GALVESTON-HOUSTON — Several dioceses have big plans for the Year of St. Paul. So does the Holy Spirit.
Peter Schoeffield hadn’t intended to do a project for the Missionaries of St. Paul during the Year of St. Paul. Neither did he intend the final draft of his project’s fundraising letter to be dated June 29, 2008, the feast of St. Paul. It just worked out that way.
“We were in awe of what a weird coincidence it was,” Schoeffield recalled. “It was a major shock to us.”
The 16-year-old Houston Eagle Scout’s project is to raise the $2,000-$3,000 and volunteers needed to landscape the courtyard of the Missionary Society of St. Paul mission. The mission was built two years ago with private donations when the missionaries first came to the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston from South Africa. But there wasn’t enough for landscaping. So, when Schoeffield heard about the missionaries’ dilemma through his father, Bill Schoeffield, he knew he had to do something about it.
Peter’s first step was to enlist the help of a family friend — a landscape architect — who drew up the landscaping plans pro bono.
Then she pledged to donate a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as well. Another friend, a general contractor, will donate his time and equipment for the project. The plan is to begin work Labor Day weekend. The project is expected to take three to four weekends to complete.
Even though he didn’t originally intend this to be a Year of St. Paul project, Peter feels drawn more and more into the spirit of St. Paul through the example of the missionaries.
“These men came all the way from South Africa,” he said. “They had no money, nothing to work with. They built the mission with nothing but donations. When I went to see what they’d done there, I saw that it was really a place of God. Every place of God deserves to be beautiful.”
“This will be a great accomplishment for Peter,” said his father. “It’s bigger than the normal Eagle Scout project, and we’re all very excited about it. Peter’s not just your typical 16-year-old, there’s a special character about him.”
And yet, he’s just one of many people undertaking special initiatives during this Year of St. Paul. Dioceses and parishes throughout the United States are planning special features and events. Most have web pages dedicated to St. Paul. Others are printing bulletin inserts, prayer cards and newsletters. Some will offer special programming.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee, for example, will devote one episode of Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s weekly television show, “Living Our Faith,” to St. Paul.
“We’re still working on that episode,” commented communications director Julie Wolf, “But whatever we do, it will be great.”
In the Diocese of Manchester, N.H., plans are underway to present three diocese-wide programs to help the faithful grow closer to the apostle Paul.
The first, “The Life and Letters of St. Paul,” is a one-day workshop at Saint Anselm College in Manchester Sept. 27. The workshop will offer attendees a chance to become more acquainted with St. Paul, his companions and his message.
The second event, scheduled for Jan. 25, 2009, is “Praying with St. Paul,” which will offer a more prayerful and less knowledge-based experience.
The third event, still to be announced, will discuss ways to live out the message of St. Paul in daily life.
“We’re very pleased with how things are working out,” said Pat Gamree, coordinator of the events. “A few of us were brainstorming one day, and this is what came of it. We hope that this will be empowering to the people of the Diocese of Manchester so that they become energized to continue learning more about St. Paul on their own.”
The Diocese of Tucson, Ariz., has big plans for the Year of St. Paul with three objectives: better catechize practicing Catholics, welcome back Catholics who have left the Church and invite newcomers to join the faith.
The objectives will be met through a variety of methods, including website resources, vicariate activities, homilies, instructional gatherings, videos and a special Lenten series. The main objective, of course, is to impress upon the faithful the importance of St. Paul’s life and mission and the impact this year can have on the Church.
“The Holy Father has provided us with a unifying theme in this Year of St. Paul,” said Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson. “This has significant pastoral applications in our own diocese and in others throughout the Church. It unifies us in our call to missionary discipleship and a deepening of our faith.”
Bishop Kicanas has four main hopes for his diocese this year. He hopes the adult faithful will grow in their knowledge of the faith and deepen their convictions, those who have left the Church will come home, the faithful will give greater witness and inspire others to know the Lord better, and a diocesan-wide unity of efforts will take place.
“Paul the Apostle formed others in the faith,” he said. “We must do the same.”
Marge Fenelon is based in Cudahy, Wisconsin.