February 2015

February 2015
A monthly newsletter to keep you informed.
Dear Friend,
Already February is upon us; it seems like just yesterday when we were gathering our resources to invite people to the RCIA, and now we are entering the phase when catechumens become “enlightened” – making their final spiritual preparations for entry into the Church.  It’s an exciting time, one in which we see the conversion-dimension of the Church more clearly than any other time in the Church’s year.  We should use this seasonal opportunity to reinforce the place of conversion in all of Catholic life, particularly as we put Ashes on the heads of the faithful.

Our issue this month carries an article by Fr. Larry Rice, CSP about Ash Wednesday, survey results of what Americans do on the weekends (when they are not going to church), a glimpse at what St. Bernard’s “E-team” in Pittsburgh has been up to, news about some product updates at PEM, an invitation to a new webinar ministry to inactive Catholics, and some thoughts to help us focus on inviting seekers to discover faith in Jesus Christ.

As Lent begins, may it be a time for all of us to grow in holiness, renew our commitment to mission, and help parishioners reaffirm their basic commitment to be disciples.

Sincerely in Christ,

Frank DeSiano, CSP

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 4 – Inviting Seekers

The term “seeker” has undergone a little transformation over the past several decades. It used to refer to people who were religiously restless, i.e., always looking to go from one Christian experience to another, from Baptist to Episcopal, then Episcopal to Catholic, and eventually migrating to one of the Orthodox Churches, or elsewhere.

Now the term aptly describes wide currents in American society – all those who have never attached to a church family or who, in growing numbers, have detached from a church family and not assumed a new one. “Detached” means more than “taking a leave.”

Seeker now means more than erratic church attendance; it refers to people who have no explicit religious identity. These people deserve a great deal of attention from us Catholics. I think Pope Francis has them in mind when he talks about us becoming an open, welcoming Church where people can come and talk, inquire, and get to know us.

Continue Reading

A Reflection on Ash Wednesday
By Paulist Vocations Director, Fr. Larry Rice, CSP

For centuries, Catholic Christians have marked the beginning of the season of Lent by receiving ashes on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday. This tradition has its roots in the Old Testament, where wearing ashes was a common sign of repentance for sins and a sign of one’s humility before God. Since Lent is a season of penitential renewal through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, it’s appropriate that this ancient sign mark the beginning of the season.
The ashes themselves are usually made by burning the palm fronds from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. This symbolically connects the beginning of Lent with its end, connecting our change of heart with Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection.

Continue Reading from the USCCB (PDF)

St. Bernard’s E-Team: Answering the Call for a New Evangelization
Parish TeamWhen members of St. Bernard’s parish in Pittsburgh took a course called “Discovering God’s Vision For Your Life,” participants discovered they had something previously thought to belong only to religious orders: charisms.

Some, in fact, discovered they had the charism of evangelism, and from this group, eight parishioners stepped forward to take an active role in developing a parish-wide New Evangelization Committee.

This “The E-team,” as they came to call their group, set themselves a challenge: to motivate inactive and fallen-away Catholics to not only come back to the faith, but to embrace it with passion.

Resource Update

PEM has redesigned and updated the Awakening Faith material that so many parishes have loved. Here’s a quick summary of the enhancements:

  • The Participant Booklet has been changed to a smaller and easier to use size of 6 x 9 inches.
  • The Participant Booklet is now separated into two books. One for the six core sessions and the second for the four additional sessions. When you order the Participant Booklet you receive both books.
  • The Group Leader Guide now incorporates all of the material from the Participant Booklets. No need for two books for group leaders to use.
February Webinar
Reaching Out To Inactive Catholics:

Awakening Faith

February 19th at 3:00pm EST
Presented by Fr. Frank DeSiano, CSP

Join Fr. Frank DeSiano as he presents information on current Catholic involvement in their faith, and ways we can reach out to them through conversation.

All of us face a very different parish reality than just twenty-five years ago. Current practice and non-practice of faith challenges all of our parishes to respond.

From last month: Small Groups in Parish Ministry

Missed last month’s webinar on Small Group Faith Formation? Click the link below to watch a recording and learn more about planning and implementing a successful small group ministry in your parish.

Deconstructing the American Weekend: 
Where Religion Fits In
From the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University:

Were there too many empty pews in your church last weekend? Just what was everyone else doing while you were at Mass? 

After sleeping, leisure activities, eating and drinking, and work (for some) there is a scattering of other things done more frequently, on average, than religious or spiritual activities. These include: grooming (74.7% engaging for an average of 0.9 hours), housework (35.5% engaging for an average of 1.82 hours), food preparation and cleanup (53.7% engaging for an average of 1.18 hours), consumer goods purchases (42.2% engaging for an average of 1.17 hours), sports, exercise, and recreation (18.8% engaging for an average of 2.18 hours), caring for and helping children in the household (17.5% engaging for an average of 2.12 hours), and travel for leisure and sports (39.3% engaging for an average of 0.8 hours) or for purchasing goods and services (42.4% engaging for an average of 0.72 hours).

On average, Americans spend 0.31 hours per day on the weekend engaged in religious and spiritual activities (1.3% of weekend time). Note again this includes those of all (or no) affiliations and time on both Saturday and Sunday. Overall, 15.5% of Americans report a religious or spiritual activity and of these people, an average of 1.98 hours per day is spent on these activities (8.3% of their weekend time). As shown below, there is very little change in the percentage of time spent on religious or spiritual activities over the last decade. Americans have not become any less religious or spiritual in the things that they do since data collection began in 2003 (…don’t expect to ever read that in a newspaper as it doesn’t fit into the current “narrative” but it is in the data for anyone to see).

What have you been doing in your parish or diocese to reach out? We’d love to highlight your exciting events and evangelization efforts here in the Exchange each month!
Send your story to us at: online@pemdc.org.
Maybe your idea will inspire other parishes or perhaps you’ll see a great new event for yours!
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