New-IdeasOver the last number of months I’ve been thinking about how the New Evangelization can affect parish life and ministry. Matthew Kelly gave an interesting talk to religious educators that makes some excellent points on things we need to consider in parish ministry today.  There is a great need to consider new ways and approaches to meet the needs of parishioners in the Third Millennium.

 

http://youtu.be/JLmp6u74KN8 

 

Here are some questions and reflections about the New Evangelization and parish ministry.

     1) In what ways are parishes in maintenance mode vs. mission mode?

     2) What needs to be considered today in ministry that get’s us out of merely being in                        maintenance mode towards mission mode?

     3) What does a parish in “mission mode” love like?

     4) In what ways do Q&S Catholics affect your ministry?

     5) What principles can we empower, inspire and implement to help ourselves, those in ministry and the faithful in general make Catholicism intriguing.  It is so rich and inspiring but what do we need to consider in ministry to bring that out?

6) Do you find that this video and it’s content contribute to the discussion on the new evangelization?


saint paulThe New Evangelization is one of the key focuses of the Church in the Third Millennium. It is an exciting time to be a part of the Church and see all the great works of the Lord that are happening, especially with the emphasis on the New Evangelization and all that it entails. When you hear the word “old” it gets little attention, but in reality I wonder if the core of the New Evangelization is old.  The Apostles and their successors in the first few centuries after Christ were evangelizers “par excellence”!  St. Peter and St. Paul, St. Thomas, St. Andrew, St. John and all the apostles set the world ablaze by proclaiming and making manifest the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Their successors – people like St. Polycarp and St. Ignatius of Antioch witnessed to the life, death and resurrection of Christ with their very lives.  People saw with their very eyes the conviction they had admits the threat of death.  This proclamation that was not mere lip service but also lived out even at the cost of their own lives was key to the evangelization of the people of their day.

Today, the New Evangelization must rely on that “Old Evangelization” in order to draw hearts to Christ.  As you may know, St. Francis never said: “Preach the Gospel always use words is necessary”.   But he did testify not only with his life but with the constant proclamation of the Good News to Christ to every town and place he went (and even to the birds).

2 Things to share with students about evangelization:

1) They are called by their Baptism to share the Good News of Jesus Christ; to tell others about who God is and what His plan for us is.  Kids evangelize most successfully often times and we need to give them the tools to do this.

2)  Help children see that ones actions speak something about what she/he believes.  Do you choose the sports game over Mass, do you say no to watching TV because you have not prayed; do you avoid talking negatively about others because that is not loving your neighbor, etc.

 

What are ways you help your students to evangelize?


New-IdeasIs the New Evangelization merely about New Methods?

It is true that communicating the faith in the Third Millennium does call for a re-proposing the Gospel Message in a way that will be received by the People of God today.  We know that people are less receptive to lectures regarding the truths of the faith than they once were.  Therefore, various tools and methods need to be incorporated (e.g., Video, dialogue, small group interaction, etc.).

At the same time Our Faith must be presented from the living sources of the faith – the liturgy, the Fathers of the Church, the saints, Council documents.  The Catechism does this is an unprecedented manner.   The reality of presenting the immeasurable riches of the Faith from these living sources is key to the New Evangelization.

What do you think?  It would be great to hear your thoughts on this.


The Church has called for a “New Evangelization” to meet the situation in which many who would describe Catechism of the Catholic church picthemselves as Catholics have moved away from the practice of their faith. The Catechism was written precisely to help those who transmit the faith of the Church to address this situation. It is enormously important that the Catechism shows us how we can announce the kerygma in and through our presentation of each aspect of the faith. This means that when we catechize, we can reach out to those who are already committed and need a catechesis for the deepening of their faith, and at the same time make a proclamation of the essentials of the faith so that those who need to receive the more basic message with its call to conversion also benefit from our teaching. Whatever a person’s situation, and however far a person is from the full practice of the faith, he or she will be able to hear the core message of the Good News and can, with the help of the Holy Spirit, make a response to this call that comes through us from the unfathomable love of God made flesh in the divine Son.

~ Dr. Petroc Willey


For years I’ve understood that the textbook was just a tool and not the end-all of the catechetical lesson.  One of the challenges today is to equip volunteer catechists to go beyond the textbook, i.e., not relying on the textbook as a crutch which they have to teach from in order to convey the content of the chapter.  Although I have some ideas on what we need to do about that, I want to share a few things that seem to be essential in this Ministry of the Word and the Proclamation of the Good News of Christ and His Church today. This are some things needed for Catechesis in the Third Millennium:

 

1. We need a holistic approach to catechesis.

As many have been saying, we need to do more than pass on content – we need to see our catechesis as initiating people into the Christian Life.  Much has been said about this, especially in the last number of years. Nevertheless, we must keep in mind that it’s not a victory to get through the 30 chapters of the textbook.  It’s a victory if over the course of a year we have helped those we catechize be inspired, grow in hunger for being in communion with Jesus Christ and desire to continue that friendship they have with Him.

2. We need to help Catechists see that what they are transmitting is something that is unified.

Textbooks, among other resources, can have a tendency to compartmentalize the content of the Faith.  At times for the sake of order this is understandable and necessary.  However, too often we struggle to catechize seeing that the faith is unified not just a set of various truths.  For example, in the 3 part of the Catechism in the second paragraph of that section it expresses this truth I’m speaking of beautifully:

The Symbol of the faith confesses the greatness of God’s gifts to man in his work of creation, and even more in redemption and sanctification. What faith confesses, the sacraments communicate: by the sacraments of rebirth, Christians have become “children of God,”2 “partakers of the divine nature.”3 Coming to see in the faith their new dignity, Christians are called to lead henceforth a life “worthy of the gospel of Christ.”4 They are made capable of doing so by the grace of Christ and the gifts of his Spirit, which they receive through the sacraments and through prayer. (Paragraph 1692)

Even in the 3 part of the Catechism it has not “moved on” from the first two parts to now cover the 3 part (although it does cover the Christian Life lived out and what we believe about that).  But it does so in a unified manner helping the believer see that the faith in intricately woven together as a unified whole.  Catechesis today needs to keep this in mind and make positive strides in helping others see the unity of the Catholic Faith.

3. We need to root our Catechesis in the Holy Trinity.

Yes, I’m sure we all have heard that the Trinity is the central mystery of the faith and how as the Catechism says: “It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them” (#234).

If what we are teaching does not relate to one of the persons of the Trinity then we should not be teaching it.  As stated above regarding the unity of the faith we have to show those we catechize that God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit is revealing Himself to us and inviting us to community with Him.  When you have a moment take a look at Ephesians 1:3-14 which conveys beautifully the Trinities Mission.  Our catechesis should always be linked with the Trinity.

4. We need to present the faith today as a compelling story — of God’s loving plan.

The Good News is a story to be told, a story to be celebrated, a story to be lived and a story to be in communion with.  It is not romanticizing to say that it is a love story because it truly is, but it is a love story that has tragedy, hope, love and joy which are all a part of the human condition.  We have a tendency in catechesis to present the faith as a lot of great truths but can struggle to help those we catechize see that it’s more a story we are a part of than a number of great truths that happened in the past.  The more we can show others that what we are proclaiming and teaching is all part of a beautiful story of God’s plan and purpose for creation then we help others see just how compelling God and his ways are.

5. We need to put people in contact with Jesus (in relationship with Him).

If we begin and end each catechetical session with a brief prayer lasting no more than 30 seconds then it is not likely that we are able to allow for the proper setting to help those we catechize come into contact with Jesus.  We need to have more prayer in our catechesis, more time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, more time of silence and reflection (as challenging as all this can be).  I recently heard a story about how two priests had devoted much time to being present to the First Communion class by stopping by the classes to talk with the 2nd graders and how they also were present at the parent meetings.  Even so, after First Communion none of the parents brought their children to Mass.  One of the things the priests discovered is that they never took to time to take them to the church and have direct contact with Jesus.  They did not take them into the church to show them how this is where the Christian community gathers to celebrate, proclaim and encounter God.  Therefore, helping find more opportunities of putting people in contact with Jesus Christ is essential for fruitful discipleship.

6. The Catechism needs to be better utilized in elementary catechesis

When Blessed Pope John Paul II spoke of the Catechism as a reference text he did not intend for it to merely be something we use as one among many resources.  Textbook publishers have a tendency to site the Catechism as a reference or a way to show that the teaching in a particular chapter is linked to a teaching in the Catechism.  Although this is a great first step to what we had 20 years ago it lacks something significant.  The Catechism is the essential Deposit of Faith which the Church guards as a most important and vital treasure to the universal Church. The Catechism helps articulate the beauty of the Faith.  The Catechism shows how the Faith is organic and unified.  The Catechism threads the faith together in a way that we can see just how unified and simple the faith is.  When I say simple, I mean that at the heart of the Deposit of Faith we see the simple Gospel Message that God so loved the world that he gave his only son that we may not perish but have eternal life (Cf. John 3:16).  The Catechism conveys the simplicity of God’s plan accomplished through Creation, through His relationship with us, through sending His Son to redeem us and sending the Holy Spirit to sanctify the world and prepare us for the world to come.  Therefore, the Catechism needs to be used more fully in equipping catechists in their ministry of catechesis.

These are 6 things I see as vital to Catechesis in the 21st Century.  May God our heavenly and gracious Father direct us and lead us to greater renewal and communion with Himself.

What do you see as things that are needed for Catechesis in the 21st Century?


The Builder and the Rich Man

There was a rich man who hired a builder to build a house and he told him that he would pay him “x” amount of dollars for building him a house and he would like it ready by the time he gets back from his business trip.  The builder agreed and build it in a rather quick manner by taking shortcuts and buying cheap supplies so that he would pocket more money in the end.  He covered up little mistakes through paint and other tricks of the trade.  When the rich man returned and had the builder tell him that everything was ready just as he had requested, the rich man handed the keys and the deed to the house over to the builder as a gift for him and his family.  The builder was shocked to learn that the house which he took all the shortcuts in building was actually built for Him and his family.

Jesus’ Words

Jesus said: “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined” (Mt. 7:24-27).

How Will You Build?

What are you building – in your family life, in your workplace and in your community?  How will your foundation hold up through the wind and rain?  I know all too well, how the foundation I build can be made to look fine as I “cover up” the defects I have in my foundation.  The shifting sand always surfaces, sooner or later and my true foundation begins to become clear.  This summer is a good time to reflect and consider doing some refurbishing and reestablishing of what is most important.  Take some time to see what you need to do to continue to build upon a strong foundation.  Evaluate, reflect and pray for the grace to see and repair what God wants.


Pope Benedict XVI spoke about a wonderful idea to implement the New Evangelization during an apostolic visit to Germany.  This idea is very worthwhile, especially in the West where people find themselves becoming less engaged in the personal lives of others and more productive and busy with all their commitments in life.  Catechesis and the spiritual lives of the faithful need to be rooted in the person of Christ and help them grow in that longing for true happiness and peace which can only be found in Christ.  Here is Pope Benedict’s idea:

Let us return to the people who lack experience of God’s goodness. They need places where they can give voice to their inner longing. Here we are called to seek new paths of evangelization. Small communities could be one such path, where friendships are lived and deepened in regular communal adoration before God. There we find people who speak of these small faith experiences at their workplace and within their circle of family and friends, and in so doing bear witness to a new closeness between Church and society. They come to see more and more clearly that everyone stands in need of this nourishment of love, this concrete friendship with others and with the Lord. Of continuing importance is the link with the vital life-source that is the Eucharist, since cut off from Christ we can do nothing (cf. Jn 15:5).

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord always point out to us how together we can be lights in the world and can show our fellow men the path to the source at which they can quench their profound thirst for life.

What ideas are parishes in your area implementing regarding the New Evangelization?                         


Last week I had the great opportunity to be in England and attend a Year of Faith Conference at the Maryvale Institute in Birmingham.  It was a short trip but packed with wonderful interactions with professors, current students and a conference about the upcoming Year of Faith (Maryvale was the first home of Blessed John Henry Newman after his conversion to Catholicism).  One of the things highlighted was Maryvale’s Year of Faith Website.  It has up-to-date info on what the Vatican, various diocese and parishes will be planning for this upcoming year.  They announced multiple resources that will be coming out this year (you can buy and download at an affordable price from their website).

Another key piece of the day was discussing the 4 major theme’s of Action (or action items) for this year (I will be discussing these  further in a future post).  In Short the 4 themes are:

1. Studying the documents of the Second Vatican Council

2. Studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church

3. Proclaiming the Creed and making an explicit profession of Faith

4. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (particularly on Corpus Christi Sunday 2013 where Pope Benedict has asked the faithful throughout the world to adore the Lord in the Eucharist at the same time (more to come out on this from the Vatican).

Pope Benedict’s Motu Proprio  entitled Porta Fidei is worth reading.  Motu Proprio means “from the heart”.  Pope Benedict wants a reckoning of the Faith and desires that the Christian fabric of the ecclesial community be strengthened and renewed so that the Church will be a credible and joyful witness of Christ.

This year is a part of the New Evangelization and will set in motion great things to come.  Let us pray for all that Christ has for us this year and for His Church so that He may be glorified now and forever!


I came across the blog Reverend Know-It-All and found a very interesting post about his thoughts on the current state of Religious Education and Catholic Education.  He shared about how we is going to start over and do something completely different.  

I’d be very interested to hear what you think about his thoughts?  Check out the post and please share with me your thoughts about the following questions:

  • Do you think our current system of once a week religious education is unfruitful?  On a scale of 1 to 5 (1=great and 5=completely unsuccessful/fruitful) – where is the state of the average religious education program?

  • What do you think about his comments regarding Sacramental Preparation?

  • Where do the parents fit in?

  • What do you think about this comment he made: “In this country, we can’t manage a religious life because we are up against team sports.”?

  • What would you propose as solutions to our current challenges in Religious Education?

  • Are there any unique or interesting religious education models that you know about?


Are You Intriguing?

Recently I watched a youtube recording of Matthew Kelly’s talk from the L.A. Congress 2012.  His talk was around an hour and in part of it he spoke about how Protestant faiths do a much better job of intriguing people or as I would say – drawing people in to “want more” (more of God) than Catholics do.  Matthew Kelly went on to ask “as Catholics do we intrigue anyone by our faith”?  In order to draw others into the Faith they have to see us live, love and work differently than what they see in the people around them.  Does our Catholic Faith and our life of holiness contribute significantly to making us “look different” in the way we live each day?  Do others experience the love of Christ in our daily actions?  And do we work in a different way than others – not that we have to work longer but do we work harder (not just half-hearted), do we work without complaining?  The more we do this the more we as Catholics will be intriguing to a world hungry for God.

2 questions

1) What are characteristics of an authentic witness of Christian life (these characteristics are what the world finds “intriguing”)?

2) As catechists, how do you empower your students to be “intriguing” or how to you help your students witness their faith?


Upcoming Symposium on the New Evangelization

Recently, the Vatican News Agency reported that the symposium on the New Evangelization will address “the necessity to revisit” those areas of the world “that have been evangelized maybe for 1000 years or 500 years and where the faith was once very strong” but where “now people are rather cold in the faith.”

It will also stress the need for this “new freshness” and “new ardor” to be communicated using new technology.

Cardinal Arinze believes that life in the Western world has “many other offers to the human person” which are “attracting” or even “distracting” people away from Christianity so that “the message of Christ can sometimes be forgotten, given a second place, put as a footnote.”

Eye Opening Quote:

“So someone has to come who has the enthusiasm of an evangelizer, who has the convincing power of a witness who lives with conviction what that witness is preaching” and who is also “ready to use modern methods to contact people.”

What Is Needed?

Three things Cardinal Arinze says are needed: 1) Enthusiasm 2) the convincing power of a witness and 3) one who will use modern methods to engage others and lead them closer to Christ and His Church.

As a catechist and as a lay member of the Body of Christ, I am called, you are called and the faithful are called to have these three qualities in order to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those they encounter in their everyday lives.

Many are confused about why it has to be “new” regarding evangelization.  It goes without saying that the Church as always evangelized and exists in order to evangelize.  However, what is need today is a “new ardor”, “new expressions” and “new methods” of proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ who is “the same yesterday, and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

Fleshing It Out

How have you “fleshed out” this new “ardor, expression and methods” of the New Evangelization?  I would be grateful if you took a moment and left a comment.


In previous posts I’ve shared about how we have a summer program where kids in 1st, 3rd – 6th grade attend for two weeks in July and therefore not attend during the year.  However they are required to attend 4 enrichment sessions during the year.  We recently had our 3rd enrichment session and since Lent had just begun we focused on Lent.  We are always trying to find creative ways to present an aspect of our Faith to this large group of about 200 kids and parents.  Here is what we did:

~ We created a game show called the “40 day Lenten Challenge” where three 6th graders were contestants for the 40 day lenten challenge show.  I’ve attached the Lenten Enrichment Skit for you to check out and get the gist of what they did.

~ The contestants came out 3 times.  After the first time we gave parents and kids a few questions to answer (listed in script).

~ Then I had kids come up and share what they came up with at their tables.

~ The contestants came out again (see script).

~ Then we showed a video called “21st time” to show how we need to look beyond ourselves this Lent.

~ Next we had kids talk with their parents on various ways they could practice Lent this year.  We gave them a sheet of paper that said what can I “cut out” and what can I “do for Jesus” this Lent.  Some kids came up and shared their answers.

~ The contestants came out one final time where they were not trying to compete but came to realize that they could help each other grow and that we are all winners.

~ We closed with a slide show video of Jesus in the dessert and how He did this because He cares for us so much.

We felt this was a great way to get students and parents focused on Lent.  I call this kind of programming one way to implement the New Evangelization because we are bringing parents and kids together to grow in their faith in a fresh and creative way.

What do you do in your Religious Education Program that aims to make the New Evangelization concrete?