SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
UTICA — Over the past 10 years, Catholic evangelization has been lived out through the work accomplished at the Good News Foundation. Using the U.S. Catholic bishops’ pastoral statement “Go Make Disciples: A National Plan and Strategy for Catholic Evangelization in the United States,” the foundation continues to be on the cutting edge of bringing the Gospel message to those in need of the Good News.
“Every day is an exciting day,” said Katherine Poupart, director of the Good News Foundation. “We are always looking to the future to see what it holds.”
The growth of the Good News Foundation has come from serving people’s need for assistance in their spiritual journey and a desire for a deeper understanding of scripture. Ten thousand bibles have been given to groups, schools, churches and individuals by the foundation over the past 10 years. It’s just one simple way the Good News Foundation has worked in and around the diocese.
One year after relocating its offices from Barton Avenue in downtown Utica to Cosby Manor Road in the Utica suburb of Deerfield, the foundation has adjusted to its surroundings on the former Vincentian Fathers’ complex. The Good News Foundation sits on 63 acres, much of which is still woodland and open fields. Renovations continue, with new rooms being added and old ones being refurbished.
The Good News Foundation would not exist if not for the generosity of its founders, LeRoy and Hazel Scheidelman. The Scheidelmans gave much of their financial resources to start the Good News Foundation and provided for its indefinite stability. Their daughter, Elizabeth Scheidelman Droz, and son-in-law, Deacon John Droz, are co-executive directors of the foundation and have continued the Scheidelmans’ original intent. The Good News Foundation is now one of the largest Catholic foundations in the U.S.
“My father was very generous. He set money aside for this institution. But it was John that said, ‘LeRoy, don’t you want to help the people?’ My father wanted everyone to be Catholic and everyone to love Jesus. That’s the core of evangelization,” Elizabeth Droz said.
Elizabeth and Deacon Droz came to the forefront of the foundation through their studies of evangelization and Catholic theology. Their study of Vatican II documents has given them a strong appreciation for the mission the Council provides. The couple has traveled to over 70 countries in search of how other faiths evangelize.
After listening to various speakers on the subject, the Drozs are convinced that Vatican II is still not discussed as much as it could be.
“We need to keep up with Vatican II and pray for Vatican III,” Elizabeth Droz said. Deacon Droz said the foundation has been looking into how parishes interact with each other. A recent study listed the 100 best parishes in America and Deacon Droz said one of the volunteers from the Good News Foundation has been calling these parishes to inquire about programs and ministry that make them work so well.
“We are establishing a relationship with them and they are sending us information,” Deacon Droz said. “The problem is that parishes don’t get along and don’t want to. But collaboration has a lot of power. We have seen that already. Here in Utica, the churches in the East Utica cluster have been working quite well together, but it all takes time.”
The Good News Foundation provides opportunities for Christians and non-Christians to learn about Jesus and Christian living. Its uniqueness is what separates the foundation from other organizations.
“There are not many places like this in the country,” Deacon Droz said. “This is a lay movement. I’m the only outsider as an ordained deacon. To think in the Diocese of Syracuse, there is a place where the ideas of the second Vatican Council are carried out.”
Poupart said the 10th anniversary celebration of the Good News Foundation is tied to the 40th anniversary of the first session of Vatican II and the 10th anniversary of “Go Make Disciples.” Vatican II and “Go Make Disciples” are both very important to the work of the church in the 21st century and beyond, Poupart said. “Vatican II gives us our marching orders and ‘Go Make Disciples’ gives us direction,” she explained. “It’s been a while since I’ve read Vatican II, but people don’t realize the treasure they have in those church documents. They are incredible and we encourage people to read them, even a portion. If people realized what was in them, they would be breaking in the door to get into the church.”
The Good News Foundation collaborates with the diocese on many projects. Poupart, Dick Vetere, director of The Joseph Center in Rome, Cathy Cornue, director of religious education for the Eastern Region, Kathy Eichenlaub, director of Madison-Oneida Catholic Charities, and Kathy Coye, Eastern Region Catholic schools superintendent, meet monthly to talk about innovative ways to work together on projects. “We look at all the different areas and see how we can be supportive of one another,” Poupart said. Many projects, ideas and partnerships have come from these monthly meetings.
The Good News Foundation has hosted a variety of programs and discussions to train lay leadership in the church. Poupart said during a recent Formation for Ministry class at the foundation, participants bonded and shared on a level she never expected.
“We had 20 people in this six-week course on evangelization and on their own, they would meet 30 minutes before class to have faith sharing. Even after the class was over, they continued to meet,” she said. “People are really hungry to learn more about their faith. There is not a good understanding of lay ministry and we hope to change that.”
The mission of the Good News Foundation calls organizations and individuals “to design innovative programs to bring the saving work of Jesus to all who are willing to listen.” Whether in small groups, youth programs, retreats, bible studies or spirituality programs, the Good News Foundation is deeply rooted in bringing Christ to all people. The Good News Foundation also provides grants for evangelization activities.
“We have had so many programs here — from the centering prayer retreat to the first state-wide conference on evangelization. We continue to reach out to the people in Central New York,” Poupart said. “We are in the Syracuse Diocese, but the Albany Diocese is just down the road. We want to reach out to all.” Workshops, monthly Good News luncheons and their Cappuccino & Catholicism series are some popular events at the foundation.
One of the many charitable causes the Good News Foundation supports is scholarships to Catholic schools. Deacon Droz said students interested in receiving financial assistance work with principals and write letters to the foundation.
“When you read these letters, you realize how deeply Catholic schools touch some people,” he said. “We need to teach our children in the way of faith.”
With a limited operating budget, the Good News Foundation works on as many projects as possible during a given year. Additional contributions enhance what the foundation can provide to the community, Poupart said.
By opening the facilities to outside groups, the Good News Foundation hopes to make itself one of the premier locations for retreats and conferences in the area.
“It was not our original intent, but I think the Holy Spirit moved us in the direction,” Poupart said. The foundation is now regularly booked for weekday and weekend events.
The foundation can accommodate over 44 overnight guests in 19 spacious bedrooms within the two buildings in the complex. Meeting rooms can hold between 80 and 140 people. Recently added meeting rooms and lounge area provide creature comforts for even the most formal conferences. The Bishop O’Keefe Library continues to grow, with computer automation in the future for cataloging the many selections available. Acres of wooded land give the perfect scenic backdrop for prayer and nurturing one’s faith.
Poupart shared a story from a visit by an international ballet troupe. She said that the Good News Foundation thought it would be nice to have young people in the facilities.
“Just about every bedroom and almost every bed was used when they were here. The very first day, one of the male dancers asked if he could borrow and read one of the religious books I had,” Poupart said. “A girl from Haiti said she had forgotten her miraculous medal that she wears when she dances. We were able to find one and give it to her. It really made her day!” The warm and welcoming atmosphere attracts people to learn and grow in their faith and in the mysteries of the Catholic tradition at the foundation, she said.
Even amid the difficulties the church has faced over the last year, the Good News Foundation encourages people to come back to the church and promises to reinvigorate them for the future.
“It’s a wonderful time to be a Roman Catholic. It’s a challenging time, but a time of renewal,” Poupart said. “Actively living your faith fills the deepest hungers of your heart.”
For more information about the Good News Foundation, call (315) 735-6210 or visit its web site at www.goodnewsfoundation.org.