A Year of Living Faithfully
What is your diocese or parish doing for the Year of Faith?
By Robyn Lee
“The ‘door of faith’ is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into His Church,” wrote Pope Benedict XVI in his apostolic letter, Porta Fidei (Door of Faith), which announced the Year of Faith.
The Year of Faith is a call for all faithful to encounter the person of Jesus and rediscover the beauty and richness of our Catholic faith. The year starts next month, on October 11, and ends on the feast of Christ the King, November 24, 2013.
Since the Year of Faith coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Pope asked for a time for study and reflection on these two important resources.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith compiled a note of recommendations to help all levels of the Church celebrate the Year of Faith.
The Archdiocese of Denver, under new Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, has already started its plans for the Year of Faith. James Cavanagh, co-chair of the Year of Faith Committee, said the effort started on August 25 with a Catechetical Congress, titled “Catechists and Teachers as Agents of the New Evangelization.” Mary Beth Bonacci offered the opening keynote.
The theme of the Congress is based on Paul VI’s statement in Evangelii Nuntiandi, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”
“Catechists have to be more than warm bodies to transmit elements of the faith, they have to be evangelists,” says Cavanagh. “John the Baptist pointed his disciples to Christ and they stayed with him the rest of the day. What we don’t know is what they talked about, but first they were attracted to Christ. Once they entered into that relationship, Christ was able to teach them. It is the same idea with catechists. They need to be witnesses of faith so the children will fall in love with them and then fall in love with Christ. Once they fall in love with Christ they are eager to learn.”
The Archdiocese of Denver will also celebrate the beginning of the Year of Faith with a Mass on October 13, followed by a day-long symposium on the Catechism. Cavanagh says the symposium will be very practical, focusing on the main section of the Catechism. “Train the trainers. That is key. We want to give people a good, solid introduction to the Catechism so they can start using it fruitfully right away.” The plan is for catechists to ignite interest in parishioners who will help spread enthusiasm for the Year of Faith.
Cavanagh further explains that many Church documents point to parents as the primary teachers of their children. The Denver Archdiocese plans to provide resources for parents so they feel more confident talking with their children about what they believe and why.
Cavanagh encourages parents to start with small devotions and prayers with their children, and display statues or religious art that communicates the faith in non-verbal ways.
The Diocese of Nashville has a unique connection with the Year of Faith. Bishop David Choby explains that this year is “especially appropriate and meaningful because when the Church universal will be celebrating the Year of Faith our diocese will be celebrating our 175th anniversary.”
The diocese will take advantage of this connection by combining the celebrations. “The Year of Faith presents a wonderful opportunity to reflect what has been contributed to our lives as God’s people and the way in which the gift of faith has formed our lives. We will celebrate that, which is mindful of the history of our diocese,” says Bishop Choby.
In Catholic schools they will have a special program to help children appreciate the historical foundation of Catholicism. “In the beginning days, the faith was brought to scattered communities of Catholics living in rural Tennessee,” explained Bishop Choby. “This area was very different from the dioceses along the East Coast. The priests came on horseback and encountered small communities of Catholic families. They would stop and offer whatever they could in lessons about the faith.”
Bishop Choby explained that individual parishes will also have the opportunity to share in the Year of Faith. “All parishes will have some role to play and will make use of the opportunity to celebrate the Year of Faith. Many of the celebrations within the parishes will be marked by the history of the life of faith and the ways in which — through prayers and devotions — the life of faith is strengthened.”
Additionally, they are planning five study days for priests beginning in September and continuing through May. The theme of the study days is the Year of Faith and the New Evangelization. The first speaker is Father James Wehner, Rector of Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans.
Bishop Choby explained that the November meeting will center upon the history of the faith in the diocese of Nashville.
“As we welcome Pope Benedict’s invitation to join the universal Church and celebrate this special year in the Church’s life, we will be doing that in a spirit of gratitude in light of our own history with a deeper awareness of the Catholic history in middle Tennessee.”
Parish Focus in Austin
The Diocese of Austin (Texas) will be celebrating the Year of Faith by emphasizing parish life. The goal is to help parishioners live the faith more effectively, so that others may be attracted to the Catholic faith. “The individual person is the one who has to go and live their Catholic faith,” says Charlene O’Connell, chairperson of the Year of Faith Committee for the Austin Diocese. “Go forth in peace. How are we going to go out and live our faith? That will be our big focus.”
The diocese has already started sending regular communications to parishes alerting them of the upcoming Year of Faith. “Currently we are sending “what-is-this” and “what-does-it-mean” communications, not yet what you can do. We are preparing the soil and planting in October,” says O’Connell.
The regular Austin Diocesan “E-pistle” will give small suggestions to incorporate the Year of Faith into parish life. “We have a lot of young people on the committee. They are helping us with the electronic angle for the Year of Faith communications. We are creating a QR code for our diocesan website and we will put it in every possible publication we can, so that every population that knows how to use it can scan the code and go right to the diocese’s Year of Faith website. There we give ideas, hints and reflections for people to do. We are providing lots of resources to study the documents and the Catechism.”
The study day planned for the Diocese of Austin will be replicated in three areas since the diocese is so spread out geographically. Bishop Joe S. Vásquez will speak at all three places. O’Connell explained that the day will include breakout sessions based on the themes from the Pope’s letter including, “Sharing Faith in the Family and Eucharistic Devotion.”
“The workshop presentations are geared to help people so that the Year of Faith doesn’t die, but the work and emphasis continues after November 2013,” she explained.
How is your diocese, parish and family planning to observe the Year of Faith? Write your comments below!
Homepage Photo: CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic