Evangelization is the DPC theme for 2009-10

By Connie Berry
SUN editor

The Diocesan Pastoral Council (DPC) met at Bishop Grimes Jr./Sr. High School on Saturday, Sept. 12. It was Bishop Robert Cunningham’s first meeting as bishop of the Syracuse Diocese.

The groundwork of reviewing what is expected of members opened the day’s agenda. Sally Millick, DPC chairperson introduced the theme of the year, “Evangelization,” and then Martha Group, membership chairperson, reminded the members that they represent their parishes as a liaison to the bishop. Handouts included information on the DPC and how it operates.

Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Christopher Mominey, was introduced and he spoke to members telling them that one of the goals of the Catholic Schools Office is to find new ways to sustain Catholic education. He expressed gratitude to the parishes for their support and acknowledged that some parishes do not have children who attend Catholic schools; later Bishop Cunningham told the DPC that all Catholics have a responsibility to Catholic education. Mominey mentioned that appreciation for pastors and parishes and their contributions to Catholic schools will be addressed at this year’s Light the Way dinner dance held in January. The priests of the diocese will be honored at the event. June 2009 to June 2010 has been designated as the Year of the Priest by Pope Benedict XVI.

Guest presenters at the meeting were Sister Ellen Rose, SSJ, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Ogdensburg Diocese, and Sister Mary Eamons Lyng, SSJ, director of evangelization for the same diocese. Bishop Cunningham left Ogdensburg after serving as bishop there for five years. Sister Ellen Rose joked during her opening remarks saying “we’re in recovery.” The two sisters presented an overview of evangelization with Sister Ellen Rose addressing the “why” and Sister Mary Eamons addressing the “how” of evangelization.

“John Paul II used the term ‘new evangelization’ often,” Sister Ellen Rose said. “If you read his writings he gives credit to Pope Paul VI for the term.”

She explained that the encyclical “Evangelization in the Modern World”
written by Paul VI in 1975 on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council is the document to study in order to develop a clearer understanding of evangelization.

The mandate given to the church by Christ is to “proclaim the Gospel to every creature,” Sister Ellen Rose said. “His mandate to His Apostles is to bring the Good News to everyone,” she said. “We need to do this with new ardor, new methods, new expressions so the proclamation of the message will have new enthusiasm.”

The whole church is responsible for evangelization, Sister Ellen Rose explained. Evangelization is a complex process made up of different elements. There are those who are recipients of the message and those who deliver the message. Both parties benefit from evangelizing. One of the strongest ways to evangelize is through one-on-one relationships with others, Sister Ellen Rose said.

“Our conduct is the first invitation to others,” she said. “Evangelization often takes place in personal encounters. People want to know why you live your life the way you do.”

In Sister Mary Eamon’s position in the diocesan Office of Evangelization, she serves as a coordinator and planner of events that promote evangelization.

The document, “Go and Make Disciples” and the U.S. bishops’ pastoral “Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us: A Pastoral Plan for Adult Faith Formation in the United States” are both resources for evangelization. Sister Mary Eamons explained that the Ogdensburg Diocese utilizes a four-year program titled “Why Catholic?”

Sister Mary Eamons stressed the importance of small faith communities which can come together for learning, sharing and living out their faith. The program offers strong support though retreat experiences, resources for parishes, and strong support at the diocesan level. She publishes a newsletter, Horizons, from her office. It offers suggestions for living the Gospel message in today’s world and tips on evangelization. It includes tips for family prayer. Children who come to receive the sacraments, young couples who come to church to be married but then leave and do not return until it is time to baptize their children and those who may be sitting at home at a computer are a few groups who benefit from evangelization.

Welcoming the visitor, the neighbor, the acquaintance to the church community is crucial for evangelization to take place. Churches must be inviting and welcoming, she said.

Resources for evangelization include a number of online options. Sister Mary Eamons said she is known for the amount of emails she sends from her office but she said the Internet is a very effective tool.

Besides the “Why Catholic?” program, Sister Mary Eamons said it is important that the entire diocese be involved in evangelization with a diocesan-wide event serving as an energizing component of a successful program. The Year of St. Paul last year and the Year of the Priest this year both offer an opportunity to evangelize, she explained.

Small group discussion after the presentation had DPC members sharing ideas about what their parishes do to evangelize. They reported on their programs saying it is up to the parish to provide a welcoming atmosphere and a sense of belonging. One parish sends a representative to new families within the parish boundaries introducing themselves and offering an open invitation to the church. Another parish community sends birthday cards every year to each child baptized until they are school age and then they send information for faith formation programs.

The DPC plenary session ended with Bishop Cunningham addressing the written questions provided by the group. He talked about the church’s position on affordable health care. “The U.S. bishops have been issuing statements about health care since the 1980s. The bishops’ Web site has much information on health care,” Bishop Cunningham said.

The bishops are in favor of affordable health care for people, but they are not in favor of a plan that would include money for abortion or a plan that does not address conscience protection, he said.

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