Call to evangelize energizes assembly participants
A gathering of representatives from parishes throughout the archdiocese took steps Oct. 13 toward achieving goals of the Year of Faith.
“The fruits of this Year of Faith will be seen in a strengthened commitment to God and one another,” Archbishop Robert J. Carlson said in welcoming 130 people representing 63 parishes and two Newman Centers to the Third Annual Pastoral Assembly, held at the Cardinal Rigali Center in Shrewsbury. The Year of Faith has been designated by Pope Benedict XVI to help Catholics focus their attention on the gift of faith, deepen their relationship with God and strengthen their commitment to sharing that faith with others.
This year’s assembly focused on the Second Vatican Council, which is marking its 50th anniversary, particularly what it has meant to lay vocations.
Archbishop Carlson introduced “Go and Announce the Gospel of the Lord,” a pastoral letter he has written on evangelization. The letter, which is being timed with the Oct. 11 start of the Year of Faith, takes a closer look at the reasons for a decline in active participation in the life of the local Church and what can be done to change that through evangelization efforts.
The assembly sought to serve as a forum for parish representatives.
Kalleen Rose of Annunziata Parish in Ladue said she enjoyed hearing firsthand from the archbishop about his pastoral letter. “And I appreciated his willingness to hear from us in an unfiltered manner what’s on our minds,” she said.
Rose’s fellow parishioner Genevieve Curtis said the talk by Sister Mary Kathleen Ronan, RSM, on the vocation of the laity as spelled out in Second Vatican Council documents was memorable. Likewise important was the message about “the call to share our relationship with Christ and what it means to us, and having the courage to speak out and evangelize,” she said.
Dodie Barnes of Cure of Ars Parish in Shrewsbury also appreciated the call to evangelize. “We need to be proud of our faith and share that with others,” Barnes said. “If you set the right example, maybe more people will follow.”
Joan Vietmeier, also of Cure of Ars, said she took a class at her parish and learned that many people are afraid of the Catholic Church. To counter that view, she said, “we need to be more visible.”
Pearl Johnson of St. Alphonsus Liguori (Rock Church) Parish in north St. Louis, said appreciated Archbishop Carlson’s nod to the charismatic renewal movement when asked about it. “I’m so glad about the direction he has taken. He is so personable, down to earth. He’s another (Blessed) John XXIII,” she said, referring to the pope who convened Vatican II.
Joan DeWitt of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Ferguson, who stayed after the program ended to discuss the day’s themes with Johnson, said the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus, which was referred to several times, is “what the Church is all about. … That’s evangelization, that’s everything.”
During his presentation on his pastoral letter, Archbishop Carlson cited the challenges faced in the archdiocese. He noted the generosity shown by the people when it comes to contributing money or time and talent. They also need to take it a step further and invite and encourage others to grow deeper in their relationship with the Lord, he said.
“We must ask ourselves and each other: ‘How are we in our life today helping others to grow in holiness?’”
He noted that 70 parishes are receiving training in door-to-door evangelization.
In his pastoral letter, Archbishop Carlson suggests many “simple and natural ways of sharing the good news with others. How easy it is to invite someone who we know could benefit by meeting Christ in a personal way to a parish mission or adult education lecture. How natural it is to pass on to others a book or CD we have just read that we found inspiring and drew us closer to the Lord. How comfortable it can become to share our own ‘testimony’ of how we came to a deeper faith in Christ and what difference it makes in our lives.”
In the open forum part of the program, he answered questions on his views about Vatican II; how to form and maintain a relationship with Jesus; the importance of young adult ministry, the support of marriage and the role of women in the Church; how Hispanic Catholics can access more materials in Spanish; the need for catechesis; and more.
Father Robert Liss, pastor of St. Stephen Parish in Richwoods, gave a reflection on his time at the Vatican as a student during the Vatican Council, and Msgr. Michael Witt, professor of Church history at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, talked about how the Council built on many efforts that led up to it.
Sister Mary Kathleen noted that “our mission is to build up the Church in holiness … we are transformed each time when we connect with Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Nancy Werner, chancellor of the archdiocese and facilitator of the assembly, thanked those who attended, noting that they provided “a rich exchange of ideas, a wonderful sharing of faith.”
For more information on the Year of Faith or the pastoral letter, see archstl.org/year-of-faith.
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