By Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas
One in a series
Friday, Oct. 19, 2012
VATICAN CITY — Bishop Shlemon Warduni, Chaldean auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, Iraq, reflected on today’s reading at our morning prayer. I came to know Bishop Warduni when I visited Baghdad recently on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Bishop Warduni speaks with passion and lives with courage in a land torn by violence. I remember well his impassioned plea to me that the United States help in the recovery of a land that suffers from the ravages of war and has become racked by divisions.
Bishop Warduni in today’s meditation called the synod to work together to awaken faith. He challenged us to be courageous in living our faith and announcing the Good News. He spoke not just with words but the witness of his life.
Today we heard reports from the small groups that met all day yesterday. Each group reporter had 10 minutes to summarize their group’s deliberations, which are meant to help the synod fathers formulate propositions for presentation to the Holy Father. Among the points identified in these wide-ranging discussions are the following:
-There is a need to clarify the meaning of the new evangelization. Is it only reaching out to those active in the church seeking a deepening of their faith? Does it reflect concern for those who have not yet known the Lord? Is the new evangelization only for those countries long steeped in the faith? Wouldn’t it be better to speak of renewal evangelization? There are three receivers of the new evangelization: those who are believers and want to deepen their relationship with Christ and his church, those who have grown distant from the church, and those who have not met Christ.
-There are many who know the faith but are not participating in the life of the church. They are at best Sunday observers.
-New evangelization seeks to bring Sunday Catholics to be disciples.
-New evangelization is a new gesture carried out by a humble church, a church that needs to ask forgiveness for ways the church has harmed people, a church that needs to seek forgiveness.
-What is new in evangelization? What is the novelty? It has been expressed as a call for new ardor, new methods, new expressions, preaching the Word in a new culture.
-We need to look at three moments in the process of conversion: that of proclamation, of catechesis, and of ongoing formation.
-Need to take into consideration the diverse circumstances of nations around the world as we strive to realize a new evangelization. Varied cultures require varied approaches.
-Aparecida was a significant moment for the church in the Americas emphasizing the Christian as a missionary disciple.
-Evangelization is not just a human work but Christ is the one who draws people to himself.
-Evangelization should lead to an encounter with Jesus Christ. We find our fullness in meeting Christ. There is a need to fall in love with Jesus Christ and his spouse the church. We need to contemplate the face of Christ.
-There is a need for more emphasis on the action of the Holy Spirit to guide and energize the church. We need to be led by the Holy Spirit.
-Sanctity is the goal of evangelization. It is a call to holiness.
-The way of beauty leads to God.
-The Word of God is critical to evangelization. The beauty of the Gospel needs to be highlighted. Make use of Lectio Divina.
-Awaken the true questions in people’s hearts leading them to the Gospel. There is a desire for God in every creature.
-The need to dialogue with the world, science and politics. Engage a world that has a thirst for justice and meaning. The world is globalized and is short of hope with a crisis of uncertainty.
-We live in a world marked by secularization, but a great opportunity for the church to reach out to a world that has experienced progress in technology and science but needs to be introduced to mystery.
-Faith is the hope of the world.
-There is a need to awaken zeal and proclaim Christ with confidence.
-The parish is the first place where the Word can be announced. There is a need for parish renewal.
-Clarify the varied types of small faith communities in different parts of the world.
-There is a need to break down our large communities into small communities where people can meet with God.
-Every baptized person needs to be an agent of evangelization.
-The bishop and priests play a role in empowering the agents of the new evangelization and are agents themselves.
-Importance of the training of priests and seminarians especially in their liturgical role and in preaching the Word.
-The laity are most important for evangelization finding their proper role in the world. There is a need to animate them more.
-The possibility of having a stable office of catechist and admitting women to the ministry of reader, although some felt this would not be a good direction.
-The importance of ecumenical dialogue was emphasized. We need to work to overcome our divisions. There needs to be dialogue and announcement.
-Need to oppose the threats to religious liberty, our first freedom.
-Need to give attention and vigilance to the growth of Islam. It is possible to give Christian witness even in Islamic communities. Concern was expressed about the plight of Christians in predominantly Islamic societies.
-The importance of the Catechism of the Catholic Church needs emphasis. YouCat and the compendium can be very helpful in evangelization.
-Documents of Vatican II can be a great source of materials for evangelization.
-Importance of the creed to be known and memorized.
-The importance of the bishop as shepherd within and fisherman ad extra.
-The role of the pastor plays an important role in evangelization.
-The family is the primary place where the faith is transmitted.
-Importance of grandparents in transmitting the faith.
-Need to listen to the youth proclaiming the beauty of faith. Peer support is important in evangelizing the young.
-There is a need for a lifelong accompaniment with all as Jesus walked with his disciples. There needs to be lifelong catechesis.
-The new evangelization is not only a program but a commitment to live our faith more fully.
-Need to have Catholics pray for a new Pentecost.
-The importance of the sacrament of penance needs emphasis. All including bishops have to turn from sin and receive God’s forgiveness.
-There is a need to attend to the specific needs of those with hearing disabilities and other disabilities.
-Need to draw upon the movements to foster a new evangelization but they must be connected to the bishop and the parish.
-Call to serve the poor is the best source to make credible the call for the new evangelization.
-Need to highlight what the church is doing in service of others all around the world.
-Need to refocus on the Sunday liturgy more, enhancing music, preaching, and calling people to participate regularly. Get the faithful more involved in the preparation of liturgies.
-Pilgrimages can lead people to a deepening of faith,
There was a great deal of congruence between the main points made by the various language groups. However the comments remain quite abstract and will need work to get to helpful proposals. This is now the important work of the small groups.
Today’s sessions ended with the loudest and most prolonged applause from the synod floor yet, when a young man who catechizes young people in Italy, Tommasso Spinelli, addressed us as he said, “I want as a young layman to address the priests as the priests in this synod have addressed the laity.” He urged priests to be proud of their priesthood, to know they matter. Young people look to them as those who can lead the young into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. Priests should be attentive to their celebration of the liturgy and not to be hesitant to challenge young people who want to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. Priests must be the guides.
The passion and sincerity of his words touched the hearts of the synod fathers. It gave a hint of how the young can be the source of the new evangelization. They can inspire and encourage their peers and even their elders, as Tommasso did with the bishops, on the importance and deepening of faith.
I have seen this in the Diocese of Tucson, where a youth program called Arco Iris (The Rainbow, which was begun in the Archdiocese of Hermosillo, Mexico) finds young people evangelizing their parents. After they attend a retreat, the young people’s hold a retreat for their parents. They begin to wonder, “What is it that is happening to our son or daughter?” They become curious. They begin to ask questions and they begin to be involved in the church and to know more about the church. Clearly the young can play a critical role in the new evangelization.
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Bishop Kicanas, of Tucson, Ariz., is chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services and is a former vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Also a former chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Communications Committee, he is blogging from the world Synod of Bishops this month by special arrangement with Catholic News Service. He was elected an alternate delegate to the synod by the U.S. bishops and became a full delegate when Cardinal Francis E. George was unable to attend.