Five Highlights from Bishop Bonnar’s Pastoral Letter

Practicing Faith, Hope, and Love: Living the Virtues Together in Tough Times

On Pentecost 2023, the Diocese of Youngstown released Bishop Bonnar’s new pastoral letter, Practicing Faith, Hope and Love: Living the Virtues Together in Tough Times. The pastoral letter is being sent to parishioners. It will also be available in parishes, and can be found online here.

1. This is Bishop Bonnar’s second pastoral letter as Bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown.

A pastoral letter is an official letter a bishop writes to the faithful of his diocese and to the wider community. Like encyclicals and other documents issued by popes, pastoral letters are part of the Church’s magisterium, or “teaching office.” Practicing Faith, Hope, and Love follows Bishop Bonnar’s 2021 pastoral letter, Confronting Darkness with the Light of Christ: Testify to the Light. Testify to the Light, released shortly after Bishop Bonnar began his episcopal ministry, offered a vision for the Diocese of Youngstown with five priorities: prayer, healing, communication, service and joyful witness. 

“I have been blessed to see the priorities I outlined in Testify to the Light take shape and form to advance the people of God in our diocese toward a dynamic sense of mission … While we are moving in a positive direction, we still face many challenges that draw shadows over our best attempts to reach out to the margins and engage with others.”

2. Practicing Faith, Hope, and Love begins by acknowledging we are experiencing tough times in the diocese and the Northeast Ohio region.

The “tough times” Bishop Bonnar refers to include a declining population, unemployment, violence, poverty, addiction and natural and man-made disasters that have threatened our health and well-being—affecting the poor and vulnerable in disproportionate ways. They also include pressures on Church life, such as the shortage of priests and lay ecclesial ministers, declining Mass attendance, financial challenges and the impact on strained priests and on the faithful as parish life changes.

“In the past two years as your Bishop, I have seen over and over again that the people of Northeast Ohio are indeed, ‘tough people,’ adapting to the changing times and supporting one another. As Christians in this portion of the Lord’s Vineyard, we know that our toughness and endurance always flow from the faith, hope and love we have in God. God’s work, love and revelation are always first, deeper than anything we might try to accomplish on our own.”

3. The Church refers to “faith, hope and love” as the theological virtues that allow us to participate in God’s life. Bishop Bonnar first focuses on how we are all called to embrace faith.

Bishop Bonnar explains that faith is a gift from God that offers new sight—to see as Jesus sees—and challenges us to accept our own roles as members of the “faithful.” He offers practical ideas to promote a grateful, growing, confident and united faith.

“Every Catholic in this diocese needs to assume greater responsibility for the growth of their faith and relationship with Jesus and the Church. Jesus does not want us to be bystanders or spectators, but active participants in a relationship with Him. He is counting on us to continue His mission.”

4.  Next, he acknowledges hope and the challenge of keeping hope alive in tough times.

Bishop Bonnar reminds us that practicing hope involves prayer, liturgical and sacramental life, and that parish ministries and fostering vocations are essential to hope. We can achieve this through a renewed attention to youth ministry and Eucharistic adoration. He offers practical ideas to promote a patient, joyful, resilient, realistic and shared hope.

“Ultimately, our deepest hope is in a future beyond our imagination and beyond our time, with the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God. But even in our own finite lifetimes, our hope is in where God is leading us as Church here and now.” 

5. Finally, he explains love’s significance, noting that “God is Love” (1 John 4:8). 

Bishop Bonnar explains that love is the greatest of the virtues, rooted in our biblical stories and overflowing in how we encounter and love others. Through love of neighbor, “we are shown the direct pathway to God.” He offers practical ideas to promote an intentional, concrete, compassionate, life-giving, unexpected and bonding love.

“Thus, as faithful people loved by God, we are to be purveyors of love in our place and time. At every celebration of Holy Mass, we are commissioned to go forth and share the love we have received. There is no room for indifference or self-isolation when it comes to love. Rather, love compels us to a ministry of presence and accompaniment; to walking with our sisters and brothers as fellow pilgrims on life’s journey.”

Read Bishop Bonnar’s pastoral letter:
Practicing Faith, Hope, and Love: Living the Virtues Together in Tough Times.

Image Credit: Coronation of the Virgin with the Trinity and Saints, c. 1440 Olivetan Master (artist). Public Domain Open Access Image. Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Share To Social Media

Justin Huyck

Justin Huyck

Justin Huyck is Director of Communications for the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio, where he oversees the integrated efforts of the diocese’s publishing, broadcast, digital, social media, media relations and internal communications operations. He is also the diocese’s spokesperson and chief point of contact with journalists. Previously, he served in parish ministry for fifteen years, most recently as Pastoral Associate and Director of Adult Faith Formation at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Canton, Ohio. Justin is the author of From Home to Home: Finding Meaning in Mobility and Baptism: Alive in Christ (both published by Little Rock Scripture Study and the Liturgical Press), and holds a B.A. in Government from Cornell University and an M.A. in Theology and Liturgy from the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. He and his wife are the parents of two children.
Related Stories

Stay up to date with all new things happening at the Diocese of Youngstown. Subscribe to our Newsletter here.

Cookie policy
We use our own and third party cookies to allow us to understand how the site is used and to support our marketing campaigns.