Many dioceses are scheduling lectures, discussion forums and youth events for the Year of Faith.
Others are promoting service days, local pilgrimages and a return to meatless Fridays.
All are doing something to promote the deepening of faith, a renewed conversion and a New Evangelization. Here are some of their stories.
Diocese of Juneau, Alaska
When Bishop Edward J. Burns makes pastoral visits during the Year of Faith, he’ll travel by boat or plane to the 10 parishes and five missions scattered in 53,000 square miles of the Diocese of Juneau, Alaska. By geographic size, it’s one of the largest dioceses in the United States, but with only 10,000 Catholics (6,500 active), it has the smallest population.
His travels are greatly affected by the weather and the long nights of winter, and he can get stranded for days.
|Bishop Edward J. Burns uses a bush plane to make pastoral visits. Courtesy of Bishop Burns
“As we approach our villages (by air), the people hear the plane arriving and start to gather for Mass,” he said. “The plane lands on the water, and after tying up at the dock, I walk to our chapel. The plane actually becomes the ‘church bells’ that call the people to Mass. It’s a great experience.”
Bishop Burns stays several days in each village to meet with the laity and parish leaders, and with the community so that the secular venue can learn about the Church. He challenges the faithful to share their faith in the workplace, the community and with their families.
A diocesan-wide census this year will identify Catholics and reach those who consider themselves Catholic but seldom attend Mass.
Door-to-door visits, phone interviews and mailings will invite inactive Catholics to return and will attempt to reach non-believers.
In the One Shepherd/One Voice program, all priests will preach similar homilies on particular Sundays and those attending will receive related materials to generate parish discussions.
“It reinforces for us as ordained ministers that we are to speak in persona Christi, the Good Shepherd, recognizing that his sheep hear his voice,” Bishop Burns said. “It is the message of Jesus Christ that we are called to proclaim. When we do it in unison, boldly and in concert with the teachings of the Church, it has a profound effect.”
|Bishop Burns makes a pastoral visit. Courtesy of Bishop Burns
The diocese has nine priests. One serves four parishes and another serves the northern missions. Congregations range from 3,500 members at St. Paul the Apostle in Juneau, and fewer than 10 each in the villages of Tenakee Springs and Pelican.
Bishop Burns, who came to the diocese in 2009, established conference calls for 8 a.m. Mondays so the priests could catch up on their ministries and share morning prayers, no matter where they may be. They’ve called from abroad and other states, and one joined in while on a kayaking and camping trip.
Bishop Burns served many positions nationally and in his home Diocese of Pittsburgh, Pa. Many were in vocations, including as executive director of Vocations and Priestly Formation for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In this Year of Faith, he’s praying for the Lord to send men who can accept the challenges of priesthood in Southeast Alaska.
“We are in need of good men who desire to serve the Lord as priests but who also possess a contemplative spirit, since there are many areas and times of solitude and quiet,” he said. “They should possess a missionary spirit because 60 percent of Southeast Alaska is unchurched and the need for the New Evangelization is imperative.”
Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis began strategic planning for an evangelization and catechesis initiative in 2009 and 2010 to assure viability and sustainability for their churches in the future.
It was the goal of Archbishop John C. Nienstedt, STD, to strengthen and refocus the archdiocese’s resources “so that we could more effectively begin to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to the culture around us.”
A year after they started developing the program, Pope Benedict XVI announced the impending Year of Faith.
“It’s serendipity or providential, or whatever you want to call it, but the timing was right,” said Sarah Mealey, director of communications.
Vicar General Father Peter Laird and the executive committee ensured that all the elements were in place to launch the archdiocese’s online program (rediscover-faith.org) in conjunction with the Year of Faith.
In Archbishop Nienstedt’s pastoral letter in September, he urged the faithful to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith.
“Even though this relationship with Jesus is personal, it is never meant to be private,” he wrote. “Living our faith in Jesus means not only surrendering our lives personally to his love, but choosing to stand as brothers and sisters with those who believe in the Lord and witness to that love.”
Rediscover has more than 400 articles and short videos on faith formation. Since it went public in late 2012, there have been about 12,000 visitors to the site.
Topics cover meaning, belonging, prayer, strength, freedom and peace. There are questions like, “Why do we believe in God?” and “Where does this longing to know God come from?”
“We started with the deepest longings of the human heart to connect with the people who are not necessarily in the frame of mind to go to a level of detail,” Mealey said. “They are seeing portal words like meaning, belonging and strength because they are the gate to unfolding the beautiful truths of the Church. We start with those things that are going to resonate with everyone because they are written on the human heart by God.”
Other links cover Church teachings and what it means to belong to the Church founded by Jesus Christ. There are excerpts from papal documents, information from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and excerpts from renowned Catholic writers. Speaker Matthew Kelly is in a number of videos.
“Our focus is on Catholics who are passively engaged, who tend to be between 30 to 35,” Mealey said. “That’s when people start to really think about the big questions of life. They are thinking about their own eternity and their own mortality, and their own questions about God and the meaning or purpose of their lives.”
Apps for iPhone, iPad and Android are available at Rediscoverapp.com.
“I think that using technologies that are available to us is an absolute must, and it’s particularly great for evangelization,” she said. “We have to bring light into the places of darkness and we have to be where the people are so that we can spread the Good News. You think of the history of Christian discipleship going back to Jesus Christ, and they had their sandals and they had their voices, and that’s what they used.”
Rediscover will continue beyond the Year of Faith.
Cleveland: Faith and Life: A Living Witness
It was easier than Robert Tayek thought to find testimonials for the “Faith and Life: A Living Witness” series in the Diocese of Cleveland.
“Everyone has been more than willing to participate,” he said. “They are real faithful people who really are wrapped up in their faith.”
Tayek, director of media and public relations, worked with evangelization director Terri Baldwin to initiate the project that so far includes more than a dozen videos.
“Bishop Richard Lennon asked us to jump in with both feet for the Year of Faith, and we thought that getting some online testimonials from local Catholics might be a way to let people understand what the Faith is about and how people use their faith in their lives,” he said.
Everyone was asked: What does your Catholic faith mean to you? How do you try to employ your faith in everyday life? Has God “been there” for you at some time in your life?
There’s a cross section of participants, from high school students to retired folks. One is Tom Hamilton, the voice of the Cleveland Indians on radio.
“He is as well-known as anyone could be in the greater Cleveland area,” Tayek said. “And I was so taken aback by the young lady, Grace, a senior at Magnificat High School, and the depth and her understanding of the faith. It was extraordinary.”
In his pastoral letter on the Year of Faith, Bishop Lennon urged families to pray the Apostles’ Creed together daily.
The creed would “renew our faith and share it with others.”
Tayek praised the testimonials for providing hope that the message of Jesus Christ is still getting through “cultural clutter.”
The complete series can be viewed at dioceseofcleveland.org.
Diocese of Honolulu, Hawaii
Deacon Modesto Cordero calls the islands of Hawaii “rich and truly blessed” in diversity with cultures that are Hawaiian, Filipino, Samoan, Chinese, Vietnamese, Hispanic, Micronesian, Korean, Japanese, military and more. When he suggested a variation of the Year of Faith logo to represent those traditions, Patrick Downs, editor of the Hawaiian Catholic Herald, replaced the Vatican boat with the Hawaiian equivalent — the ocean-going canoe with triangular sails, which the Polynesians used to navigate the wide expanse of the Pacific long before the Europeans.
“The image is based on an ancient stone petroglyph, a native Hawaiian artwork carved into stone,” Downs said. “It is an image that would be familiar to people here. I added the cross to Christianize it and the sun, which is also in the Vatican logo.”
Sub-committee member Bernadette Baraquio suggested adding “Makahiki Kalele,” which means Year of Faith.
“We also are blessed that we have two saints in our islands — St. Damien de Veuster, SS.CC, and St. Marianne Cope, OSF,” Deacon Cordero said. “Both are examples of our faith communities in Hawaii and a great model for our social work in the islands.”
Doors in Diocese of Salt Lake City
Msgr. Colin F. Bircumshaw, vicar general of the Diocese of Salt Lake City, Utah, took a literal approach to Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic letter, Porta Fidei. Translated, it means the “door, gate or portal of faith,” so why not focus on actual doors?
That’s the inspiration behind a collage of doors on more than 60 churches and missions, and the chapel in the pastoral center.
|The Cathedral of Madeleine in Salt Lake City. Courtesy of the Diocese of Salt Lake City
The door of the Cathedral of the Madeleine is in the center, surrounded by images of the most recent churches positioned the closest.
The newest is Our Lady of the Light in Beaver (2008) and the oldest is St. Joseph Church in Ogden (1875).
The collage made a colorful poster, and on the diocesan website, a click on a door links to the parish’s recently updated information.
“It’s a good way to visualize that we are a large diocese encompassing the entire state, and the vicar general thought it would be a good way to show the diversity of our churches in Utah,” said Colleen Gudreau, communications liaison for the diocese.
There are 300,000 Catholics in the diocese, and the numbers are growing through immigration, mostly Hispanic.
“It’s important to be a welcoming community, and having doors is the first sign of coming into a church,” she said. “When you open the door and come in, you see the faith inside the building, but you have to make it through the door first.”
Bishop John Charles Wester in his pastoral letter urged his people to deepen their relationship with Christ during the Year of Faith by focusing on catechesis, the liturgy and acts of charity.
“All of these things together combine to give the Holy Spirit an opportunity to work in us and through us, so we can be open to the Spirit’s action in our lives,” he wrote.
Community service events are scheduled throughout the diocese in the Year of Faith, including food drives and collections of holiday boxes, an Easter egg hunt for children of low-income families, a sale of clay bowls and distribution of backpacks and schools supplies.