Almost every adult I’ve ever worked with in the Church can tell of a time they stepped away from the Church. Often, it was in their 20s and they were living lives they knew weren’t “church-friendly,” but weren’t quite ready to change their ways. Some left (understandably so) because they were angry or disillusioned with the Church. Some left because they wanted to explore other options, and some just lost their will to get up on Sunday mornings. But with these people, the people with those stories- they came back. Many of them (us) came back as stronger and more committed Catholics.
“Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary use words.” Often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, these words can be used to emphasize the importance of the silent witness, the implicit or wordless sharing of faith that Catholics can give to others by living Jesus’ love in everyday life. Church teaching affirms this aspect of sharing our faith: “Through this wordless witness these Christians stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live… Here we have an initial act of evangelization….” (Pope Paul VI, Evangelization in the Modern World, 21)
As a parish catechetical leader I am responsible for the formation of catechists. I used to focus primarily on methodology and classroom management because the catechists seemed to have the most questions in these areas. Now, however, I have a different perspective.
One of the catalysts for my changed focus is Pope Francis’ address to catechists in September 2013 during the International Congress on Catechesis. He called catechists to view their ministry not as work, but rather as a vocation.
September Initiative: Outreach and Invitation to Parish Faith Formation - Tom Quinlan, Diocese of Joliet
I think our challenge in parish and diocesan leadership today is two-fold. First, we need to hold onto or reclaim hope. And second, we need to find concrete and effective ways to rise above a passive “managing decline” mode of operating.
One of my special treats this summer was being able to read “Jesus of Nazareth” by Gerhard Lohfink. The subtitle ambitiously reads: “What He Wanted; Who He was.”
Encounter. Where and how do we encounter God? Where and how do we offer that opportunity to others?
Patrick Madrid’s book, Why Be Catholic is a heartfelt examination of why Madrid chooses to be Catholic, and why he believes there is no other faith tradition that can fulfill humanities’ deepest needs. Madrid begins by taking a candid look at human weakness. He reveals that the sinful acts of the Apostles in the early Church are not unlike the sins of individuals in today’s Catholic Church. But even so, there is great joy in being Catholic. In the ten chapters of this book, Madrid explains the relationship of the human condition with the Sacraments of the Church and the Church’s moral social teachings.
Getting Your Ducks in a Row is about ordering of our priorities for success in our efforts at evangelization. Tackling this may not satisfy our urge “to do” but it will uncover a path for a parish to follow. The USCCB document Disciples Called to Witness addresses a “culture of witness” in Section IV. Here our bishops suggest specific catechetical methodologies that “should guide pastoral programs aimed at renewing the faith of all Catholics, including our missing brothers and sisters.”
Our “Theology on Capp” for Teens is a new program inspired by the "Theology on Tap" sessions that Catholic dioceses have held for many years for young adults at restaurants and bars. At Marian High School, we sensed that our students needed a fresh, friendly “non-academic” environment in which they could gather together and discuss issues they carry in their hearts. Many have expressed that in the classroom, next to their textbooks and assignments, God sometimes appears to become “another academic subject” rather than a loving Divine Father. So we partnered with the local Knights of Columbus to hold "Theology on CAPP (as in cappuccino)" once a month. We firmly believe that the growth of our current program is mostly due to our constant entrustment of its success to the protection and care of Our Blessed Virgin Mary.
I was moved by the morning newspapers on the Fourth of July that carried a full page replica of the Declaration of Independence. No commentary, no ads, no glitz – just this incredible testimony to vision, belief, hope, and courage and the signatures of those who placed their lives on the line, literally. What was remarkable was the meaning of those words over two centuries ago and how they have lived through generations to shape and mold a nation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness ….
In our diocese we have begun training Evangelization Teams in parishes using a combination of The Evangelizing Laity from the USCCB webinar series and The Evangelization Jump Start Kit from Paulist Evangelization Ministries. Every time in the training when we reach the section on home visitation I hear the same comment, “That’s not something we can even consider doing.” Home visits seem the most foreign, overwhelming and scary aspect of evangelization for Catholics. I began wondering if there was a way to gradually introduce the experience of home visitation to Evangelization Teams and Catholic parishioners. One great idea is to begin visits with those who have recently come to the parish for sacramental and other reasons.
In 2002, I attended World Youth Day in Rome, and in the middle of that soggy night, my friend woke me, grabbed my hand and said “get up, we’re going to dance!” I followed her toward a circle of people, dancing energetically and clapping and singing. I said “I don’t know how!” and my friend said “let’s just watch and we’ll figure it out.”