Since our first round of Renewal Gathering for Parish Lay Leaders in December 2021, we’ve been moving along the Road to Renewal, attending to the pastoral guideposts of mission, evangelization and lay formation. We are sharing this update as a means of demonstrating progress due to the dedication of many.
Included in these areas is outreach to young adults including college and university students, youth and youth ministers, parish catechetical leaders including directors and coordinators of religious education for youth and adults, parishioners, those exploring the Catholic Church, and those interested in learning more about how to best evangelize and renew our Church.
We are glad to report the activity that has taken place in the following three areas:
A Lenten Morning of Reflection, led by Sister Louise Alff, OSF, consultant for evangelization, was held on Saturday, March 19, at St. Joseph University Church in Buffalo. The theme for the morning was “May the dust of the Master cover you.” During the morning the group engaged in the theme through prayer, discussion and reflection. Additional times of reflection will be provided throughout the year in various locations throughout the diocese and will be promoted on our new formation website soon to be activated.
These times of reflection are available to everyone who is on the Road to Renewal, reminding us of the mission we have to follow Jesus.
Father Frank DeSiano, CSP, president of the Paulist Evangelization Ministries, has collaborated with me to develop a diocesan evangelization framework and a schema for evangelization.
This framework provides the parish/family of parishes with a basic overview of principles of evangelization and missionary discipleship. Every parish/family of parishes implementation of this framework will be unique, based on history, resources and culture. The diocese and others will provide opportunities to learn more about implementation of this framework in the parish/family of parishes over a period of time so that the love of God becomes ever more present.
The schema for evangelization indicates parish and family of parishes as well as diocesan level activities, initiatives and goals all based on the discipleship model.
Soon, we will begin to implement various initiatives such as ALPHA Catholic that will assist in bringing new people into the life of our Church as well as providing a place for anyone to share their faith.
ALPHA is a series of sessions exploring the Christian faith, typically run over 11 weeks. Each talk looks at a different question around faith and is designed to create conversation during the day. ALPHA is run around the globe and will become a major evangelization initiative in the diocese.
Currently, a pilot ALPHA program consisting of a meal, viewing of a video, and discussion period is taking place at St. Margaret Parish in North Buffalo, and on May 5, an orientation workshop will be offered for all parishes and families to learn more about the benefits and practical implementation of the ALPHA program.
Please refer to the website www.roadtorenewal.org for more information. It is the work of everyone to fulfill the mission to “Go make disciples.”
The establishment and formation of evangelization teams throughout the Diocese is a priority. Father Frank DeSiano, CSP, president of Paulist Evangelization Ministries, Washington, D.C., will be instrumental in helping us accomplish this goal. My experience so far has been that many parishioners are looking for ways to assist others reconnect or connect for the first time with the community of faith. We have several tools that will be able to assist us in this regard.
The Young Adults Group meets regularly to discuss involvement in the parish, family of parishes, and diocese; service on the diocesan Pastoral Council; assistance to the Communication Department and the Renewal Office; and preparation of a Theology on Tap series.
Youth ministers have gathered to share information regarding upcoming programs and events, network with other youth ministers, and collaborate with me regarding the formation of a Youth Council with two groups (students in grades 6-8 and students in grades 9-12) as well as a Youth Advisory Board made up of selected adults who will serve by providing formation and consultation. Planning for World Youth Day in Lisbon in 2023 is currently underway.
Catechetical Leaders met both in person and by Zoom with Lisa Benzer, diocesan director of Faith Formation, and me to discuss a number of important issues related to their ministry. During the afternoon presentation, we considered the value of working collaboratively with those in associated ministries, using the Encounter, Accompany, Community and Send model for evangelization among families in the parish and eventually in the family of parishes, and working to implement the goals of the Renewal.
In mid-May, we will be proud to present the new adult faith formation platform aptly named On the Road. The website will be located at Formation.OnTheRoad.org. Once activated, this site will be the center for faith formation and training opportunities organized under six headings: Becoming Catholic; Sacraments; Bringing Faith to Life; Parents, Teachers, Learners; Priests, Deacons, Religious Women and Men; and Families of Families, Family of Parishes, Catholic Center. Anyone seeking faith formation or training will be able to create an online account, where a transcript will be established; allowing the learner to track progress and the learner’s transcript can be shared when necessary.
We look forward to providing an update each month. Please continue to join us on the Road to Renewal and invite others as well.