept the kids entertained throughout the afternoon so that we could attend the closing Mass. The whole event was powerful. The Holy Spirit was definitely moving through the Breslin Center. We ran into so many familiar faces, some that we hadn’t seen in years. We were prayed over by the diocesan prayer team. In some ways in felt like a giant family reunion.
I’m excited for the future of our Church and diocese. Bishop has asked us to devote the next year to praying as a community and as individuals. I don’t know what he has planned for us after that, but I know the Holy Spirit is moving and working. I’m proud to be a part of the Diocese of Lansing and I’m looking forward to what God wants to do with us next. - Paul Fahey
I’ve been to several large gatherings of Catholics throughout the last 10 years. The SEEK conference had over 10,000 young adults, the Father Solanus Casey Beatification had almost 70,000 people in attendance, and World Youth Day in Poland had nearly 3 million people. Gatherings like that have been instrumental to my faith journey, but it’s hard to remember just how impactful it is to be surrounded by so many Catholics until you’re in the middle of that experience again. The Made for Happiness conference did that for me. It’s incredible how the sound of 13,000 people praising God in the Mass can bring me back to my first Steubenville experience, where I was floored by the sound of 2,000 high school students singing together. I remember thinking “this is what heaven’s going to sound like. Just a sea of people praising God together.” The sensation of having this tiny taste of heaven is new and moving every time. I had the privilege of singing in the choir for the Made for Happiness assembly, and from my place by the stage, I was surrounded by the sound of the thousands gathered there. If the assembly had only been that Mass, it would still have been an impactful day for me just because of the power of gathering together to praise and receive Jesus in the Eucharist. - Kayla Feldpausch
“Wow! Just wow!” Those are the best words that I can use to describe the Made for Happiness conference on Saturday at the Breslin Center. The Lord just keeps raising the bar with these events and they can be easy to take for granted because they just keep getting better and better! I remember having a similar feeling after the previous two assemblies. Both were great experiences that left me speechless on a lot of levels. I have been to World Youth Days which are a much larger scale and have people from all over the world in attendance but it’s hard to share with others when you get back home. Saturday was an event where many from our parish were also able to attend and experience for themselves. If I had to pick one part that was the most powerful to me I would have to say the time we all prayed together for a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Lord has blessed us greatly through these experiences and I look forward to seeing all of the fruits that are yet to come! - Adam Halfman
Amen! Alleluia! Glory to God! If those words sound familiar then you might have been listening to Deacon Oney at the Made for Happiness Assembly on Saturday, September 22. He had that place loud and on fire. In particular, I loved how he challenged the way we think we are supposed to act regarding our faith. He went so far as to tell us that he got permission from the Bishop for us to get excited and loud. Did we really need permission? Being loud, clapping, and screaming about God is not easy for me. I grew up like many of you - prayer is a time for silent reflection. But Deacon Oney pushed me out of my comfort zone and I found myself screaming at the top of my lungs along with thousands of other people.
Amen! Alleluia! Glory to God! - Anne Hufnagel
The Made for Happiness Assembly was definitely a historical event! Participating in the Eucharistic Procession, listening to the speakers, and attending a diocesan wide Mass at the Breslin were all memorable parts of this amazing event. One part of the day that still sticks out in my mind is Fr. Mike Schmitz’s talk. His talk on our pursuit to happiness was really relatable! He spoke such truth in such a way that spoke to the hearts of all who were present. He ended his talk with a story about the hymnist Horatio Spafford who wrote the song “It is Well With My Soul.” It was a really moving story that lead right into everyone joining in the song. It was truly an unexplainable atmosphere in the Breslin when everyone sang from their heart. That moment, singing, holding nothing back from the Lord, was something I will hold on to and always remember! “It is well, it is well with my soul” - Andrea Schneider
I've been to quite a few large conferences in my time, but nothing was quite like the “Made for Happiness” assembly this past weekend. The other large conferences I have been to have made a big impact on my faith journey, but this felt so uniquely important because of the people that we had gathered! A gathering like this hasn't happened in the diocese in 80 years, and so being apart of a historical event and seeing the space of the Breslin filled up by our diocese, our community, was jaw dropping! I couldn't go a couple steps without seeing parishioners, friends from ministry, friends and youth from different retreats I have been apart of. That feeling of community and the Lord guiding us and leading us together as a diocese kept coming up for me every part of the day, but especially during mass. The fact that almost a quarter of our diocese could be together, united, and worshipping our God, was a testament to what the Lord is doing in the heart of our diocese and I really can't wait to see what the next step for the diocese of Lansing is. -Corey Luna