Message at Bishop’s Dinner: ‘Go beyond your comfort level’

Friday, Sep. 15, 2023
Message at Bishop’s Dinner: ‘Go beyond your comfort level’ + Enlarge
The Most Rev. Gregory John Mansour, Bishop of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn, N.Y. gives the remarks at the 2023 Bishop’s Dinner, held Sept. 5 at the Grand America. IC photo/Marie Mischel
By Marie Mischel
Intermountain Catholic

SALT LAKE CITY — The Sept. 5 Bishop’s Dinner brought a full house to the grand ballroom of the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City, with more than 500 people gathering for this year’s fundraiser for the Cathedral of the Madeleine.
The annual event draws diverse members of the community. Among those attending this year were Elder and Sister Garrit W. and Susan Gong, and Elder and Sister Hugo E. and Nuria M. Martinez of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; the Reverend Rick Lawson, dean emeritus of St. Mark’s Cathedral; community leaders Khosrow Semnani and his wife, Ghazleh; Sean Reyes, the state attorney general; Rocky Anderson, the former mayor of Salt Lake City; Monsignor Colin F. Bircumshaw, vicar general of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City; Msgr. J. Terrence Fitzgerald, vicar general emeritus; Deacon George Reade, diocesan chancellor, and his wife, Mary; and various members of the clergy and religious of the diocese. 
Msgr. Joseph M. Mayo, a retired priest and former rector of the cathedral, was the master of ceremonies. The Very Rev. Martin Diaz, the current cathedral rector, offered the opening prayer. Bishop Oscar A. Solis presented the closing remarks.
In his prayer, Father Diaz gave thanks to God for the Cathedral of the Madeleine, “a home for Catholics and a place of consolation and hope for the community of Utah and all its visitors. We come together [tonight] for the preservation of this building, so that all who enter will know of your love for everyone.”
During the dinner a video featuring the “One Kind Act a Day” campaign being sponsored by the Semnani Foundation was shown.
“If you go throughout the world, every nation, every individual – there is an element of kindness in their religion, in their culture, their tradition,” said Khosrow Semnani in the video, adding that if people do one kind act a day “I think it will have great consequences.” 
One kind act every day “is transformative,” Fr. Diaz said in the video. “It is transformative of the person and it’s transformative of the world.”
The keynote speaker at the dinner was the Most Rev. Gregory John Mansour, Bishop of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn, N.Y. Bishop Mansour said he was speaking at the dinner to return a favor done by Bishop Solis, who in 2018 accepted an invitation from the Maronite patriarch to visit Lebanon. In addition, Bishop Solis accepted Bishop Mansour’s invitation to serve on the board of Catholic Relief Services, the international humanitarian agency of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which operates in 117 countries throughout the world.
“Both times your bishop [went] beyond his comfort zone to serve God’s people,” Bishop Mansour said. “Isn’t this a beautiful way to serve Christ – when we go beyond our comfort level, as did St. Peter when Jesus said, ‘Follow me’? …. Brothers and sisters, it is that going beyond ourselves that is so rich in Christian tradition.”    
“Catholic Relief Services does not seek to serve Catholics alone, but rather to serve all people, reaching out beyond their comfort zone to share something, or should I say someone, whom they have come to know: our Lord Jesus Christ,” Bishop Mansour said. “And may I add, proudly, that Catholic Relief Services is very happy with their relationship, their close relationship, with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many of you have been involved from the very beginning to build up that relationship and I’m here also just to say thank you.”
Bishop Mansour said he is glad that the Salt Lake cathedral is named after St. Mary Magdalene because he can relate to her. “She was troubled,” and he has been troubled, he said, but he found the same remedy that the saint did: “a healing grace so great that her whole life was changed. She would forever cling to that remedy, that is, her love for the person of Jesus Christ. Mary Magdalene was no longer afraid to be uncomfortable; her following Christ meant everything to her.”  
Explaining a bit about the Maronite Church, he said it is one of 23 Eastern Churches in full communion with Rome. The patriarch is the head of the Maronite Church. In keeping with his theme of going beyond one’s comfort zone, Bishop Mansour told the story about a 76-year-old patriarch who traveled from Lebanon to Versailles, France to ask Allied forces to create modern-day Lebanon. “He did this right after the Ottoman Turks had decimated Christian communities in the Middle East. The patriarch went against all of his co-religionists and insisted on a Lebanon that would be a Christian/Muslim conviviality. He wanted to include Muslims because he considered them his true brothers” even though there had been some conflicts between them and the Christian community, the bishop said. “But nonetheless, the Maronite patriarch did not want Christians to be protected and comfortable in a small enclave but rather to be part of a mosaic of different religious that formed modern-day Lebanon even though he knew that he might be more uncomfortable. He felt that even in the midst of suffering and hostility he felt deep in his soul to build bridges and to believe in God and his fellow man.”
People who go beyond their comfort zone have found Christ and want to share him, to serve God and neighbor, he said, “and this is also the good work of the Cathedral of the Madeleine and the Church of Salt Lake in Utah. When we leave our comfort for the sake of sharing Christ, we find ourselves.”
Bishop Mansour challenged those attending the dinner “to go beyond your comfort level in order to give generously, to give gratefully, to give lovingly so that good things can happen in the Church and in the world.”   
In his remarks, Bishop Solis thanked the gathering for creating “an evening of fellowship, an evening of fraternity, an evening of solidarity and unity as a community of Utah. What a wonderful way to become a witness to the world in the midst of polarization and division. … Thank you; thank you not only for contributing to the maintenance of the Cathedral of the Madeleine but thank you for contributing to become an agent of change, an instrument of hope, to all the people not only in our state but as well as the world.”

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