By our baptism, we are called to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. A disciple continually learns, lives, and witnesses to her/his faith. As a diocese, we look to support parishes, families, and individuals in their mission to be active, informed, and faithful witnesses of Christ and his Church. In Activity #8, of my pastoral letter Reflection on Five Years — Continuing the Mission, I presented findings and proposed goals for forming life-long disciples. As I stated in the letter, “Faith Formation is not just passing on knowledge, but helping people to meet Christ, know Him, accept Him, love Him, and follow Him.”
Jesus illustrates in his encounter with the woman at the well, how at the core of being a disciple and evangelizer, is meeting people where they are, not only physically but also spiritually. Opportunities for faith formation should include virtual and in-person options, and accommodate the needs of someone who is new to the faith, on a journey back, or is a long practicing Catholic. The formation offered must be tailored to the audience, as the reflection covers, plans need to look at the needs of students, parishes, individuals, and seniors. Each has a unique dynamic and going forward, we have to be better prepared to meet a broader spectrum of faithful.
To excel in supporting life-long learning, we should also give more considerable attention to alternatives for adults to grow in their faith. The experience of Mass on Sunday ought to encourage people to want to go deeper, not just for themselves, but to provide knowledge and a framework for sharing the faith with others.
Through conferences, camp and retreats, social media, and various outreach programs, the diocese commits to exploring new innovative ways to catechize, while continuing to embrace those programs and methods that presently enjoy success. We look forward to being able to resume all of these programs when it’s determined that it’s safe to do so.
The Catholic Appeal
We can share in the work of evangelization through the Catholic Appeal, which typically wraps up June 30th, but has been extended due to the late start the pandemic caused. More than a dozen agencies and apostolates funded by the Catholic Appeal assist and minister to more than 100,000 individuals and families, especially in the area of forming life-long disciples. These include:
- Catholic Social Services
- Office for Persons with Disabilities
- Pastoral Care for the Sick and Homebound
- Faith Formation and Family Life programs
- Seminarian and Clergy Education and Development
- Hispanic Apostolate
- Diocesan Pro-Life Apostolate Office
This year’s Catholic Appeal, “See All the People,” reminds us that the Church lives all around us. Faith formation and family life programs supported by gifts to the Catholic Appeal include a vast number of opportunities for Catholics of all ages to bear witness to their faith and develop confident voices to uphold their faith throughout their lives. Additionally, the Faith Formation Office conducts marriage preparation programs for hundreds of couples each year, and campus ministers are available at all colleges in the Diocese.
Continuing the Work of Discipleship
Each person has something special to offer as a disciple. To that end, I’d like to share a memory I recount in my pastoral letter,
“One of my favorite pictures from my pilgrimage to the Island of St. Michael in the Azores for the Santo Cristo Feast is of a grandfather teaching his three-year-old granddaughter how to pray in front of the Santo Cristo image. I have a copy of it in my office and it never ceases to remind me of how many grandparents are superb teachers of the youngest generation in the ways of faith. Teaching is a great way to learn and seniors grow in faith by seeking to pass on to others the wisdom Christ and life have taught them.”
Sharing our time, talent, and treasure, most notably our treasure of faith, will help assure future generations of faithful Catholics: men, women, and children, capable of continuing the mission of discipleship, witnessing to Christ, and proclaiming the Good News.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha