The Year of Faith is being celebrated around the world with a focus on deepening the Faith, living out the Gospels, catechesis and evangelization. Dioceses and parishes are doing their part with speaker series, lunches with discussion and sharing, regional pilgrimages, prayerful events, days of community service and more.
All of those events and programs give people opportunities to learn about their faith and to share their faith in new ways. That’s the common denominator. Other dioceses and parishes planned more extensive programs, further developed what they already had, or came up with ideas unique to their diocese. For instance, in researching for In Focus (Pages 11-14), I learned that in the Diocese of Honolulu, there’s a pastoral letter to surfers and the Year of Faith logo was altered to reflect the Hawaiian heritage. In the Diocese of Juneau, Alaska, Bishop Edward J. Burns makes his pastoral visits by boat or floating plane.
Several dioceses developed websites for faith testimonials. The Diocese of Cleveland has videos featuring people of all ages telling what their faith means to them. The Diocese of Fargo, N.D., posted written statements, “Our Stories of Faith,” of sometimes astonishing journeys.
Doran Chandler writes about being born into an alcoholic family, losing his mother to cancer when he was 13, and losing his faith. At 16, he and his girlfriend Liz got married when she became pregnant, then he began drinking. He later found sobriety, but lingered in a spiritual desert for 20 years. His wife, Liz, writes about her own weak faith and the near-disintegration of their marriage. An encounter with the Holy Spirit at a Cursillo retreat experience changed their lives.
“Jesus and I revisited a lot of those old wounds,” Doran writes. “I have shed tears and received a lot of forgiveness and healing.”
Nathan Sather discovered the roots of Catholicism while listening to the Bible on CD. He then turned to Catholic talk radio to learn more.
“I was shocked. And hooked,” he wrote about realizing “how biblical the Catholic faith was.”
Anna Kneir, who credits her parents with giving her a strong vision of the Catholic faith, is pursuing a master’s degree in theological studies.
Another testimonial relates the conversion of the entire Bethlehem Community, which was founded as a Discipleship House in the charismatic and evangelical movement in the 1980s. By 1991, members felt drawn to the Catholic Church and were eventually invited to relocate to a vacant convent and school in the Diocese of Fargo.
“The thought that it was God who brought us here, cutting a path before us, continues to give us a profound peace,” said member Lydia Reynolds.
While each story is different, the people telling them all experienced the richness of God’s presence in their lives.
In this Year of Faith, they answered Pope Benedict XVI’s call to evangelization by sharing the trials and triumphs of their journeys.
Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania.