in the Diocese of Santa Fe:
In the last year, the Diocese of Santa Fe has made a concerted effort to reach inactive Catholics through public efforts to connect with people through Awakening Faith, a program for helping Catholics to reconnect, published by Paulist Evangelization Ministries. The following three parishes have provided reflections about their experience with Awakening Faith.
Our Lady of the Annunciation
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Leslie Monette, Director of Youth and Young Adults
Last Spring during Lent, our Lady of the Annunciation Parish piloted the Awakening Faith program. The day I received my first phone call about the program, I realized how spiritually uplifting the process of evangelization could be for all involved. The voice on the other end of the line was quite excited to join our group. She told me that she had been away from the church for 30 years and that she was “on fire to find the truth.” Indeed Awakening Faith gave my parish a way to help her find her way back to the truths of our faith in a welcoming and non-judgmental environment.
By using the Awakening Faith program as our guide, my parish was able to step into the world of evangelization and live out the words of our Parish Mission Statement which calls us “to continue the mission of Jesus Christ by ministering to all.” Suddenly we were not just talking about the concept of evangelization, we were living it by connecting one-on-one through dialogue with other Catholics who had questions and concerns about our faith.
As each session unfolded we got to know the different people who came to listen and dialogue on the various topics. Some people came to all the sessions while others were more selective about the topic. Some people came to draw a little closer to a group of people who believed in the truth, while others came to heal the hurt of having a loved one in their family who had stopped practicing their faith. Camaraderie was established, smiles and greetings were exchanged. One night after a session everyone lingered around the refreshment table, talking, eating and most importantly listening to each other. Truly the Holy Spirit was present quietly moving all of us along in our walk of faith.
Today the fruits of the program are still with us. Some people have chosen to continue seeking the truth of our faith by joining study groups, others are more diligent about attending daily Mass, and still others are exploring their relationship with Jesus in the quiet of our Adoration Chapel. Most importantly Awakening Faith has enabled all who participated to keep the fire of God’s truth and love burning in our hearts.
Our Lady of the Assumption:
A Whole Parish Effort!
Jason H. Rodarte, MA, DRE
The Awakening Faith ministry was a success at Our Lady of the Assumption in Albuquerque thanks to the hard work and dedication the Awakening Faith Facilitator team. The team met for several weeks to plan and prepare for the people that would be in attendance. Announcements for people to attend were made from the pulpit, as well as the bulletin and the parish marquee. Invitation letters were sent out to parents at Our Lady of the Assumption school. The facilitating team did their very best to offer hospitality and to create a welcoming environment for participants. Baby sitting was provided by a parish catechist who was aided by Confirmation students. The parish staff was also instrumental in setting up tables every week as well as helping set up the refreshments.
Our Lady of the Assumption averaged about 50 people every session. We were also able to have a group facilitated in Spanish by Deacon Jim Delgado. Participants were made up of people of different age groups who gathered together to share their stories and how God has been present in their lives. The facilitators were able to build a sense of community with the participants and friendships between participants were established. Facilitators commented that they recognized many of participants attending Sunday Mass after attending the Awakening Faith sessions.
The hope is that these endeavors will bear fruit through finishing some of the optional sessions as well as getting people involved in parish ministry or the Great Adventure Bible study that the parish has been hosting for the past several months.
Church of the Incarnation
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Bill Mader, Awakening Faith Facilitator
With Pentecost behind us we return to Ordinary Time for which the readings are anything but “ordinary.” From the gospel for the Fifteenth Sunday in ordinary time we hear the parable of the sower of seed, an important lesson for us regarding our faith. For many Catholics today, our faith is like the seed among the thorns, the thorns of today’s culture. Yet, we all have ears and “…ought to hear.”
We sometimes allow our faith to weaken, and we fall away from the Church because of circumstances in our lives. Every liturgical season is a time for renewing our faith, for returning to His Church, for opening our ears. At the Church of the Incarnation one way we’re doing this is through the Awakening Faith series. Our second series finished earlier this month. The participants found comfort, welcoming, and relief as they learned the Truth of Catholic teaching. “An excellent program during a time of great spiritual need.” was a typical comment.
The series of six 90 minute sessions covers Spirituality, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Forgiveness, the Mass, and the Church. Four additional sessions explore Faith, Love, Marriage-Divorce-Annulment, and the Use of Money. We participated in frank discussion of each week’s topic where we learned what the Church teaches, and then expressed our experiences, concerns, and questions on the topic, to quench our thirst for the Truth. The sessions were confidential and conducted in a safe, welcoming, and comfortable environment.
Watching people regain a sense of belonging, seeing them grow closer to the Church and to Christ, I discovered the joy of finding the lost sheep that Jesus described in Matthew 18:12. As a revert to the faith years ago, I experienced the value of communion with Jesus and with His Church and I cherished the healing I received in that communion.
Don’t let Christ’s suffering on the Cross and His glorious Resurrection mean nothing in your life or in another’s. Bring him or her back home to the Church. Help begin their reawakening in faith. Share their joy as they quench their thirst in the eternal waters. Become God’s conduit for opening a relative’s, friend’s, or co-worker’s ears. Help them to hear Christ who is the Truth, the Life, and the Way.