Winter 2020

WINTER, 2020
The Turn to Discipleship
by Fr. Frank DeSiano, CSP
President, Paulist Evangelization Ministries
Parishes need to shift their focus toward a more explicit language of discipleship; and then they have to back that language up with explicit behaviors that place discipleship at the heart of the Catholic experience.
Why do we need to do this? Because our main emphasis has been to rely on various cultural patterns to pass faith from one generation to another; or, for that matter, to even invite people to think about becoming Catholic.
What cultural forms? For one, our residual ethnicity as a way to preserve some kind of Catholic identity. Was it not true that, for many decades, German Catholics were convinced that, unless their people preserved the German language, they would then leave the Church? We see something analogous to this in terms of Spanish and Catholicism as well.
Another form was the parish as a social center. This worked best when Catholicism was mostly urban, and neighborhoods had largely ethnic patterns, but it was bigger in scope. With this model, we could offer a cradle-to-grave Catholic social experience. Even if someone didn’t go to Mass, they could still belong to the parish in some sense, including burial from the Church.
While some parishes can maintain this in suburban environments, the truth is that no one is locked into any cultural experiences today. There are simply too many choices people have; as a result, parishes cannot depend on education, sports and social programs for children, activities for teens, and social organization for an array of adults (woman’s club; men’s club; Knights of Columbus; sodality, senior’s club, etc.). This model goes only so far.
As Lent gets underway, I invite all of our pastoral and parish leaders to try to think of Lent in terms of renewed discipleship in the parish. Where the R.C.I.A. is done well, these dimensions of conversion shine in the processes whereby catechumens prepare to enter the Church.
The role of God’s Word, conversion, personal commitment, prayer and worship; the essential place of community in forming and sustaining disciples; and the place of mission and services as the necessary fruit of discipleship—all of us can begin thinking in these terms and, even more, organizing our parish emphases in these terms.
Of course here at Paulist Evangelization Ministries, we have developed an array of resources to further this transition in Catholic parishes. Our newest publication, Beyond the Pew: From Parishioners to Disciples is a step-by-step method to lead parishioners to reaching others in Christ’s love through evangelization. Catholic Discipleship: Spiritual Exercises and Reflections has been used by many parishes to guide Catholics through the elements of Catholic discipleship.
The Journey/El Camino is a small-group and parish process to make the feelings and language of discipleship explicit for Catholics. Living the Eucharist is a way to help Catholics build a vision of discipleship through the experience of the Eucharist.
Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to guide us through this absolutely crucial transition which our Church needs to make today.
Frank DeSiano, CSP
Lent - Great Opportunity
What’s Up with the Homily?
Below is a link to a Pew Research Study on sermons. This should be pretty sobering for us Catholics. Maybe we can and send the link to our rectories!
U.S. churchgoers are satisfied with the sermons they hear, though content varies by religious tradition
By Claire Gecewicz and Dennis Quinn
Copyright 2020 Pew Research Center
Sermons are a major part of many churchgoers’ religious experiences. But there are differences by religious tradition in how satisfied churchgoers are with what they hear from the pulpit – as well as in the length and content of those sermons, according to two recent Pew Research Center studies.
An opinion survey of 6,364 U.S. adults conducted in 2019 found that 90% of Christians who attend worship services at least a few times a year are satisfied with the sermons they hear, though Protestants are somewhat more satisfied than Catholics.
Two new Pastoral Tools to help Catholics
grow as Missionary Disciples
Twelve units focus on the fundamental dimensions of what it means to be a disciple in today’s world. Each unit features a Spiritual Exercise which includes Scripture and questions for reflection and discussion. Catholic Discipleship is a new resource for parishes and individuals who want to explore their identity as missionary disciples and can be used by individuals looking to deepen their own connection to Christ, or by parishes looking for small group faith formation or a parish-wide renewal.
Ten short units bring parishioners through friendly exercises to build up their sense of faith, sharing, and situations in which to engage others. With Beyond the Pews, parishioners can begin to see the ways in which our typical experiences of parish life and worship call us to invite others to a deeper relationship with God and with the Church. These units will help parishioners gain confidence in themselves as disciples and agents of evangelization by presenting various pastoral situations and carefully selected Scripture.
Give Yourself the Gift That Keeps on Giving
Do you hunger for a more personal relationship with God? A relationship in which you know the Holy Spirit is with you and guiding you? Consider learning about Lectio Divina, a proven way of praying with the Scriptures. Check out the free YouTube video titled Learn Lectio Divina here. Once you experience the fruits of this method of prayer, you will see how Lectio Divina truly is a gift that keeps on giving.
Welcome back Catholics Reaching Out!
One of our most popular resources is back with a new look!
Catholics Reaching Out: Inviting Inactive Catholics and Seekers to the Church
Pastors and parishes worry about Inactive Catholics. Catechists worry about less-than-active parents. RCIA teams worry about attracting catechumens and candidates. How do parishes actually reach these people who are not at Mass on Sundays? Catholics Reaching Out is an updated pastoral tool to help parishes do this special kind of inviting and evangelizing.
Click the image below to learn how to use Catholics Reaching Out in your parish and community!
Do Catholics Believe in the Real Presence?
Here’s a link to a rather nuanced article in America Magazine about the shock-causing survey result saying that only one third of Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. The article points out how difficult it is to pose the questions well to Catholics as well as how complex our Catholic understanding of the Eucharist really is.
Explainer: Why the Eucharist is confusing for many Catholics (and survey researchers)
By James T. Keane and Sam Sawyer, S.J.
Copyright © 2020 America Press Inc.
In The Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery O’Connor, a letter from O’Connor to a recipient identified only as “A” recounts the story of a dinner party O’Connor attended in 1955:
Well, toward morning the conversation had turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. Mrs. Broadwater said when she was a child and received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the “most portable” person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, “Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.”
A fundamental difference in the centuries since the Protestant Reformation between the teachings and practice of the Catholic Church and that of most Protestant denominations has centered on what one believes happens at the celebration of the Eucharist. Unlike (most of) their Protestant brethren, Catholics profess that in the Eucharist, the bread and wine on the altar really and truly become the body and blood of Christ. In addition to pointing toward the reality of Christ (in the sense of a symbol), they are also themselves a source of sanctifying grace (a sacrament) because Christ is really and truly (not merely symbolically) present in them.
What’s Happening in the Church Today?
Here’s a fascinating look at American Catholicism from Church Life Journal (University of Notre Dame) which gives some positive angles on the larger sociological forces that affect Church life.
The Strange Myths
of the New Evangelization
by Mark Giszczak
© 2020 University of Notre Dame
More than forty years after the publication of the encyclical Evangelii Nuntiandi by Pope Paul VI and six years since the establishment of a new Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, it is a good time to pause and evaluate how the New Evangelization project is proceeding. While many doom-and-gloom prophecies abound in casual Catholic conversation, a serious analysis of our current situation is essential. I would like to suggest that the common understanding or “conventional wisdom” among new-evangelists about the New Evangelization’s status is not based on well-documented evidence.
While statistical studies are often cited with pessimistic relish, I will report on recent statistical and sociological research that may point in another direction—though a comprehensive sociological analysis of Catholic evangelization efforts is still lacking. Unfortunately, despite large investments of institutional energy in the New Evangelization, many Catholic communities are still evangelically ineffective. Later, I will suggest possible strategic shifts that could be implemented in order to improve the outcomes of our efforts.
The Journey/El Camino
How close do our parishioners feel to Jesus Christ? Do they feel we have met him? Personally? Intimately? Have they sensed his call to be his disciples, to follow in his steps? Have they felt the joy of knowing Jesus Christ?
The Journey/El Camino is a resource from Paulist Evangelization Ministries designed to help Catholics today deepen their personal relationship with Christ – it’s a simple and direct way to encounter Jesus in our lives. 
The main component of The Journey is the faith-sharing groups that meet to reflect each week. Through these small groups, participants come to share their experiences of Jesus Christ with one another and grow together in their faith. Participant booklets are available in both English and Spanish for adults, and in English only for youth.