US bishops call Year of Faith chance for deeper conversion

By Michelle Bauman

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Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wis.

The upcoming Year of Faith is an occasion for the Church in the U.S. to embrace the call to spread the Gospel and to grow closer to Christ, said Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wis.

He explained that “the Year of Faith is an opportunity for all Catholics to experience a conversion, to turn back to Jesus and to enter into a deeper relationship with him and the Church.”

Activities planned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops throughout the year “will emphasize and foster the New Evangelization,” which seeks to propose anew the timeless truths of the Catholic faith, he said. 

Bishop Ricken, who chairs the bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, addressed the conference at its spring general assembly in Atlanta, Ga. on June 13.

He outlined resources that are being created for dioceses and parishes to use during the upcoming Year of Faith, which was declared by Pope Benedict XVI to foster more complete conversions and contribute to a rekindled and strengthened faith for people around the world.

The year will begin on Oct. 11, 2012, which is the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. It will conclude on Nov. 24, 2013, the Solemnity of Christ the King.

Guidelines issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith explain that the Year of Faith is an opportunity for the faithful to grow in their knowledge about the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism.

The Vatican guidelines urged bishops’ conferences around the world to use media to evangelize, as well as to increase the “quality of catechesis,” looking at local catechism teaching materials to ensure that they fully conform to Church doctrine. 

At the diocesan level, the Congregation suggested an emphasis on “creative dialogue between faith and reason” in both the academic and artistic realm, as well as the need to ask forgiveness for sins.  Parishes are encouraged to focus on the liturgy, especially the Eucharist.

Acknowledging that renewal is at the heart of the Year of Faith, Bishop Ricken emphasized the need to “re-engage” those who have drifted away from the Church.

He highlighted various resources that the bishops’ conference has prepared in order to celebrate the upcoming year.

Through the cooperation of several committees, a new interactive version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church has been launched on the website of the bishops’ conference, he said. This online Catechism is “searchable, enables the user to bookmark passages and is easily viewed on multiple web-based platforms, including tablets and smartphones.”

Other initiatives throughout the year will include several short videos highlighting individuals who have returned to their faith and the second “Intellectual Tasks of the New Evangelization” conference, which will be held in Sept 2013 and will focus on the relationship between theologians and bishops, he said.

The bishop added that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has already begun using Facebook to regularly promote the lives of the saints and catechism quizzes.

The conference has started “preparation of apologetic materials for the faithful and the general public,” he explained. These include pamphlets on general catechetical topics and four brochures focused on the New Evangelization and its relationship to the family, parish, Church and society.

Moreover, at the request of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the bishops’ Subcommittee on the Catechism will create a handbook on the process that it uses to “review catechetical texts for their conformity with the Catechism.” The handbook will serve as a resource for other episcopal conferences around the world.

In addition to the recommendations released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the U.S. bishops’ conference is also developing resources “based on the specific needs of our people and the conditions of American society,” he added.

The conference will launch a Year of Faith website that “will include liturgical and prayer resources, catechetical tools and aids, vocational and family life resources, videos and other interactive features.”

Collaborating committees are already working on a catechetical series for the promotion of vocations to priesthood and consecrated life, the bishop said, as well as web-based resources to help families live out the Year of Faith through prayer, regular sacramental participation and commitments to other practical activities.

Homily resources are also being developed to help clergy preach about the sacraments and other important moments in people’s lives, explained Bishop Ricken.
                                                                       
The upcoming year must be a time to invite people to re-open the “door of faith” that was opened at their Baptism and to encourage study and reflection on Church teaching, he said.

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