Reflections: Rebuild My Church

By Luke S.

Every part of our synod commenced with a prayer invoking the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and I am following suit, and I encourage you to also pause for a prayerful moment and seek His wisdom and discernment.

I went to the synod with a big hope: to hear from Christians all over our country about how they’re tackling the myriad challenges our churches are facing today, and to take back what I learned to help out in my own small way in my parish. There’s also an article by another attendee named Noëlle, who tells the story of the weekend so well, I could hardly add more.

My trek across the country was long. Since I said I was meeting brown robed, rope-belted friars high up in the mountains, a fellow I chatted with at the airport recommended I brush up on my martial arts to prepare. I tried and failed to clarify, but at least I had his wishes for good luck. I was then thrust into the essence of Franciscan virtue when my luggage was delayed by a day, and I arrived empty-handed and reliant on the kindness of strangers. At first, I felt doubt about belonging there, and I noted this nervousness among other attendees as well, clergy and lay people alike. Yet, a few introductions later, this uneasy feeling was replaced by comfort and camaraderie.

Over the weekend, we met several times in small groups of six, delving deep into a central theme: the mutually supportive relationship between us and our church — exploring what the church can offer us and, in turn, what we can contribute to the church. After each session, we had the opportunity to present our group’s discussions to the larger assembly of fifty attendees. Here’s how I’ve come to understand, categorize, and articulate these reflections.


We stand today as a humbled and poor church, perhaps by providence, amidst societal upheaval, dwindling congregations, and crises of faith. Though it may seem bleak, this diagnosis invites us to heal with faith, anchoring ourselves in God’s presence and to trust His plans that call us back to our most basic foundations. As we witness our towers seemingly crumble, we only need to follow our gaze down to see the sprouting seeds that announce the hope of spring. Simplicity is the soil of wisdom, so in our scarcity, let us recall the missionaries who, armed with mere bibles and bread, led countless souls to salvation.

We discover the profound joy and meaning woven into the fabric of simplicity when we embody the purity and asceticism of our virtues, transforming our daily actions into a living testament to our faith:

Sleep for rest, not for escape.
Eat for nutrition, not for pleasure.
Speak for communication, not for attention.
Work for service, not for profit.
Give for charity, not for recognition.
Travel for experience, not for luxury.
Study for understanding, not for grades.
Exercise for fitness, not for vanity.
Listen for learning, not for arguing.
Volunteer for contribution, not for a resume.
Celebrate for gratitude, not for extravagance.


The church’s mandate includes the spiritual formation of its flock, beginning with childhood catechism — a monumental yet often neglected task. The chasm between most parishioners’ secular and religious education grows ever wider, making for tragically vulnerable hearts. This educational deficit, starting in the home, is starkly evident in the inadequacy of resources and approaches for our youth, leaving them ill-prepared to give a defense of the hope that they have in other arenas.

This challenge is not confined to the young; it permeates our adult congregation, leading some to retreat inwardly, shielding their faith from the scrutiny of the outside world. Yet, this is antithetical to our mission to invigorate and empower the world with the love of God. Our communal thirst for understanding must be met with robust support from the Church, nurturing our desire for deeper engagement with our faith. Adult faith formation for confirmed Catholics could address this void, extending our spiritual education beyond a grade school level, enriching our understanding and participation in the divine mysteries that unfold within the mass. A popular suggestion to this effect was to organize events that explain the mass step-by-step.


A palpable frustration stems from the bureaucratic hurdles that plague lay-led initiatives. Our Church’s vitality is sometimes sapped by formal processes that deter innovation and suppress the spirit of enterprise among its faithful. This barrier to engagement stifles the growth of our spiritual community, undermining the potential for laypeople to contribute meaningfully to the Church’s mission. Our collective resourcefulness and passion are the tools with which the Church can build and flourish. Bodies build basilicas, and we are ready to build.

We must individually and collectively confront our pervasive numbness, or as eloquently termed in French, “torpeur,” where fear, “peur,” subtly makes its presence known. While we wait in our paralyzed longing for a hero to gallop in with all of our answers, we forget that salvation does not first arrive with fanfare, but in the gentle innocence of a newborn in the country-side, who needs only our love and attention.


Our faith grants us the incomparable joy of the sacraments. Yet, a growing ambivalence towards these life-giving gifts threatens our receptiveness to spiritual life. An irreverent approach to these closest of our encounters with God naturally engenders skepticism, and as these fall into disregard among the laity, we risk losing our grip on awe and meaning. Hosting the Pope for dinner at our home would be an occasion of unparalleled honor, and yet, we often greet Christ’s physical presence in the Eucharist with a startling lack of wonder. A first communion is a great celebration, but so is a second, third, and hundredth. Setting aside more time for adoration and processions would embrace this concern with deep and welcoming devotion.

The sacrament of marriage, too, demands a deeper contemplation of its divine origins and purpose, challenging us to elevate our understanding and celebration of this sacred union; it is God’s inaugural gift to Adam and Eve, and the circumstances that He came humbly to us through Mary and Joseph. Today, as marriages face intensifying trials and temptations, their fortification stands as a critical mission for the church. Those pursuing married life require encouraging reminders that marriage is replete with both celebration and sacrifice, as well as teachings that exemplify loving that is worthy of a sacrament.


The essence of the Church is found in its community. Our current era of isolation and anonymity runs counter to the foundational principles of our faith. To reforge these bonds, we must prioritize genuine fellowship, embracing opportunities for shared experiences, spiritual growth, and communal service. By nurturing these connections, we can begin to dismantle the barriers that distance us from one another and from the divine. Our communal vision must extend beyond the abstract, embracing each particular soul with whom we share our journey. Without truly knowing one another, our prayers risk becoming impersonal, aimed at broad, undefined entities rather than the specific needs of our community. A profound statement from our discussion was, “never go I to God without you,” underscoring our intrinsic need for togetherness.

There’s also a palpable desire for more accessible pastoral care, suggesting a need for increased, informal interactions with our priests. Many feel intimidated by the prospect of approaching clergy for a personal dialogue or stepping into a church outside of scheduled services. This can also be accomplished through simple acts like sharing coffee after mass, transforming them from mundane routines into vital, communal experiences. Jesus’ promise to be present where two or more gather highlights the importance of collective worship and fellowship. Therefore, we should seize every chance to come together, incorporating activities like prayer meetings, Bible studies, and youth engagements, and by fostering charity, volunteerism, and community aid. Yet, at its core, fostering church unity means encouraging regular social interactions over shared interests — be it through pancakes, hikes, knitting, performing arts, board games, video games, sports, or whatever. These are the moments that create and maintain our communal life, essential for a thriving church body.


These reflections, shaped by my experiences and observations, are offered in the hope that they might inspire contemplation and action within our church community. This is just a bit of what I took away from the weekend! There’s a lot to reflect on, and I’m still figuring out my part in all of this. As we continue to discern the path laid before us, I hope this helps you think a bit about where we’re all headed together. As long as we continue to do so prayerfully and with hearts and minds open to the Holy Spirit, we will overcome the challenges and grow in faith.

Happy Easter, and may God bless you and our blessed Mother keep you!


About the author

We are the Franciscans of Canada and on this page, we share news from the whole province. You will find here information about friars or ministries that we want you to introduce to you. Friars who only occasionally contribute to the website also post their writings here.

Last updated: November 22, 2021

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