Mission Matters: February 27, 2018

This week’s “Parish Table Talk”: NEW Pastoral Letter from Abp. Lori; Corrie Marie album; Catholic Evangelizing Lessons from Billy Graham; What Church People Can Learn from Elon Musk Read more

Missionary Discipleship and the Emanation of Joy

We often feel the joy that comes from serving our church in the mission of evangelization in our given vocation and as leaders. However, are we aware of the joy that we have shared when we do this beautiful work? Read more

Mission Matters: February 13, 2018

This week’s “Parish Table Talk”: Witness to Justice; Lent in 3 Minutes; Word on Fire ENGAGE; Regional Townhall Meetings with Office of Respect Life Read more

Holy Week: Hispanic Traditions as Ways of Evangelization

In Latin America and Spain Holy week is lived intensely. Hispanics celebrate the passion of the Lord with colorful images and with signs that represent their culture, this ‘religiosidad popular’ is what helps the community accompany the Lord on his way to the cross. Read more

Mission Matters: January 30, 2018

This week’s “Parish Table Talk”:Equip for Ministry in Spanish; Open Wide the Doors; Catholic Schools Week 2018; #ShareJesus: Lenten Series; Given – February 10th; World Youth Day – Panama; World Day of the Sick 2018 Read more

Essential Pieces of the Pastorate Puzzle

It seems these days that every time we open a magazine or read an online article there is more bad news about Catholics leaving the Church. Last week, the Catholic News Agency reported the results of a CARA study about why young people leave the Church. Of the 214 former Catholics interviewed for the study, the median age at which they said they had decided to leave was 13; overall, seventy-four percent had decided to leave between the ages of 10 and 20.

The natural follow-up question to: “Why do people leave the Church?” is: “What can we do about it?”

Thankfully, we do have resources that show how parishes today have overcome what seems like an overwhelming challenge.

Two key resources come to mind: The Amazing Parish and Parish Catalyst. Both of them have studied parishes across the country and identified the hallmarks of vibrant, thriving, evangelizing parishes. It’s no surprise that they both found some of the same hallmarks.

In addition to a “Sunday experience” focused on “hymns, homilies, and hospitality” (or “music, message, and ministries”), The Amazing Parish identifies three essential building blocks for a parish to become “amazing”:

  1. A Reliance on Prayer and the Sacraments
  2. A Commitment to a Healthy Organization
  3. A Passion for Evangelization and Discipleship

Likewise, Parish Catalyst has amassed a treasure trove of information on best practices of “great Catholic parishes,” descriptions of which can be found in the book Great Catholic Parishes: How Four Essential Practices Make Them Thrive, by Parish Catalyst founder, Bill Simon, Jr. From these interviews they identified four essential practices of “great Catholic parishes.” These are:

  1. Great Parishes Share Leadership
  2. Great Parishes Foster Spiritual Maturity and a Plan for Discipleship
  3. Great Parishes Excel on Sundays
  4. Great Parishes Evangelize

Notice any similarities?

Of course, these things don’t just happen without deep prayer and thought, hard work, and tough decisions. They also don’t happen overnight.

Pope Francis wrote in The Joy of the Gospel that “if a parish proves capable of self-renewal and adaptivity, it continues to be the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters.” Here we find at least one answer to the question of what to do about the latest religious trends: if we want the Church to continue to be relevant in our communities, it must be open to change and be able to respond to the demands of the times.

There are excellent programs that focus on personal conversion to Christ as the first step to a parish full of missionary disciples. (For example, ACTS, Alpha, Christ Renews His Parish, ChristLife, and Dynamic Catholic.) But only if we keep focused on all the elements that contribute to long-term, sustained parish vibrancy will these programs be truly transformative. Looking at the daunting statistics on religion today, and reading the stories of parishes where missionary discipleship is thriving, we realize that it’s essential to be intentional and strategic about engaging in this call if we are to be successful. This is a foundational premise of Archbishop Lori’s Be Missionary Disciples planning initiative.

If you need a little inspiration or information to dig deeper into best practices for missionary discipleship, I encourage you to register for the upcoming Mid-Atlantic Congress, being held in Baltimore February 15-17. There will be many outstanding speakers and lots of fabulous resources available to help you. Additionally, the Rebuilt Conference is happening April 16-17 in Timonium. Those who can travel further afield can take advantage of the Amazing Parish conference in Dallas, TX April 25-27 or the Divine Renovation conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia June 11-12.

“Love Saves Lives”

When Pope Francis made his trip to the United States in 2015, the theme of his visit was “Love is Our Mission.” As missionary disciples of Jesus Christ, our mission is love: the love of God and the love of neighbor. The 45th annual March for Life, coming up on January 19, 2018 in Washington, DC, has taken up the theme: “Love Saves Lives.” Here’s why the organizers of the March chose this theme:

“Choosing life is not always easy, but it is the loving, empowering, and self-sacrificial option. Love is universally attractive because it is directed towards others. Love is what we all strive for because deep-down we are all drawn to give of ourselves in this way. Love saves lives in countless ways.” (March for Life website)

The greatest challenge in choosing life is our choice to love because love demands something of us. There are many ways in which love can manifest itself in choosing life. The choice for life is always a choice to love. We are called to will the good of another that makes the bringing forth of life possible, even in the most difficult and trying circumstances.

Many of your parishes engage in activities throughout the year that manifest this will to love, such as partnering with local pregnancy centers, helping women and families through crisis pregnancy, volunteering in local maternity homes, praying outside of abortion clinics, supporting women and men who have experienced the pain of abortion, educating the parish community about life issues, and advocating for life-affirming laws. Many of your parishes will also engage in activities leading up to the March for Life and also participate in this public act of willing the good of the other. Here’s a list of activities that parishes can do before the March. During next week, there will be several events that will be a public witness of love as the March for Life approaches.

Our Life is Beautiful Mass and Reception, hosted by Archbishop William Lori on Sunday, January 14th at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is an opportunity as an Archdiocese to give a public and unified witness of our love for life and to honor those in our communities that are exemplars of this love. This year, we will honor Linda Brenegan, the former Director of the Office of Respect Life with the Culture of Life Medal and Fr. Agustino Torres, CFR, the founder of Corazón Puro and our special guest speaker with the Life is Beautiful Award. We will also honor the many unborn lives lost to abortion since Roe v. Wade with a rose procession at the beginning of the Mass. Together we will gather for a lunch reception and receive words of encouragement from Fr. Agustino as we continue our mission of love in the service of life.

The Catholic Center will participate in the first Love Saves Lives week, based on the theme of this year’s March. We will engage of acts of prayer, confession, adoration, and giving. The week will start off with Life is Beautiful, then go into a Holy Hour for Life and Healing that Tuesday. On Wednesday, there will be a prayer vigil outside of the Planned Parenthood on Howard St., and on Thursday a coffee break benefiting a local pregnancy center where we will collect gifts for babies.

All of these activities will culminate in the national March for Life, the pinnacle event of the pro-life movement and an act of love for the common good. Some may see the March simply as a protest and others as a time to get together with other likeminded people, and still others simply as a political movement. But it is truly an act of love to will that our country have laws that affirm the good and value of every human life, whether born or unborn. And this is what the March for Life is about. And we hope to join many of you as we march for love and March for Life.

Christ is Born! A Happy, Holy, Grace-Filled Christmas to All!

Dear friends,

From all of us in the Department of Evangelization, we wish you and your families a very happy, holy, and grace-filled Christmas!

As we gather with families and friends to celebrate this great feast of our Lord’s birth, let’s be mindful of those who do not enjoy those same blessings and let’s share the joy of the Gospel with all we encounter.

With gratitude and prayers,

John, Monica, Pat, Craig, Edward, Julie Grace, Johanna, Stacy, Deacon Presberry, Mike, Chris, Karen, Sarah, Chris Duck, Natasha, John Fredy, Angelus, Ruth, Rosanne, Deacon Bill, Lia, Ligia

The Missionary Magic of the Season

It seems that every year, before the Thanksgiving turkey is fully digested, we are suddenly surrounded by the music, decorations, and sentiments of Christmas. Along the way, almost every advertiser taps into the “magical” quality of the holiday season and encourages us to do one thing: buy stuff.

And my inner curmudgeon always responds with a big “Bah humbug!”

What gives all these corporations the right to reduce this holy season to nothing more than an annual sales strategy? To eclipse Advent with endless Christmas ads? And then to cut off our 12-day celebration of the real Christmas season right when it’s getting started?

But then I have to admit: complaining about the commercialization of Christmas never helped much with our mission to make disciples. As with all things, our call is always to let our “missionary impulse” transform how we live out the Christmas holiday season.

On the one hand, we know that Christmas does not begin right after Thanksgiving. We know that Advent has only just begun. We take this time to prepare for the coming of Christ to the stable in Bethlehem and for his return in glory at the end of time. We know that Christmas without Advent is like Easter without Lent: it loses its true meaning and spiritual fruitfulness. We know this, and we can live this out in many ways in our families and parishes and schools, as many of us do.

But on the other hand, many of our brothers and sisters only know a commercialized version of Christmas … and yet they still love it. There exists a profound, purely human attraction to this Christian holiday – this “holy day” – an attraction to a uniquely “magical” time of the year, set apart from the every day struggles and routines. This attraction is one more proof that we all yearn for something that gives our lives meaning and transcendent value, something that can only be expressed in special music, decorations, feasting, traditions, rituals, and gatherings. And this is where we see an opportunity for evangelization.

Whenever we have the chance, we should simply offer them what every human heart desires: to be known, loved, and forgiven. In a word, we should offer them an encounter with Jesus Christ. We can invite them into God’s family, where we know that the “magic” of Christmas is not an empty sentiment used to sell things: it’s the atmosphere of a mysterious love story between God and his people, a story that happens to be true and have a very happy ending.

There are so many ways we can do this at Christmas. Just one example: all of the more active parishioners in one parish decided that they would stop complaining about the crowds at Christmas who sat in their front pews. Instead, they chose to do two things: first, to sit in a hall nearby and participate via live video so those who only came for Christmas could have the best seats; and second, to volunteer for all kinds of hospitality ministries to make everyone feel welcome and at home. In this way they were able to share their joy with those seeking the true meaning of Christmas and thus made their own joy “complete.”

What might you be able to do in your parish to share the joy of knowing Jesus Christ with others this Christmas?

Mission Matters: November 28, 2017

This week’s “Parish Table Talk”: Opening of the Museum of the Bible; #ShareJesus; Young Adult Evening Prayer with Abp. Lori Read more

“25,000 Young Witnesses”

Have you ever heard 25,000 Catholic youth and their adult leaders praising God? Or bathed in the silence as they all kneel before the Most Holy Eucharist in Adoration? Read more

Mission Matters: November 14, 2017

This week’s “Parish Table Talk”: USCCB 100th Anniversary Mass; Bishop Barron at the Basilica; Life is Beautiful Save the Date; Young Adult Evening Prayer w/Abp. Lori; Event for Prison Ministry Volunteers and Those Interested in the Ministry; WYD in Panama Read more