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The School of Evangelization….

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Be Part of the New Evangelization - Bishop DiMarzio

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

On Sept. 16, the Church in the United States celebrates Catechetical Sunday, an annual event which reminds us of the responsibility of the Church to teach and hand on the faith. This year’s theme is “Catechists and Teachers as Agents of the New Evangelization.”

As I have mentioned in numerous pastoral letters, the agents of the New Evangelization are no longer to solely be the priests and religious. Rather, it is the laity themselves who must help spread the Good News. The evangelization of the past depended so much on clerical and religious presence. That presence can never be eliminated. However, it must be augmented in the New Evangelization by the witness and labor of the laity.

Catechists are clearly those who hear the Word of God and are inspired to share it with others. A catechist is both a teacher and a learner who participates in the Living and Leading by Faith Catechist Formation Program (www.bqfaithformation.org). In our diocese, over 5,000 catechists teach in our Catholic schools, academies and parish programs of faith formation. What a wonderful way to volunteer and give of yourself!

The faith formation programs in Brooklyn and Queens reveal some amazing statistics. Besides the 32,000 students in Catholic schools and academies from kindergarten through eighth grade, there are over 1,800 Catholic school and academy catechists. In addition, there are over 192 parish programs of faith formation offered in various languages serving over 38,000 young people. There 650 catechetical leaders (directors of faith formation, coordinators of religious education, coordinators of adult faith formation and coordinators of young adult faith formation, coordinators of youth ministry, coordinators of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and RCIA adapted for children, lay leaders of marriage ministry, and many more leaders), who are giving tremendous witness and service to the Church by their efforts. Over 3,200 men and women serve as parish catechists in the parish faith formation programs for grades kindergarten to grade eight alone. Another 1,500 or more serve as catechists in various other parish programs such as adult faith formation, youth ministry programs, etc.

The National Directory for Catechesis tells us that “The single most critical factor in an effective parish catechetical program is the leadership of a professionally trained catechetical leader.”

Since 2011, 19 parishes have received grants to hire a new director of faith formation or to increase the position from part-time to full-time. Approximately $650,000 was granted from the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust Religious Education Grants in year one (2011-2012), and $750,000 was granted in year two (2012-2013). Progress reports from parishes who receive the grants indicate that programs have been better organized and better attended.

This year in the state of New York, we will inaugurate a pastoral letter signed by all of the bishops of New York titled “The Catechetical Leader in the Third Millennium.” This effort between the bishops and catechetical leaders will culminate in a ceremony of inauguration at the Immaculate Conception Center, Douglaston, on Thursday, Sept. 27. This will remind us that our catechetical responsibilities go deep into the life of faith in the entire state.

We cannot forget, however, that the catechist is in partnership with the parents of our children. As our faith teaches us, the parents are the first and the best educators of the child and the faith. This is announced at the Rite of Baptism itself and through the numerous other teachings of the Church that have emphasized the primary role and responsibility of parents as educators of their children.

The Church, through its ministers and catechists, assists parents in their responsibility, and we can never take this away from them. It is essential that we form the parents also to take this responsibility seriously and to fulfill that responsibility. Our parish programs of faith formation are aimed at providing education and formation in the faith to the entire family, not only to the child. Parents are encouraged to become actively involved with the formation of their children in the faith through their pre-sacramental programs and other programs that adult education offers for the family. Our adult faith formation programs also offer online parent resources provided by our textbook companies as well as parish programs to assist the parents in leading them to better understand their responsibilities.

It is essential that parishes and families collaborate together. This is fulfilling of the mandate of the Lord to go out and make disciples.

As the old adage goes, “Charity begins at home,” and so does evangelization. We must use our resources carefully so that the New Evangelization will take root and flower in our own diocese here in Brooklyn and Queens. Each family is asked to participate in the faith formation programs sponsored by parishes. This is a priority in our diocese to increase participation in the programs of faith formation for all ages. We aim at life-long faith formation as a goal.

Allow me to take this opportunity to extend my sincere thanks to Sister Angela Gannon, C.S.J., secretary for Catholic Education and Formation; Ted Musco, director of the Office of Faith Formation; Sister Alice Michael, S.U.S.C., coordinator, RCIA and Children’s Faith Formation; and the entire staff who so ably assist me in this most important ministry here in Brooklyn and Queens. Through their dedication and tireless work, the Church is able to teach and hand on the faith, as we are reminded again by this year’s Catechetical Sunday theme, “Catechists and Teachers as Agents of the New Evangelization.”

The Year of Faith gives us an opportunity to put out into the deep waters of the New Evangelization, especially through the catechetical efforts of the Diocese of Brooklyn. Join me as you pray, especially this Sunday, that our catechists and all of those responsible for the catechesis of our youth especially will be successful in fulfilling their responsibilities. 

2012 Catechetical Leaders Convocation Photos