14th Annual Journey of Faith brings Dan Schutte to Syracuse
By Connie Cissell
This year’s Journey of Faith conference offered participants a unique perspective that accented music as a means of understanding the Word of God. The keynote presenter, Dan Schutte, is an accomplished musician and songwriter. His works are featured in church hymnals across the Syracuse Diocese. A composer for decades, Schutte’s most recent CD is titled God’s Holy Gifts.
This year’s theme for Journey of Faith was “The Word of God in the Life of the Church.” The conference included more than 30 workshops. Approximately 400 lay people, clerics and religious attended the day-long event held Sept. 27 at the Oncenter in downtown Syracuse. Sister Katie Eiffe, CSJ, diocesan director of the Religious Education Office, led a blessing for Schutte before he began his mid-morning presentation. A piano, guitar and Schutte’s melodic voice were interspersed throughout his keynote address.
Schutte talked about the how the Word of God means different things for different people. Vatican II brought the Scriptures to the faithful proclaimed in the vernacular allowing them a closer, more intimate understanding of the Old and New Testaments. Before Vatican II, Schutte said, youngsters gained their knowledge of Scripture through the women religious in their schools who related Bible stories such as Jonah and the whale, the nativity and others to them. “After Vatican II, we came to know the Scriptures because we heard them in the English language, and through the songs we sang at liturgies,” Schutte said. He also said that by listening to those Bible stories, the listeners’ faith is strengthened. “And when we retell them over and over again we remember how faithful God has been to us,” Schutte said.
He asked listeners to hear the Scriptures with “open hearts.”
“The Word of God is our story. In order for that Word of God to become a source of grace to us and the people near us we have to hear it with open hearts,” Schutte said. “If we don’t understand God’s words we can’t be a witness of the Good News. We have to listen not just intellectually, but with our hearts.”
Many of those present at the keynote address were religious education teachers and life-long learners. Schutte told them that their students aren’t looking for doctrine or history, but for the insight their teachers have experienced. “You and I evangelize,” Schutte said. “We become an outward sign that gives grace because of what we have experienced and that is the amazing wonder of God’s grace in our midst. It becomes evident to others we have seen God and talked to Him and we see His presence in others.”
Schutte asked the audience to help him perform the “Dayenu Litany,” a piece adapted from the Hebrew “Dayenu” prayer. He sang through the many gifts God has given and the participants followed those words with the refrain, “That would have been enough.” The song is part of the Jewish holiday of Passover and is over 1,000 years old.
The quest to know God is one pursued universally, and St. Paul, for one, helps guide the faithful on their search for an intimate relationship with God.
“Paul teaches us about the presence of God,” Schutte said. “He says where there is charity, peace, patience, self-control and gentleness there is God. Where there is idolatry, greed, jealousy, sexual irresponsibility, mean spiritedness — these are not the truth of God.”
Western mentality and Eastern mentality represent two different points of view regarding knowing and understanding God. Westerners tend to combine knowing something with the intellect and Easterners tend to regard knowing and understanding through experience. “We favor proof over poetry, “ Schutte said, “science over art.”
Once a Jesuit himself, Schutte talked about Father Walter Burkhardt, SJ, and his writings and how he said “Ultimately, to know God is to be like him.” He went on to describe how two people who love each other allow that love to reach into their souls and eventually change them. This is the same relationship that can be experienced with God, he said.
At one point Schutte referred to the Vatican’s recent declaration that the faithful are to refrain from using the word “Yahweh” in liturgy. Some of his music contains the word in the lyrics. “I will ask your pardon as we sing ‘Yahweh, the Faithful One,’” Schutte said with a smile. His lyrics envelope the beauty of the Scriptures with that particular song including, “Have no fear for I am with you. I will be your shield. Go now, and leave your homeland for I will give you a home.”
Audience participation and warm reception of Schutte and his music was followed by the presentation of the Bishop Thomas J. Costello Award. Sister Katie explained that the Religious Education Office instituted the award in 2004 in order to recognize someone who “empowers others for ministry” and one who serves with the same vision and courage as Bishop Costello. This year’s winner was Father Fred Daley, pastor of the soon-to-be-named All Saints Parish. Our Lady of Solace Church and St. Therese Church on Syracuse’s east side will both symbolically close and the new parish will emerge on the site of St. Therese Church the weekend of Nov. 1 and 2.
Bishop Costello introduced Father Daley citing all the ministries he is responsible for forming in inner-city Utica. “He empowers others to minister and collaborate with courage,” Bishop Costello said. While at St. Francis de Sales Parish in Utica, Father Daley implemented approximately 10 ministries which are direct service to the poor of the community. They are still running today even though St. Francis de Sales Church closed in 2006. Father Daley spent all of his priesthood serving Utica from his first parish, St. Agnes, to Blessed Sacrament and finally St. Francis de Sales. Ordained in 1974, Father Daley’s home parish is Holy Family in Fairmount.
Father Daley said he couldn’t think of a more meaningful honor than to receive the award named after Bishop Costello. “He has certainly been a model for me and the church of Syracuse,” Father Daley said. “His courage to speak the truth and his integrity have been a real support for me throughout my own journey in the priesthood — through good times and more difficult times.”
In accepting the award, Father Daley stressed four ideas that have helped him in his ministry — 1) Take a risk. “We need to get out of the box,” he said. “We’re so safe in our lives. We get to a point where we’re not spreading the Good News or the Bad News, but No News.” 2) Collaborate. “We can’t be ministers alone,” he said. “Reach out to others — other parishes, other faiths.” 3) Real life is on the margins. “Fire will come to our ministries when we wake up to the reality that real life is in the margins. We need to accompany the poor, the rejected, the broken,” he said. 4) “Today’s church can be very discouraging,” Father Daley said. “Sometimes we want to give up but you can’t take back the spring,” he told the audience. “These days sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.”