Speakers look at Synodal issues at All Ministries Conference

These short synopses cover the breakout sessions given by local and national speakers during the 1998 All Ministries Conference held Oct. 12 in Columbia.

By Paul A. Barra, Nancy Czabala, Deirdre C. Mays and Jordan McMorrough.


Evangelization … But We’re Catholic

Father Patrick J. Brennan is pastor of Holy Family Parish in Inverness, Ill., a practicing psychotherapist and president of the National Center for Evangelization and Parish Renewal. He believes that when spirituality is activated it is healing, resulting in hope and joy.

“Evangelism is a Catholic term,” he explained. “To evangelize is to tap into the spiritual dimension of people. … Evangelization is primarily the work of the laity.”

The typical parish has only 25 percent of its members practicing their faith regularly, he said. Those churches are stuck in a maintenance mode instead of being innovative, mission-oriented churches. They focus on children but send them home to non-practicing adults. He proposes that Catholic churches be designed with “relationally-oriented” missions.

“Parishes need to be broken down into sections,” he said. “The laity need to be trained to pastor to those small parish communities as neighborhood ministers … and connect with people in their homes and hear needs.”

His parish came up with a Systematic Pastoral Plan in 1994 where everything converges on evangelization. He said priorities should be placed on worship, pastoral care, outreach, justice, family life, youth ministry and communications. At the center of all ministries is the Eucharist.


Adult Catechesis and Ministry Formation – An Essential Partnership in the 21st Century

The key to successful catechesis of adult members of a parish is “a shift from adult education into adult faith formation,” said James DeBoy of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

DeBoy said that the mission of the Church, a difficult one to accomplish, is to make disciples of Christ who will transform the world. We must overcome our biases, he said, and try not to determine the mission of the Church but to accept the one given to us. The way to do that is to offer effective adult catechesis in our parishes and dioceses.

“The question for adult education is: How are you growing as a disciple of Christ? We must get into the pattern of engaging one another and the gospel, trusting and treating them as adults, enabling them to reflect critically and see change as an essential element of life,” he said.

DeBoy quoted Cardinal John Newman: “To live is to change and to be perfect is to change often.”

The former teacher and president of the National Conference of Catechetical Leadership helped develop standards for parish directors of religious education and a national document on adolescent catechesis. He has written books on religious education. He said that variety is necessary for full Christian formation of adults in the parish setting: “We must use various approaches and maximize the potential of the liturgy. Our homilies must be challenging. We must empower lay adults to grow as disciples.”

Generation Next: What You Need to Know About Today’s Youth

Reaching our youth, getting them excited about their faith is where stewardship must start, said Randy Raus, director of youth ministry at St. Ann Church in Marietta, Ga.

The national director of the LIFE TEEN Program, gives a view of today’s youth — their fears and hopes, likes and dislikes — and what it takes to transform their energy through the Catholic faith so that they may gain a better understanding of themselves and others.

The gospel message, spreading the good news and paschal mysteries, is an important step to that understanding. Raus said that death and pain are looked so heavily upon in society that kids are fearful of them. But, he explained, love should be synonymous with death. We should be willing to give ourself to Christ or to another person without fear. “Christ doesn’t give a pain free life, but hope,” he said.

Raus said we are battling five aspects in the lives of today’s youth: fear of loneliness; television induced self-hatred; family time; fear of commitment, particularly to Christ; and experiencing joy.

He said teens need to be challenged to be leaders, followers of Christ.

Youth also need to know that they are loved and understood in the parish community. Raus suggested having youth ministry programs; teaching the faith; getting teens involved in community life; evangelizing; empowering teens to minister to others; pastoral care; and prayer and worship.


A Theology of Community: Formation through Space, Form and Color

Brother Frank Kacmarcik, of the monastic community at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minn., is a renowned artist, designer and consultant in the sacred arts. He has been influential on the development of American religious architecture for the past four decades.

Locally, his liturgical design can be seen in the church at Mepkin Abbey in Moncks Corner.

In his workshop, Brother Kacmarcik talked about art as experience through the environment and not as a cultural subject.

“Through art we are formed or deformed,” he said. “Every space we enter has an effect on us. … Every room we enter has a cumulative effect, positive or negative. We want churches to have a positive effect.”

He believes in simplicity but not sterility. Churches, he said, are a container of the people and God is in the people. They should be arranged so that they can see each other’s faces and relate to God in each face they see.

“They should not have busy patterns, people are the jewels,” Brother Kacmarcik said. “Good architecture is very simple with good proportions, good poetry of light.”

God’s Moment of Promise: Jubilee and the Revival of Life

Father Paul Philibert, a Dominican Friar of the Southern province, explored the underlying meanings of the Holy Father’s call to celebrate the year 2000 saying it will be a time of revision and new beginnings.

“The Jubilee charges us to do what we do and act as we act in the name of God,” he said.

What can the faithful expect? “A new lens, a new clarity, a new vision,” he said. “The gift of the Spirit in the shifting of the lens of the things that have always been there coming into sharper focus.”

He also spoke of moving from maintenance to mission, evangelization, fostering the laity in the church.

Father Philibert, author and former Catholic University theology teacher, directs the Notre Dame Institute for Church Life, a cluster of pastoral centers serving the United States’ church in pastoral liturgy, spirituality and social concerns.

The Revised Rite of Marriage: “Here Comes the Bride … and Groom!”

As participants filed in to the small room, the bride and groom greeted their guests at the door, before processing down the aisle together to receive the sacrament of marriage.

Catherine Combier Donovan, director of worship and sacraments at St. Mary Help of Christians in Aiken, discussed upcoming changes in the sacrament of marriage in “The Revised Rite of Marriage: ‘Here Comes the Bride … and Groom!'” After the staged nuptials, Donovan explained the changes, which include the procession order, additional readings to choose from, no penitential rite, added nuptial blessings and an introduction to the celebration.

The Decree of Promulgation for the second typical edition of the Order For Celebrating Marriage by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments was written in March 1990 and was published in Latin by the Vatican in 1991. The revised rite, OCM, is now in the process of being adapted to vernacular text for use in English.


Racial Harmony — Plurality of Differences and Blessedness

Dealing with racism in the church is a foundational issue, according to Sister Nancy Schreck, a sister of St. Francis of Dubuque, Iowa, and a member of its Leadership Team.

In telling a parable about Jesus, she said that the two most divisive issues of Christ’s time were who you ate with and the ill/infirm. In Jesus’ time, she said, he ate the same food and bread as those he ministered to, and welcomed everybody at the table. “Is it Eucharist if only certain people are invited to the table?” she wondered aloud.

In health and sickness, Jesus also breaks every rule about how you should deal with the ill, Sister Schreck said. “Society couldn’t tolerate such a radical message, and his belief in an inclusive community cost him his life,” she said.

Urging her listeners to “put the word out for the church inside its structures,” the former president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious said, “Jesus gave us one table. We are all one people.”

Sister Schreck is a former president and retreat director of the Leaderhip conference of Women Religious. She is an author, national speaker and educator.

Collaboration: What Do We Really Mean?

One challenge which undergirds the call to Christian maturity is the need to foster collaboration, said Sister Carroll Juliano, director of Life Planning for Ministry based in Washington, D.C., and a member of the American Province Leadership Team of the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus.

The church’s pastoral ministry can improve by developing gifts given in the family, workplace, community and parish. In quoting the Called and Gifted pastoral letter from the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the laity’s call to holiness is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

“We are sent to the world where we express our faith. Through the sacraments we are called to the Church’s mission of salvation,” she said. “Jesus did not minister alone, he called those around him. We need to do this with others.”

She sees four elements that need to be present for collaboration: clarification, conviction, commitment and capacity and capability.


The Theology of Stewardship and How it Works

Father Thomas Gentile got down to a nuts-and-bolts discussion of stewardship in “how it works” and its theological underpinnings.

“Kairos, God’s time, is time that makes a difference,” Father Gentile said. “Time is best used when we acknowledge God as the giver of time. Time management is a misnomer. Time manages us.”

He should know. In addition to being a parish pastor for more than 13 years and serving two terms on the Priest Council, he is chairman of the archdiocesan youth sports program and has given retreats for high school students for the last 20 years. The priest said that stewardship “is a team effort. People give to people, not organizations.”

The Kentucky pastor, who has twice addressed the National Catholic Stewardship Council’s Annual Conference, asked listeners to examine their parish mission statement and ask, “Is our mission reflective of the needs of the area?”

He also urged his audience to keep their volunteers involved: “Treasure follows time and talent.”

Father Gentile defined treasure as “the difference between what you want and what you need.”

However, he added, many adults “can’t distinguish between want and need.” Calling stewardship a way of life that must be learned, the popular speaker further described it as “a way of life that focuses on the needs of others.”

In his closing comments, Father Gentile, chairman of Stewardship and Development efforts in the Archdiocese of Louisville, asked “Do we believe that God gives?”

Youth and Young Adults: The Forgotten Members of Stewardship

In another workshop, Father Thomas Gentile reinforced a forgotten concept of starting stewardship with the children in “Youth and Young Adults — The Forgotten Members of Stewardship.” Bringing parents and children together to learn about stewardship and learning what it means to be Catholic, impels parents to take an active role in guiding their teens involvement with stewardship.

“School,” he said, “is central to the mission of evangelizing” — inviting, welcoming teens to Mass, showing them that they’re appreciated and important to their faith.

Gentile said it is a considerable task to enforce the characteristics of a young child — trust, caring and responsiveness — throughout their life, and continually let them know that they’re important and valuable and that God needs them.

The priest concluded with three reasons why stewardship is important in the lives of youth: 1) It builds self-esteem. 2) It counteracts negativity in society. 3) It teaches them that they can make a difference.


A Biblical View of Justice

Father Raymond F. Collins spoke of the Ten Commandments as a gift of God, a God who loves justice.

“They tell us about basic human rights,” the dean of Religious Studies at Catholic University said. “The Old Testament shows how the king ruled over his people and took care of the poor. In the New Testament, in all three synoptic gospels, the first words out of Jesus’ mouth were about justice.”

Father Collins quoted the social justice agenda in the fourth chapter of Luke. He also used the Lord’s Prayer, given to us by Christ, to illustrate the call for social justice in the Bible: when we pray “give us this day our daily bread,” and when we forgive trespasses against us and when we promise God that we will do his will.

In his mind Catholics are not doing enough about social justice issues.

“We have not applied fully the message of the gospels with regard to justice,” he said.

Father Collins is a world-renown lecturer and writer. His 11th book, a 1,200-page manuscript on the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians, is due out from Liturgical Press in early 1999.

Nurturing Children in a World of Violence

James McGinnis is the founder and co-director of the Institute for Peace and Justice, an interfaith organization that he said is Catholic-based, and the Families Against Violence Network.

He told the participants in his workshop that disrespect is the basis for violence and the antidote for it is becoming positive. He finds that the most poignant passage in the Bible is the one in which Jesus wept over Jerusalem.

“Can’t you picture Jesus weeping over the cities where our kids are killing other kids? We need to turn our tears of mourning into action for non-violence. These kids are flickering flames; rather than blowing them out, our mission is to fan them into fires of light,” McGinnis said.

This vibrant and dynamic speaker gave anecdotal examples of how to build kids up, taught the crowd to sing in pantomime the song “I think you’re wonderful,” and had many members of the audience crying themselves at his heartwarming stories.

“The boulders of violence must be balanced by the pebbles of love,” McGinnis said. “We must suspend our own agendas and listen to our children.”

McGinnis received the 1991 Peace Abbey “Courage of Conscience” award and the 1995 Pax Christi “Teacher of Peace” award. He is the author of books, teaching manuals and audio-visual programs.

He added that he is pleased with the teachings of the United States Catholic Conference on non-violence: “The Catholic Church is beginning to do its part.”