By Tanya Connor
The Year of Faith is giving a group of lay people a new context for its efforts to renew people and parishes in the diocese.
Bishop McManus is blessing the efforts of the Parish Renewal and Evangelization team as they act on the Church’s call to help others deepen their faith and enliven their communities, especially during the next year.
The Worcester Diocese is to launch the Year of Faith with a solemn liturgy at 7 p.m. Oct. 12 at St. Paul Cathedral.
The worldwide year begins Oct. 11, the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican Council II and the 20th anniversary of the publication of the “Catechism of the Catholic Church.” The year ends Nov. 24, 2013, the Feast of Christ the King.
Throughout the year and beyond, the diocesan evangelization team is available to help renew parishes, evangelize Catholics and equip them to evangelize others.
Bishop McManus introduced priests to the Parish Renewal and Evangelization team (PRAE) in a recent letter. Enclosed was a survey to help parishes assess their own evangelization efforts and needs.
The bishop said PRAE was formed with his support as a subcommittee of the diocesan Pastoral Council in 2009 “in order to be proactive in promoting the new evangelization and parish renewal.”
Promoting the new evangelization will be a main thrust of the Year of Faith, he said.
The main ecclesial event at the beginning of the Year of Faith will be the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith,” says a note from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. During this synod, on Oct. 11, “there will be a solemn celebration of the beginning of the Year of Faith, in remembrance of the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.”
“The new evangelization calls each of us to deepen our faith, believe in the Gospel message and go forth to proclaim the Gospel,” says the United States bishops’ website, www.usccb.org. “Pope Benedict XVI called for the re-proposing of the Gospel ‘to those regions awaiting the first evangelization and to those regions where the roots of Christianity are deep but who have experienced a serious crisis of faith due to secularization.’ The new evangelization invites each Catholic to renew their relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church.”
Bishop McManus echoed this in his letter.
“Efforts must be made to deepen the faith lives of practicing Catholics, enliven our parish communities, and to bring people back to embrace the faith and establish a relationship with Jesus Christ,” he said. “With our evangelization efforts we will also demonstrate our recommitment to the Second Vatican Council.”
The survey asks about pastoral leaders’ understanding of the Year of Faith and the new evangelization, and promotion of these with parishioners. It asks about parish efforts for evangelization, hospitality/outreach, social justice, faith formation and spiritual renewal.
The survey was done with the assistance of Research Results, owned by John Zarrella of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Fitchburg, according to Lori Pandiscio, a fellow parishioner and a PRAE member. She expressed hope that the survey would inform pastors of PRAE’s services and give PRAE ideas about what the needs are.
PRAE members are available to give presentations and provide ongoing assistance to renew parishes or evangelize groups of individuals – from confirmation students to Knights of Columbus. The presentations can be tailored to the audience and the needs, they said.
Ms. Pandiscio said she and some other PRAE members are also parish visitors for the diocesan Pastoral Planning Committee. The visitors gather information which the committee uses to assess parishes’ viability.
“One of the questions always was, ‘How do we become a viable parish?’” said John Zawacki, PRAE co-chairman, of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Northborough. “We said, ‘We need to do something to renew them.’”
“Not all parishes are communities in the sense that we would like to see it – interactions within the parish and outreach from the parish,” said PRAE member William Hobey, of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Millbury. PRAE’s efforts to revitalize parishes are aimed at the whole parish, to help it identify needs and start ministries, he said.
“I tend to see the new evangelization as a re-evangelization of the whole Church – re-energizing the core of the Church,” he said. “Start with the people who come on Sunday, Christmas/Easter Catholics, and out and out and out.”
“Get people involved in their parish life – I think that’s a big goal – rather than just coming on Sunday,” said PRAE member Susan Zybert, of St. Mary Parish in Shrewsbury.
“The drive for doing this is the joy that comes with giving,” Dr. Zawacki said. “I think people don’t know how to get to that abundant life Jesus promises.”
To help individuals find and share that abundant life, PRAE also offers presentations about evangelization.
“We saw a need to revitalize the individual, to let them understand their baptismal promises to know, love and serve God,” said PRAE member Anthony Merenda, of St. Mary Parish in Grafton.
PRAE co-chair Dwain Robbins, of St. Mary Parish in Uxbridge, said they tell listeners Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations applies to all the baptized.
“People ask, ‘How do I evangelize? That’s scary. I don’t really know what that is,’” said PRAE member Stephen McVey, of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Milford. But, he said, “You might even be doing that without even knowing it.”
“We give them very specific, practical tools” to evangelize on a one-to-one basis, Mr. Robbins said. He said it is not about knocking on doors, but the Holy Spirit will move a person and others will cross his or her path.
PRAE member LaVerne Bertin, an associate director of the diocesan Office of Religious Education and a St. Rose of Lima parishioner, said PRAE uses “Go and Make Disciples: A National Plan and Strategy for Catholic Evangelization in the United States,” put out by the U.S. bishops.
– For more information contact Dwain Robbins at firstname.lastname@example.org or 508-278-2541.