The risen Christ is depicted in a stained-glass window at St. Aloysius Church in Great Neck, N.Y. OSV News photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

Editorial: Good news for the Good News

  • April 12, 2024

How fitting that the Good News of Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday should be accompanied by a trinity of good news stories about the state of our Holy Mother Church.

As the OSV wire service reports in this issue of The Catholic Register, the biggest news of all, if not the best, is a Nigerian seminary celebrating its 100th birthday while continuing to serve the Lord in the face of horrific anti-Christian persecution. The country’s Bigard Memorial Seminary currently counts 780 clerics among those who want to be in the number of priests proclaiming the Gospel in Africa and, increasingly, around the world.  Like the courageous peregrini monks who transformed the world by leaving Ireland to evangelize Europe between 550 and 1100, Nigeria has become a source of salvation in the face of the global decline in numbers of Catholic priests. 

Bigard Memorial Seminary alone has contributed four cardinals, 14 archbishops, 35 bishops and thousands of priests over its years of operation. Europe, by contrast, has seen its global share of ordinations decline to 23 per cent in 2019 from 55 per cent in 1970. Africa now surpasses Europe in the numbers of clergy trained and sent into Christian ministry.

Yet even on that front, this Easter brought good news for the future, if not for the moment. France, which in the 19th century replaced the anti-religious horrors of its 1789 Revolution with a more “civilized” suffocating secularism enforced by the Republic, has reported a record number of adult and adolescent baptisms in 2024. More than 12,000 new French Catholics stepped forward on Easter Sunday to take their vows of faith and obedience to the Church, a 31-per-cent increase over 2023. Better yet, the latest increased number of baptisms continues a decade of growing faith among French citizens. It’s early yet to claim this return as some kind of turning point for Christian life in Europe more broadly. But an upward turn for Gospel faith is always welcome news. 

Turnabout appeared on Easter Sunday here in Canada as well with the signing of a Sacred Covenant between Kamloops First Nation, the local Bishop Joseph Nguyen and Vancouver Archbishop Michael Miller. While the final text of the Covenant hasn’t been released, it has the blessing of Kamloops First Nation Chief Roseanne Casimir and bears the pedigree of former Chief Manny Jules and former Assembly of First Nations Grand Chief Phil Fontaine. All involved have called it a “historic” step forward toward a “new relationship between the Church and Indigenous peoples in B.C.” Archbishop Miller praised Casimir directly for seizing the “opportunity for further healing” from the black acrimony and outright violence that followed distorted media reports of newly discovered “mass graves” at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in 2021. 

Talk about fitting metaphor to moment, Casimir herself took part in signing the Covenant while  recovering from a broken leg, which might be all that needs to be said about the pain of 2021 afflicting Indigenous people just as much as they hurt the Church. Given the high proportion of Indigenous who are Catholics, we can count on shared healing taking place. Indeed, Casimir said it is her hope that the process that led to the Sacred Covenant will be studied and passed along throughout Canadian Catholic dioceses and archdioceses. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is expected to undertake just that at its plenary next September. More good news to come? Fingers crossed.

Do these three events, of themselves and in combination, mean the Church is indisputably back on the path to victory over a hostile, even persecutorial, secular world? Does it mean She has triumphed over the travails and wounds that beset Her? Of course not. For one thing, even a month of Easter Sundays would be too short a time to proclaim all battles have been won. Infinitely more importantly, we have already won victory in Christ, through His Resurrection and promise of salvation. We don’t need a news boy on the corner shouting that headline to us as Catholics, as the faithful of one holy, catholic and Apostolic Church.  We have His Good News to remind us of it. But it is joyful to know there is good news in the news of the world as well.

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