The New Evangelization calls each of us to deepen our faith, believe in the Gospel message and go forth to proclaim the Gospel. The focus of the New Evangelization calls all Catholics to be evangelized and then go forth to evangelize. In a special way, the New Evangelization is focused on 're-proposing' the Gospel to those who have experienced a crisis of faith. 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.
We have all heard the call of Pope Paul VI for a new evangelization, and his successors to the Chair of Peter have echoed it for fifty years. Many have endeavored to answer the question of what this new evangelization actually is. While we certainly can’t claim to have found the answer, we do believe Catholic Online School and new approach to catechesis and evangelization that we propose is an important step. As with challenges the Church has faced before, the success of our new education initiatives will be something we accomplish only through God’s grace, arduous devotion, and great sacrifice on the part of all.
'The witness of catechists and teachers of the faith also creates and fosters a culture of witness. Catechists, together with the pastors of the Church, are entrusted with the duties of teaching the faith, overseeing sacramental preparation, supporting the formation of consciences, and developing a love of prayer in those they catechize. Catechists, who are dedicated disciples of Christ, provide a powerful witness to the Gospel. Additionally, Catholic schools and their teachers are witnesses to the faith. For over one hundred years, the Catholic school system in America has prepared generations of disciples in this country and been a powerful evangelizing presence. A vibrant Catholic identity and active promotion of gospel values in Catholic schools help foster future generations of disciples and evangelists (USCCB).'
Please read this Constitution in a spirit of love for the Lord and His Church, pray and reflect on the role you can play, and join us in embracing the challenge of our day to go out to the world bearing the Light of Christ.
A New Emphasis on Teaching
The Spirit said to Philip, 'Go and join up with that chariot.' Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, 'Do you understand what you are reading?' He replied, 'How can I, unless someone instructs me?' So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him. – Acts 8:29-31
1. Catholic Online School is a teaching institute. This is the goal that we undertake which I hope will guide us for the next 25 years and beyond.
In this Constitution, we are challenging all members of the Roman Catholic Church to be like the deacon and evangelist Philip: go and join up with all of the people of the world and instruct them in the richness of the Catholic Church, founded and instituted by Jesus Christ. We look to encounter, accompany, and offer each and every person the beautiful truths of the Catholic Faith. This is an audacious goal, but with God all things are possible, and we entrust our mission to Him through the intercession of Saint Philip the Evangelist.
2. There is a grave need for this sort of engagement. Our own lived experience in the United States of America and the raw data leaves no doubt about this:
- It is estimated that only 23 percent of U.S. Catholics attend Holy Mass each week. Those 77 percent absent from the Eucharistic feast are not strangers: they are our parents, siblings, spouses, children, and friends.
- Today there are over 30 million people in the U.S. who were raised Catholic, who no longer identify as such. This group of people is approximately equal in size to the number of Baptist Christians in the USA.
- The number of Catholic weddings has been falling steadily for four decades in the U.S., and less than one-half as many weddings will occur in the Catholic Church in 2017 as in 1990.
3. Clearly we must act, and we will! This Constitution is meant to serve as a road map, a guide, to the reformation of teaching to all Catholic's worldwide. I ask the priests, the deacons, the religious sisters and brothers, the catechists, the teachers, and the faithful to assist in implementing this Constitution. We possess the Faith, a gift to us from God. Our response to God’s gift will be to hand that Faith on to others as an act of selfless love.
Let us teach with renewed fervor. Let us give the very best of Catholic teaching to every family worldwide. Let us be like the Apostles of Christ and the first Christians who taught vigorously and without regard for themselves while thinking only of the other.
A New Teaching Structure
This Constitution lays out an audacious, far-reaching plan, and a new focus for Catholic's worldwide. We cannot expect big results through small efforts. What we seek is a wholesale change and improvement in how we teach people on every continent. To have the results we desire, we must be willing to be bold and capable of expressing the faith, 'ever ancient, ever new,' with competency and clarity like never before.
In order to answer the question, 'How do we become a teaching institution?' We have founded Catholic Online School for Catechesis and Evangelization. Catholic Online School is charged with providing the parishes of every Diocese with the materials, expertise, and support to perform the mission of teaching as outlined in this Constitution. Catholic Online School was founded for the service of the faithful of every diocese worldwide.
A Vision of Teaching the Family
So they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to everyone in his house. He took them in at that hour of the night and bathed their wounds; then he and all his family were baptized at once. – Acts 16:32-33
The family is the basic building block of our Church and human society. We envision teaching being delivered primarily to families, according to their membership. The experience of learning the Faith will be a family building and family strengthening activity.
Most basically, engagement of the family means to accompany people according to the reality of their lives. To this end, we see three concerns: (a) engagement of the total family; (b) engagement of the members according to their season; and (c) engagement of members according to their changing challenges.
(a) We must engage the total family. The Catholic Faith is not meant to be held by only one person in a household, it is a house- hold practice of the Faith. If one member of a family is prepar- ing to receive a sacrament of initiation, we must have packaged teaching which will bring the rest of the family along the same journey for the sake of unity. Our materials and activities should seek always to speak to the entire family and promote the house- hold practice of the Faith.
(b) We will engage the members of the family according to their season. Each member of a family is in a season of life. Broadly, we will be conscious of the Season of Infancy from 0 to 4 years of age, the Season of Initiation from 5 to 12 years of age, the Season of Discipleship from 13 to 22 years of age, the Season of Commitment 23 to 30 years of age, the Season of Living the Journey from 30 to 50 years of age, the Season of Maturity from 50 to 70 years of age, and the Season of Wisdom from 70 years on. These are not hard and fast ages, as individuals grow and make vocational decisions at different times, but our engagement should be sensitive to the teaching that will most impact people in these different seasons, particularly in relation to vocational discernment. We will model teaching on the ways family members in these different seasons can enrich each other’s journey.
(c) Each member of the family faces individual challenges, and, in order for our teaching to be most useful, we will engage each member of the family according to the challenges they face. When we engage a husband and father, we will give him the critical information necessary to live out his vocation according to the teachings of the Catholic Church, according to his characteristic role, responsibilities, and challenges. When we engage a wife and mother, she also will be given good, clear teaching critical to living her vocation. She will need many of the same things as her husband, but her needs will be different in key areas, and it is our responsibility recognize and respond to her individual needs as completely as possible. To provide teaching which exhibits quality, desirability and usefulness, we will accompany each member of the family through their lives and teach them according to their changing needs.
What this points to is a system of teaching which is far from 'one size fits all,' but is instead custom-tailored to the members of a household as a family. This is a lofty goal, but it is precisely why we have chosen to chart this new course and found an Institute of teaching, so that this opportunity can be studied and this goal reached. Secular organizations in our world employ this sort of analysis and customization in the service of far less worthy goals. We will make every effort at this direct engagement of all the members of families worldwide.
Teaching and Evangelization
He said to them, 'Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.' – Mark 16:15
Our teaching will begin with Catholics, whether practicing, barely practicing, or non-practicing. We have much work to do among Catholics. However, we will not neglect the non-Catholic people. We have an evangelical responsibility to all people, and this impels us to constantly expand the margins of our efforts. We possess the great and wonderful gifts of the Catholic faith, and it is entirely contrary to the mission given to us by Jesus Christ to keep them to ourselves. As we become a teaching institute, we will also embrace the New Evangelization.
As we embrace this broad challenge, we will acknowledge that we are speaking of the entire population of the world, about 6+ billion people in our 195+ counties. A constant theme of recent popes is helpful here: we must share our relationship with the person of Jesus Christ. Evangelization is sharing our encounter with a person. This will be the touchstone of all we seek to do as an evangelizing institution.
Our teaching encompasses both catechesis and evangelization, recognizing that these have separate purposes. While they are not opposed in any way, we can understand evangelization as focused on the initial proclamation of the truth of Jesus Christ, or giving a reason 'why?' someone would want to know Jesus Christ. In our skeptical society, this will inevitably also involve giving many other reasons 'why' Catholics believe as we do. Therefore, evangelical efforts, in order to be useful, will effectively answer 'why?' about the whole spectrum of Catholic beliefs. This is a proclamation that is also sorely needed by even practicing Catholics in many cases. In this way, evangelization is a term that can be applicable to everyone.
By catechesis, we mean the organized presentation of the faith which is a lifelong effort of formation. Catechesis, complementing evangelization, answers the question of 'what?' as in 'What do Catholics believe?' and 'What does the Church teach?' We desire that our new emphasis on teaching will be both evangelical and catechetical.
We charge the School to develop, in addition to the many catechetical resources we need, evangelical resources as well. These should be aimed at direct evangelization of people who desire to know 'why?' and also indirect evangelization through the preparation of evangelists. In this way, we can assist Catholics in living out their Baptismal responsibilities.
The Christian faithful are those who, inasmuch as they have been incorporated in Christ through Baptism, have been constituted as the people of God; for this reason, since they have become sharers in Christ’s priestly, prophetic, and royal offce in their own manner, they are called to exercise the mission which God has entrusted to the Church to fulfill in the world, in accord with the condition proper to each one. – Catechism of the Catholic Church, 871
These resources to create evangelists should educate and equip Catholics to answer the question 'why?', and should also encourage them to go out into the world and do so with the help of the Holy Spirit.
We will also improve our ministry which incorporates the evangelized into the Catholic Faith, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. We charge the institute to work to improve and standardize the RCIA ministry, and to fully support those pastors, religious, teachers and volunteers who work so hard in this ministry. We specically call for an improvement and extension of the period of mystagogy, the continuing teaching of those who have recently joined the Church. We must give them the best of our teaching and fellowship.
To those wonderful people who facilitate teaching and RCIA worldwide: We hope to send you many more seekers in the years to come, and we pledge that you will have the best support of Catholic Online School to make your work as fruitful as possible.
(Credit: Bishop Joseph Strickland's 'Constitution on Teaching')
Please read the Apostolic Letter from Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted supporting Evangelizing through Catholic Online School and other Catholic Schools.
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