Several months ago, Pope Benedict XVI declared a “Year of Faith” which will begin on October 11, 2012, the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council and conclude November 24, 2013—the Solemnity of Christ the King.
To build up our beautiful Catholic faith in each one of us and as a community, and to continue to live the spirit and inspiration of the great Vatican Council, our Holy Father is calling the entire Church to the promotion of a New Evangelization. In launching this program of New Evangelization, the Pope stated that “The mission of the Church, like Christ, is essentially to speak of God, to commemorate His sovereignty, reminding everyone, especially Christians, who have lost their identity, of God’s right over what belongs to Him, which is our lives.” This New Evangelizations aims to revivify Catholicism, in traditionally Christian countries, which have been particularly affected by secularization—the transformation of society from close identification with religious values and institutions to non-religious values and secular institutions.
Pope Benedict reminds us that the upcoming Year of Faith seeks to awaken humanity at a critical moment of history, as we see in vast areas of the earth that the faith risks being extinct, like a flame without fuel. Our Holy Father stated, “We are facing a profound crisis of faith, a loss of a religious sense, which represents one of the greatest challenges for the Church today.”
To bring about this renewal of faith, which must be a priority for the entire Church, our Holy Father is asking all faith leaders, especially Bishops, priests, women religious, deacons, all pastoral leaders, to be involved in a New Evangelization led by the Holy Spirit, who is the true source and power of evangelization in the Church. The Year of Faith and New Evangelization coincides with the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and the 20th promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic.
To help all of us in the USA to be more in touch with the great power and force of the Holy Spirit, the United States Catholic Bishops have approved a document on the New Evangelization entitled, “Disciples Called to Witness.” The Committee on Evangelization of the U.S. Bishops has developed this document, the New Evangelization, which provides an overview of the theological foundations of the New Evangelization, and stresses the importance of personal conversion and offers ideas on how to create a “culture of witness.” The document is intended to be a foundational resource to assist diocesan and parish evangelizations, which brings us into a closer, intimate union of love with the One who is at the center of our faith life, Jesus Christ. The New Evangelization is an opportunity to re-propose the Catholic faith, and to stress the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ even to those who may have heard the Gospel proclaimed before and have lost the living sense of faith.
Living and participating in the New Evangelization, will help people to be re-engaged in a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, to be more deeply committed to the Church, and its mission of service in the world. Specifically, the New Evangelization in light of the major goals of the Church in America will a) deepen knowledge of faith and increase sacramental practice; b) strengthen Christian witness for the life and dignity of the human person; c) affirm and protect religious liberty; and d) protect and support marriage and family life.
As we celebrate the Year of Faith, the New Evangelization, and the 50th anniversary of Vatican II, I have asked the Sisters who lead our Religious Education and Formation program, along with the Chairman of the Liturgy Commission, and the Director of our Retreat Center, to put together a focus group with membership from the three Deaneries, spelling out how we can draw new inspiration and pastoral approaches from the statement of our Holy Father on the Year of Faith, and the Bishops document, “Disciples called to be Witness,” for the number one ministry of the Diocese—Marriage and Family Life—the number one pastoral principle being respect for all of human life, especially the unborn. So, we are not establishing a new program at this time for the Diocese, but rather using the spirit and pastoral approaches of the Year of Faith, the New Evangelization and the 50th anniversary of Vatican II to strengthen the good ministries of our Diocese in which all need to be involved. The focus group will pass on to the Bishop and the Presbyteral Council these pastoral approaches, so that we will all be working together on the same goal.
In the Year of Faith, I ask that the inspiration and direction that comes from the focus group be shared with all of our priests, deacons, diocesan and parish staffs, and invite all the people of our Diocese to use these resources as a way of being renewed in our beautiful Catholic faith, with Christ at the center, and inspired with the love and fire of the Holy Spirit. The model of our faith response should be the humble and open spirit of our Blessed Mother, who surrendered herself totally to God’s will so that the word of God would take flesh in her womb – “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”