April 18, 2014

Catholic Education Outreach / Ken Ogorek

Francis Who?! Blessed in his sharing of the faith in the U.S.A.

In previous columns, I’ve mentioned St. Alphonsus Ligouri and St. John Neumann—both for their connection to our chief shepherd and catechist Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin. St. Alphonsus founded the Redemptorist order, and St. John Neumann was a Redemptorist as is Archbishop Tobin.

Now I’m happy to focus on Blessed Francis Seelos, a Redemptorist who ministered in several U.S. states throughout the mid-1800s. Francis sets a great example for us on how to share and spread our beautiful Catholic faith.

Francis Seelos was known for using simple, accessible language in sharing the saving truths of our faith. When we share with our friends, neighbors and relatives about our relationship with Jesus and how we walk that road of discipleship in the context of his holy, Catholic Church, it’s helpful to speak plainly—especially at first—avoiding complex theological language, and simply speaking from the heart about our love for the Lord and the fulfillment we enjoy when we encounter him in sacred Scripture, in the sacraments and the many additional ways that our Catholic faith makes clear.

Francis was also known for his attention to doctrine. His catechesis wasn’t lacking in content, but he always tried to use language appropriate for his audience—and he backed up the divinely revealed truth that he shared with the witness of his own life.

People who knew Blessed Francis Seelos saw that faith and everyday life were connected in this man, who gave them such an excellent example of Christian discipleship to follow.

Finally, words often used to describe Francis Seelos—enthusiastic, zealous, joyful—also describe our best Catholic educators. These catechists, teachers and youth ministry volunteers are appealing to youths and adults alike because they obviously possess a happiness and peace that are in short supply for many folks

Curiosity often leads to questions, and questions lead to excellent Catholic educators giving reasons for their hope in our Lord Jesus and the life he offers each person. Not only their lessons and learning experiences, then, but also the joyful witness they provide help Catholic educators reach out with evangelizing love and care.

Also noteworthy is Blessed Francis Seelos’ focus on having a spirit of sacrifice. The life of a Christian disciple will entail demands—even crosses that require dying to self. Yet the sure hope of resurrection allows not only Catholic educators, but all disciples of Jesus to embrace various sacrifices while retaining the joy, zeal and enthusiasm of our Master and Teacher.

Francis Seelos was declared Blessed in April of 2000. He had been named for St. Francis Xavier, co-patron of our archdiocese, and ministered in the U.S. around the time of St. Theodora Guérin.  Blessed Francis Seelos entered eternal life on Oct. 5, 1867, two days after what would eventually become St. Theodora’s feast day and the day after St. Francis of Assisi’s feast day—the latter being the namesake of our Holy Father, Pope Francis.

So in addition to learning about the better-known folks mentioned in this column, I encourage you to learn a bit about Blessed Francis Seelos. For starters, visit the website www.seelos.org. Francis needs another miracle to be declared a saint, so feel free to request intercessory prayer on the site’s prayer guestbook.

By following Francis Seelos’ example of delivering doctrinal content with simple speech and maintaining a joyful demeanor, even amidst sacrifices, we can all become better disciples of Jesus and more effective agents of the new evangelization—all with the help of God’s grace and for his greater honor and glory.

(Ken Ogorek is director of catechesis for the Office of Catholic Education in the archdiocese. He can be reached at 800-382-9836, ext. 1446, or by e-mail at kogorek@archindy.org. For an additional example of plain speech used to communicate the Catholic faith, see our “10 Things We Want You to Know About the Catholic Faith.”)

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