Our popes are calling for new and creative ways to bring about the New Evangelization and that is exactly what is going to have to happen. I believe that we are in desperate need of a paradigm shift before we can become effective at “making disciples.”
Everywhere I go, both dioceses and parishes are calling for transformation but no one knows how to do it. They look at the parish structure and methods and wonder when the next “new program” will be developed that will solve the problem. Yet, my observation is that we are trying to find something to fit within our current methodology and parish structure.
I believe that this is one of the critical issues that must be addressed before we can unleash the creativity of our saints in the trenches to develop effective programming. Our current model for a systematic approach to forming disciples is an educational/attaining the sacraments model.
I understand and am very thankful for our bishops’ desire to keep our formation authentically Catholic. However, I believe our parishes are not structured to make disciples. If so, then why are we confirming teens when they are not even sure they believe in God? Why are we giving First Communion to children of parents who don’t bring them to church?
The truth is we are “sacramental-izing” our people without evangelizing them. We are trying to form them as followers of Jesus Christ (disciples) without introducing them to Him. How can we follow someone we don’t know? If we don’t know Him through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, how can we trust Him? If we can’t trust Him, we will never give him our lives, obedience, or devotion.
We Must Be Willing To Leave Our Sacred Methods
We know that Catholic adults across the country have about a 4th grade understanding of the Faith. In an effort to restore sound understanding, pastors are given clear mandates from the diocese to make sure their kids are given a solid curriculum. Yet the sheer volume of content that must be taught makes no room for effective evangelization.
In response to the call to evangelize, the churches will apply a “token week” to the catechetical content but their mandate is clear – “prepare them for sacraments.” Parents continue to follow that call, striving only to give their kids the sacraments they have come to believe are needed to get to heaven.
In an effort to get to the adults, parishes have begun to implement good evangelistic programs like Alpha, Christ Renews His Parish, Crucio, etc. However, they have not touched the sacred religious education structure that is no longer working.
I would love to see bishops offer pastors the opportunity to try pilot processes that are not within the normal structures of parish life.