By Theodore Musco
Safeguarding the Dignity of Every Human Person is the theme for the annual Catechetical Sunday, which will be celebrated on Sunday, Sept. 20. This Catechetical Sunday will mark the beginning of a week of great joy and celebration as we welcome our Holy Father, Pope Francis, to the U.S. During these next few days of preparation for his visit, it would be good to reflect on the goals of our 2015-2018 diocesan springboard plan for evangelization and renewal, fittingly named The Joy of Encountering Christ: The Families Hope, in place since Holy Family Sunday of 2014.
The six goals that the Diocese of Brooklyn, parishes and individuals are called to achieve are: provide multiple opportunities to encounter Christ; increase full, active and conscious participation in the Mass; attract and support inactive Catholics; increase daily prayer opportunities; enhance participation in parish life/religious education at all levels; and invite and welcome seekers. Each goal calls us to examine our place in the church and our responsibility for seeing to it that we help others experience the joy of encountering Christ.
We were all born into a family. Most of us realize from a very early age that we have each been made in God’s image and likeness. As a result, we have the responsibility to look out for others; the safeguarding of the dignity of every human person remains a chief responsibility that we have as a disciple of Christ. On Catechetical Sunday each year, no matter what the particular theme, we are reminded that the role of every parent is to be the primary teacher of Faith in their family. How one does that can be a challenge. That’s why the Church has always provided ways to assist in this essential task.
Young children, teens and young adults, grow in faith when adults share their joyful encounters with Christ with them. Clearly, everyone has a story to tell. Sharing both good and bad experiences helps to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to life. Christ rejoiced and mourned with those around Him. The Bible tells us of both good and bad times in every family, in every generation. We help share the joy of encountering Christ by telling our stories, and people are evangelized by hearing them. But the sharing of stories isn’t enough. We need good faith formation and education. We safeguard the dignity of every human person by knowing and loving those we encounter each day; we help protect and defend their dignity by accompanying them on their journey as members of the Body of Christ, by teaching and showing by example the joy we have of knowing and loving Christ.
During the Apostolic Journey of Pope Francis to the United States of America next week, be mindful of every occasion that the Holy Father will use to remind us of the need to safeguard the dignity of every human person. Hardly a day goes by that his message doesn’t remind us to care for the poor, the suffering, the elderly, the migrant, or those who are disconnected. Our Baptism calls us to respond as a catechist (one who echoes God’s word) to each of those needs. How are we able to reach out to those tens of thousands of people who have not stayed connected with the Church or those who were never part of the Church? We need to get our strength from the Mass, the sacraments and from our families of faith before we can reach others. We need to be missionary disciples.
The staff of the Diocesan School of Evangelization works diligently to prepare courses, workshops, conferences, events and initiatives to help achieve the goals of our springboard plan, keeping in mind the rich cultural diversity of the people of Brooklyn and Queens. These can be found at our new website: meetmein.church. Please visit the site often and register for the meetings, courses and events using our online registration system.
As we begin this new year, the staff of the Diocesan School of Evangelization looks forward to assisting the people and parishes of Brooklyn and Queens in many different and varied ways through exciting processes and programs such as Living the Eucharist and RENEW’s Arise! More information about these small group opportunities will be available soon.
One of our major evangelization events will happen on Sept. 23, when over 130 pilgrims will travel to Philadelphia for the Eighth World Meeting of Families. Please pray for them.
Join us at Xaverian H.S., Bay Ridge, on Saturday, Oct. 3, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (or for part of the day), for our Diocesan Family Day as we celebrate the Holy Father’s visit locally. Go to meetmein.church to register.
Join me in thanking the over 7,000 lay catechists and catechetical leaders that work alongside the dedicated priests, deacons and women and men in consecrated life in this important work of catechesis and evangelization.
In addition, without dedicated parents, grandparents, siblings, relatives and friends, the work of catechesis and evangelization would greatly suffer. Last, but certainly not least, permit me to say a special word of thanks and prayerful appreciation to Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio; Bishop Raymond Chappetto, vicar general; Bishop James Massa, vicar for evangelization and higher education; the other auxiliary bishops and members of the staff of the Diocesan School of Evangelization for their leadership, dedication to and support of this work of evangelization and formation.
On Catechetical Sunday, may you and every member of your family experience the great joy of encountering Christ, who is the hope of every family. We look forward to safeguarding the dignity of every human person.
Theodore Musco is the executive director of the diocese’s School of Evangelization, and director of the Office of Faith Formation.