May 12, 2006

Evangelization Supplement

Parishes and schools are at heart of evangelization

By John Valenti

The new National Directory for Catechesis for the United States challenges us to provide opportunities for a parish-centered, lifelong process of ongoing faith formation, including evangelization, the outreach element of total Catholic education.

As Jesus Christ is at the heart of all catechesis, the goal is to lead all believers to a deeper knowledge and love of Christ and the Church, and a firm commitment to follow him. “Evangelizing Catechesis” refers to the totality of the Church’s efforts “to make disciples” (Mt. 28:19).

Kim Orbik, administrative assistant for the Archdiocesan Schools Consortium, recalled the story of a family that came to discuss their tuition status.

“Mom, son and grandma came to see me here at the Catholic Center to discuss their options,” she said. “As I walked them downstairs to leave, the little boy stepped in front of me, looked up at me and said, ‘I love you.’

“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh! This is why I am here,’ ” Orbik said. “This family was in need, and I was able to help them. This is why I am here—to help those families in need that are less fortunate than me. I love my job. Each and every day, I thank God for giving me this opportunity.”

For all of the challenges to Catholic education, it is not merely a question of adaptation, but of missionary thrust. The very challenges we face in culture are the very reason our parishes and schools exist to serve others.

They are centers of evangelization and apprenticeship in the Christian life, with special attention to those who are most vulnerable—the socially and economically disadvantaged, the poor and marginalized, urban dwelling and Hispanic, the Gospel-less and also students with disabilities.

Several evangelizing efforts are featured in this special supplement in The Criterion. They include:

• Christ Renews His Parish (CHRP) 10th anniversary at St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis,

• Small Church Communities’ ministries of discipleship and evangelization,

• St. Philip Neri School in Indianapolis, which serves as an anchor for the Hispanic community,

• and Special Religious Education’s (SPRED) special needs and how they are welcomed in parish communities.

This renewed evangelizing mission affords an opportunity for people to interact in an environment which favors their Christian formation. Parishes and schools provide a place where faith and culture are intertwined in all areas of life.

This evangelization effort is both the ecclesial purpose and the essential Catholic identity of everything we do in Christian formation.

It is our privileged way of exercising the virtue of charity by initiating hearers into the fullness of Christian life.

(John Valenti is associate director of evangelization and faith formation for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.)


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