On November 4, 2014, citizens of our great state will again head to the polls to make their choice for candidates to lead Texas and our nation into the future.

In the week before the election, the time is opportune for us to reflect on our beliefs and responsibilities as Catholic voters. By our baptism, Christians are committed to following Jesus Christ and to be “salt for the earth, light for the nations.”

While faithful Christians may in good conscience disagree on a variety of political matters, we must never forget that our very future as a society depends on our ability and courage to respect and defend the dignity of all human beings.

The Diocese of Tyler will welcome consecrated religious from the Dominican Sisters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Fatima as part of a five-year grant from Catholic Extension aimed at creating a partnership for the Latin American congregations as well as the U.S. dioceses involved, Bishop Joseph Strickland has announced.

Catholic Extension, a papal society that has been supporting Catholics on the margins in America since 1905, announced the formal launch of its U.S.-Latin American Sisters Exchange Program, which was made possible through an initial $3 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. The program will span a five-year period and involve 10 Latin American congregations sending more than 30 women religious to dioceses throughout the United States.

I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me. St. Paul’s faith in Jesus Christ and his hope in the fulfillment of God’s promises helps him to persevere in any circumstance: when things are going well and when they are going badly; when he has an abundance or when he is in want; when he has a full stomach or when he has to go hungry. This is the kind of perseverance to which we are being called in the holy gospel today. In “The Parable of the Marriage Feast” (in Matthew 22), Jesus contrasts those who were first invited by the king and those he invited secondarily. The Fathers of the Church interpreted the first group as the Israelites, the first People of God. But because of Israel’s indifference and hostility — their rejection of God’s loving call — God (the king) instead invites the Gentiles, that is, us, to His wedding feast. However, unless we respond faithfully to the call we have received, we will be cast “into outer darkness” (Mt 22:13).

About 250 people from across the Diocese of Tyler attended Saturday’s Marian Conference on the campus of Bishop Gorman Schools in Tyler which focused on the Virgin Mary’s role in the family.

The day began with Solemn Mass and a Eucharistic Procession celebrated by Bishop Joseph Strickland at the Chapel of Sts. Peter & Paul.

In his homily, Bishop Strickland focused on Mary’s role as an example for families and alluded to the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, which highlights the Virgin Mary as the model for the Church. The document reads, in part:

As St. Ambrose taught, the Mother of God is a type of the Church in the order of faith, charity, and perfect union with Christ. ….And so they turn their eyes to Mary who shines forth to the whole community of the elect as the model of virtues. Devoutly meditating on her and contemplating her in the light of the Word made man, the Church reverently penetrates more deeply into the great mystery of the Incarnation and becomes more and more like her spouse. Seeking after the glory of Christ, the Church becomes more like her lofty type, and continually progresses in faith, hope and charity, seeking and doing the will of God in all things. The Church, therefore, in her apostolic work too, rightly looks to her who gave birth to Christ, who was thus conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin, in order that through the Church he could be born and increase in the hearts of the faithful. In her life the Virgin has been a model of that motherly love with which all who join in the Church’s apostolic mission for the regeneration of mankind should be animated.

From October 5-19, 2014, bishops from around the world will gather with Pope Francis in Extraordinary Synod in Rome to consider the pastoral challenges facing the family. A Synod is simply a gathering of bishops that advise the Holy Father by providing counsel on important issues facing the people of God.

By their very nature, the topics that will be discussed at this Synod – divorce, annulment, remarriage and others – rightly evoke passionate feelings among all people because they deal with the very fabric of the family and society. There will be extensive coverage in both the secular and Catholic press, some of which will be accurate and some of which will have an agenda behind it.

At the outset, bear in mind that this Extraordinary Synod is serving to prepare and formally set the agenda for the Ordinary Synod which will meet on the same topics in 2015. It is from this Ordinary Synod in 2015 that we will see the final recommendations to the Holy Father.

In light of this, the time is opportune for us to reflect on what we believe about the Sacrament of Marriage and the teaching authority of the Church.