May 2015

May 2015
A monthly newsletter to keep you informed.
Dear Friend,

beach_family_trip.jpgThe month of First Holy Communion and Graduation is quickly passing and summer looms ahead. We all need to thank God for the ways we’ve been able to touch the lives of people through the whole gamut of our parish’s ministries, sacramental, faith-formation, community building, and service of others.

Although we want to take a long yawn and think of iced tea sipped on the patio, the need for evangelization continues. Spring and summer sometime give us great possibilities. I hope you can join me on May 27th at 3 PM Eastern for some reflection on the opportunities for outreach that come with Spring.

We’re happy to include Paulist Father Tom Ryan’s essay on the “Spiritual but not religious” theme that people keep throwing at organized religions. He always writes from an ecumenical and interfaith perspective. I have a short essay on “Inviting Seniors,” a continuation of our series on “Becoming an Inviting Church.”

People have started writing us, after much prodding, about evangelization efforts their parishes are undertaking. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have enjoyed reading them. And please send in YOUR stories.

We folks in the Northeast, like people in the Midwest and the Plains, finally can welcome temperatures consistently above 50. May the warmth of this season bring you joy and relaxation.

And may we all celebrate the great feast of Pentecost with hearts filled with the Spirit’s fervor.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Frank

Becoming an Inviting Church

This series presents directions to stimulate the thinking of pastoral leaders, helping them focus on the important ministry of inviting. Parishes may, to a greater or lesser extent, greet and welcome. But few parishes consciously invite-and this at a time when participation in church is falling across all the religious spectrum.

Part 7 – Inviting Seniors

“We cannot even preserve the faith among Catholics in any better way than by advancing it among our non-Catholic brethren. Indeed, simply to preserve the faith it is necessary to extend it.”

Isaac Thomas Hecker, Founder of the Paulist Fathers, July, 1886

Clearly one of the largest blocks of active Catholics in parish life is that composed of seniors. These would be all people born before 1946, the year that designates the start of the Baby Boomer generations. This group would include those born in the early part of the twentieth century, including those who belong to the “greatest generation”-old enough to have fought in, or lived through, World War II.

adultsThis is a group whose participation parishes assume. They are the group, educated well before the Second Vatican Council, where church attendance was very high. (Reception of Holy Communion, though, was never as high as those attending Mass.) This generation mostly grew up in Catholic enclaves, in small towns or in urban districts, attending Catholics schools at a time when Catholic identity meant as much a social identity as a religious one. In Catholic schools, people in this cohort accepted the discipline of thousands of religious sisters and educated in religion through the little blue book called the Baltimore Catechism. Likewise this generation received the ministrations of a swelling number of priests; rectories from that time have rooms for four or five priests. Highways had not yet been built which would cause this Catholic density to spread out, and dilute, in the newly built suburbs.

Webinar Updates

yellow-tulip-field.jpg

May Webinar
Spring Evangelizing Activities
May 27th at 3:00pm EST
Join Fr. Frank DeSiano, CSP as he presents creative and practical ideas for evangelizing during Spring and beyond.
Spiritual but not religious?

By Fr. Tom Ryan, CSP

Tom Ryan EEFor a long time spirituality has been defined as the lived dimension of one’s faith, what faith looks like in everyday values and behaviors. And one’s faith generally referred to one’s religion. Thus the words “spiritual” and “religious” were often used rather interchangeably, as if their meanings were much the same.

With our transition into a new millennium, however, that view of things began to fade among some. The identifying tag being invoked by an increasing number of people-“I’m spiritual but not religious”-made it clear that the overlap between “spiritual” and “religious” could no longer be presumed. What precipitated this development?

No single answer can be given. Not all people who now describe themselves in this way came to where they are now for the same reason. For some, their weariness, disillusionment or anger with a particular religion or church may have led them to reject all established or institutionalized expressions of faith. This rejection is not necessarily a denial of the existence of God, but organized religion has ceased to be for them a means of connecting with the Divine Presence.

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Looking for a graduation gift?
0315 As graduation season begins, many people are looking for the perfect graduation gift for family and friends. Encountering the Living God: A Journal of Prayer and Discovery, makes a lovely gift for graduates. 
 
This beautiful hardbound book contains one hundred reflections on God as our Father, Savior, and Sanctifier. Short, poignant reflections lead to contemplation and prayer. Generous pages give the reader space to journal their growing relationship with God as they enter a new phase in life.
 
NY Diocese Goes Out to Count Christ’s Flock and Bring Back the Lost Sheep
From The National Catholic Register

Catholics in an upstate New York diocese are going two by two to every household within their diocese, knocking on every door, as part of a diocesan-wide census that is as much about evangelizing as it is counting the numbers of Christ’s flock.

The census envisioned by Bishop Terry LaValley for the Diocese of Ogdensburg is far more ambitious than mere number-crunching. The bishop and pastors are sending out the lay faithful in pairs to make personal visits to every single household – not just Catholic households – reaching 500,000 persons in the region.

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Thank you for sharing your stories with us last month about your parish’s Spring Evangelization Efforts! Read some of our favorite stories below, and if you have one to share, please don’t hesitate to take this month’s survey or email us.

From Gina Mesko in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Attendees of the April 2015 CRO class just held for PREP/CCD parents, especially those parents of First Holy Communicants.

Since October 2013, Our Lady of Charity Parish in Brookhaven, PA has used the Catholics Reaching Out (CRO) Program, inspired by Paulist Evangelization Ministries. Thus far, we have conducted four programs in the fall and in the spring. The first two programs were open to anyone (inactive, lukewarm, and active Catholics) in the area who wanted to develop and deepen their relationship with Jesus as well as gain a deeper appreciation of the Catholic faith, especially Holy Mass.

The most recent two programs were offered especially to PREP/CCD parents of Confirmandi and First Communicants, to stress the vital and primary role they play in forming their children’s faith by setting a consistent example. For this reason, we wanted to tailor the program to help parents understand their vital role in forming their children’s faith, as well as help support them in their own faith journey as well as that of their family’s. This program offers three seventy-five (75) minute sessions to parents who’ve just dropped off their children in PREP class, and allows them to be finished in time to pick up their children from classes next door. It’s a very warm, welcoming, informal, open, and highly interactive environment that allows parents to share and learn from one another.

Thus far, we’ve received excellent reviews from all who’ve participated in this program. Further, we’ve seen a number of conversions resulting from this program, as well as attendees reaching out to invite family and friends to the next CRO Program. People have even returned for a second time because they enjoyed the classes so much. My parish and this program has been featured in CatholicPhilly.com as well as Our Sunday Visitor.

From Deborah Doyle at Saints John and James Parish in the Diocese of Providence

Our Faith Formation Office is sending a letter to all families with children who were baptized in the parish under the age of Grade 1 in September. The letter will encourage them to start a Mary garden, or have a plant on a windowsill with a statue, and includes a seed pack and some information about flowers related to Mary. Many of these families do not attend church and will be invited to visit. In August, we’ll send out an invitation to register for Rel Ed to those of kindergarten age.

From Lynn Sexton, at Saint Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Seneca, SC in the Diocese of Charleston

Plowing the garden in preparation for planting which will be done on June 6th followed by a blessing of the Victory Garden and the volunteers.

We have a “Victory Garden Ministry” where volunteers plant and grow fresh vegetables in the parish garden. This was an idea of one of our parishioners who had recently retired from his employment and was looking to give back to the community. Jack Hess, volunteered to direct this ministry which he began 2 years ago. This ministry has inspired many parishioners this year and we now have 15 new volunteers–plus volunteers from youth ministry–who participate in the preparation of the soil, the planting, the maintenance and harvesting. Vegetables are harvested through the summer months and brought by the volunteers Mass for parishioners to take home after making a cash donation. The donations are then collected from each Sunday and gifted to the local food pantry. Last year the equivalent of the proceeds fed 12 families for a year; and so we are increasing the size of the garden this year!

From Marilyn Cozzi, Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati

Our parish, Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, hosts a two-week Summer Religious Education program for public school students in grades 1-8. We offer three different summer sessions in addition to the usual Sunday religious ed program. After Christmas and Easter, we have a program called ‘Open Door’ for anyone interested in the Catholic faith or for returning Catholics as well as year-round RCIA.
America’s Changing Religious Landscape

From The Pew Research Center

The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center. Moreover, these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups. While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among Americans of all ages. The same trends are seen among whites, blacks and Latinos; among both college graduates and adults with only a high school education; and among women as well as men.

To be sure, the United States remains home to more Christians than any other country in the world, and a large majority of Americans – roughly seven-in-ten – continue to identify with some branch of the Christian faith.1 But the major new survey of more than 35,000 Americans by the Pew Research Center finds that the percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in an equally massive Pew Research survey in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%. And the share of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths also has inched up, rising 1.2 percentage points, from 4.7% in 2007 to 5.9% in 2014. Growth has been especially great among Muslims and Hindus, albeit from a very low base

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