On the first day of school, I oftentimes opened my brand-new math textbook to the very last chapter. I enjoyed the thrill of looking at unfamiliar and seemingly extremely difficult math problems that posed questions I did not comprehend, and used figures I could not grasp. As the year drew to a close, it was extremely rewarding to study the last chapter and understand its lessons. After many months of study under a competent teacher, and learning one lesson at a time, I was able to achieve what at first appeared impossible. The unknown became graspable and the complex became understandable because I grew in knowledge slowly and orderly. As time passed, I did not remain the same, but rather slowly changed to achieve what appeared unthinkable.
The lesson from the math textbook reminds me of the words of Jesus while sitting on a throne in the Book of Revelation: “Behold, I make all things new.” Change is constant, and as disciples of Jesus, we seek to do His will in the present moment. The past is behind us, and the future is not ours, but we possess the present moment where God’s grace is at work. Through the choices we make and our increase of knowledge over time, we are constantly changing, and we allow Jesus to make all things new. As long as we breathe, we are not finished products. The potter continues to make something new as he molds the clay of who we are.
In the same way that individuals are not static, neither are communities or societies, including the Church. The roots of the Diocese of Savannah hail back to a time when English Catholics settled west of Augusta in 1790 near Sharon, and French refugees arrived to Savannah from Haiti and France in the early 1790s. In 1814, there were only three Catholic parishes in the state: Savannah, Augusta, and Sharon. As time has passed, the face of the Diocese of Savannah has been transformed into who we are today. If the early Catholics of Georgia could see us today, they would be like me reviewing the last chapter of the math textbook on the first day of school. Over time, with the grace of Jesus who makes all things new, we have arrived to where we are today. There have been waves of migrants, wars, and drastic societal changes. The makeup of the Catholic population of our Diocese has changed throughout the passage of time. We are not a static Church, but rather, we grow, develop and change over time. In the end, we have become richer through our history and diversity. Things are not quite how they used to be, and that is a good thing – otherwise it would mean we were dead.
The makeup and organization of the Catholics of South Georgia may have changed over the centuries, but the faith rooted in Jesus Christ has remained the same. We are Catholics living in the twenty-first century, and like our Catholic ancestors, face particular challenges and blessings by living at this present time. The faith incarnates itself through the passing of generations, manifesting itself through various expressions of people and cultures. We move forward in faith as part of a local Church in South Georgia, eager to be molded and transformed in the present moment as Jesus continues to make all things new.