by Marie Elena Giossi
Families and young people who are not being catechized in Brooklyn and Queens are a prime concern for Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, and he expressed that to clergy, religious and catechists as they gathered to inaugurate the diocesan School of Evangelization on Thursday evening, Sept. 18.
More than 200 people involved in diocesan faith formation gathered for a Mass of the Holy Spirit at Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians Church, Woodside, followed by a meal and presentation by Dr. Hosffman Ospino in the parish hall.
Besides inaugurating the new entity, the Mass “set the stage for this year’s evangelization initiative, the theme of which is ‘Encountering Christ Everyday,’” said Theodore Musco, executive director of the School of Evangelization and director of the Office of Faith Formation.
Formed earlier this year, the School of Evangelization encompasses the diocesan departments of Faith Formation and the Pastoral Institute, as well as the Catholic Youth Organization. The school offers resources and programs for the people of Brooklyn and Queens who seek to meet or grow in deeper relationship with Christ Jesus at all ages and stages.
“Every part of the body is necessary,” the bishop told Massgoers, drawing on the evening’s passage from First Corinthians. “Everybody involved in the work of evangelization – no matter who they are or what they do, if they do it in the name of Jesus Christ – is an evangelizer.”
Special Need: Reaching Families
He spoke of the special need in the diocese to reach out to families, especially those that are wounded, broken or from a different land
“What has been brought to our attention over the last few years is that we’re missing a lot of people. We estimate perhaps 80,000 young people who have been baptized are not being catechized in any one of our programs. … We just can’t wait for these families to bring these children to us. We need to truly put out into the deep. We need to evangelize.”
The School of Evangelization, the bishop noted, offers “a comprehensive program for the whole family. … We try to catechize the whole family. That’s the best thing we can do for adults and children.”
He encouraged attendees to review the School of Evangelization’s extensive course catalogue and consider taking the classes being offered in local parishes or select from a range of online opportunities.
Catechists enjoyed the sense of community evoked by eating together and participating in the presentation by Dr. Ospino, assistant professor of theology and religious education at Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Dr. Ospino invited attendees to think about and share with their tablemates what it means to encounter Christ in everyday life – from a homeless person to a coworker – and on the most basic level in a parent, spouse or child.
Seeing and hearing God in all of these people, he said, “requires intentionality.”
He cautioned catechists not to reduce God to an idea or doctrine or “take for granted” that they’re in relationship with God because then it becomes easy to invest less time and effort in that relationship and start to slip away.
He suggested the examples of Francis of Assisi, Jean Vanier and Ignatius of Loyola, who found the divine in the people and world around them.
Dr. Ospino proposed that those present should look for God in both the extraordinary and ordinary – the sacraments, the Church, in personal relationship and through others, particularly those to and with whom they minister.
He also spoke about who the other might be in the Brooklyn Diocese – namely, the immigrant, the person who might be discriminated against because of ethnicity, native language, culture or gender.
Those sentiments hit home for Elizabeth Mathew, pastoral minister at St. Thomas Aquinas, Flatlands.
Born in India, Mathew is sensitive to the needs of her “multicultural church family,” which includes newer Filipino, West Indian and Jamaican members alongside parishioners of European descent. She is even more attentive to their needs now that she has become parish religious education director.
She notices how children enter church with their parents – some dressed formally because church is a special occasion and others who don’t know why there is holy water at the church entrance or how to make the Sign of the Cross. She is planning initiatives to bring both youngsters and their parents more fully into parish life.
“We have to reach them where they are rather than expect them to meet us where we are,” she said. “That is the responsibility of the parish community and also the diocese.”
As a diocesan instructor in faith formation, she hopes people will take advantage of the School of Evangelization and share what they learn so every member of every parish has the “tools to evangelize to the whole community.”
Click here learn more about the School of Evangelization.