Diocese encourages parishes to host
By RENEE WEBB, Globe editor
Justin Frato, assistant director of adult catechesis and family life, said one way that parishes may be able to help their parishioners do this is by hosting an evangelization program called Discovering Christ that is put out by an organization called ChristLife, a Catholic ministry for evangelization.
“We want to promote evangelization and different programs for that, as the Holy Father has been calling for in the Year of Faith to help people have a personal encounter with Christ,” he said.
Discovering Christ consists of seven sessions and a retreat day. The suggested format for the evangelization process is for each session to include four components: a meal, prayer time, presentation (video-based or live) and discussion.
“It is about proposing and re-proposing to people who God is and why we need to be in a relationship with him,” Frato said. “This would be a parish-based program and I am here to offer support and help them get it started.”
Right now his goal is to get the word out to parishes that this program is available and could serve as a strong evangelization tool for parishioners. He noted that feedback at the national level about Discovering Christ has been very positive.
“I am contacting individual pastors and parishes about it,” he said. “Hopefully we can be launching it sometime after Easter.”
In discussions with parish catechetical leaders and catechists, Frato said many have commented that parents could use some catechesis and formation.
Bishop Nickless, Frato said, in his pastoral letter had stressed the importance of adult faith formation “because they can’t give what they don’t have.”
Discovering Christ is one of three programs offered by ChristLife. The other two programs offered by this organization are Following Christ and Sharing Christ.
“The hope is that there could be ongoing small faith communities in the parishes to support people with these programs,” said Frato, who anticipates that once they have participated in Discovering Christ “people will be thirsty and will want support and more formation. Small faith communities tend to offer that.”
While it is important that pastors give their blessing to bring this evangelizing process to their parish, it does not have to fall on their shoulders to facilitate the program. Committed lay people can organize the program, he noted, with the approval of the pastor.
Discovering Christ could be offered by an individual parish, linked/clustered parishes or even be offered within a parish to specific groups such as parents of first Communion, confirmation or Catholic school students. Large parishes might look at offering it multiple times to several niche groups such as young couples, new parishioners and seniors.
“It has become very apparent how urgent, as seen by our low Mass attendance numbers and levels of apathy, that we have to reintroduce people to the person of Jesus Christ and make that a priority like the church calls us to,” Frato said. “For too long we have tried to sacramentalize and catechize people without doing the first step of evangelizing people.”
The first step, he stressed, should be focused on introducing and inviting people into a relationship with Christ.
He pointed out that people sometimes view the church as an institution with a bunch of rules. They may practice the faith out of a sense of obligation or because of their cultural heritage rather than having a true connection. But without that personal connection and relationship to God, it’s easier to let the faith practice slip.
If pastors are feeling a sense of frustration because parishioners are only showing up for the sacraments – or maybe not showing up at all - Frato has high hopes that Discovering Christ will help parishioners fall in love with God and thus ignite the faith.
“My hope is that one parish in each deanery would be running this (Discovering Christ) by fall,” he said.
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