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Catechesis — Evangelization — Faith Into Action
Days after I was installed as your sixth bishop of the Diocese of Joliet, a common question began to surface with frequency, “Bishop, what is your vision for this diocese?” At first, my response to this inquiry was choppy and scattered.
However, my answer has recently become more defined and succinct. With a lot of time in prayer before our Eucharistic Lord and discernment through conversations with the clergy, religious and laity, my vision has begun to take shape and form.
My vision builds on Bishop Emeritus R. Daniel Conlon’s beautiful and prophetic pastoral letter, “Go,” He said. In it, he exhorts us to become missionary disciples. If we are going to be a Church that truly embraces missionary discipleship, we need to have a common game plan.
Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to share my vision with you. It contains just three movements and only five words: Catechesis — Evangelization — Faith into Action. Let us begin by reflecting on the first movement, catechesis.
Catechesis resides in our intellect. It purports that there is indeed something to know about God and the Church. Sometimes, we feel that we have covered this path with our religious education or CCD classes for our children. However, learning about Jesus should not end in eighth grade. We are called to be lifelong learners about faith, for there is always something more to learn. We all learn in different ways. No matter at what stage of life, I encourage you to read a book about Catholic spirituality or theology, or tune into a solid podcast, or attend Bible study or a talk at your local parish, etc. (The fact that you are reading this article demonstrates that you are open to learning more about your faith!) There are many options; the point is to select something that helps you grow intellectually in your faith.
As society continues to become more indifferent to faith and to shift to a more secular world’s view, there is a temptation to think that catechesis will solve all our problems. That once people study, read and know about God, then they will be converted and ardently embrace the faith. However, an atheist can study everything about God and Catholicism and then use that information against us. Therefore, my vision does not end with catechesis; it is just the beginning.
Let us move now to the second movement, evangelization. This movement flows from the head to the heart. It motivates us not only to know about Jesus, but also to know and love Him. Knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus may sound like the same thing, but they are very different.
Knowing and loving Jesus means that we accept and rejoice that He is real. We acknowledge and proclaim that Jesus was born in Bethlehem; He lived, He suffered and was crucified; He died; and on the third day He rose from the dead. When we confess that through His passion, death and resurrection He has won for us the gift of salvation, then we truly believe that He is risen and, yes, He is alive. He loves us, and we love Him! And, we want to share that love with the next generation.
Through evangelization, once we have this encounter with the living God, that is when everything changes. It is then that praying and going to Mass move from just an obligation to a deep desire. In other words, living a life with Christ through the Church, the Eucharist and the sacraments and the community becomes a priority over sports, brunch and shopping.
(By the way, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with sports, brunch and shopping. The problem is when they replace God at the center of our lives and our Sundays.)
If we have been truly evangelized, then we are on the path to holiness like the saints. Even in the midst of sin, disappointment, frustration and possible persecution, we stay with the Christ and the Church. We become like St. Polycarp who was told that, if he left the Church and renounced Christ, then his life would be spared. Instead, he chose martyrdom and said, "Eighty six years I have served Christ, and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King who has saved me?”
Once we have been catechized and evangelized, then we move to the third movement, faith into action. For, if we know about God and also know and love Jesus, then we will want to love God and our neighbor. We will be propelled and compelled to minister to and serve others.
This mission activity of the Church looks different in all our parishes and schools. Everyone is led by the Holy Spirit to put faith into action in a variety of ways, including outreach to the poor, the unborn, the marginalized, the hungry, the homeless, the orphan and abandoned, the prisoner, the stranger, etc.
The important thing is that we connect our faith into action to catechesis and evangelization. The Church is not just another social service agency. We serve others not only because we are good people and/or because we want to contribute to the common good, but also because, as Catholics, we serve, minister, donate and volunteer because we know about God and know and love Jesus.
In other words, as missionary disciples, we follow Jesus’ great command recorded at the conclusion of Matthew’s Gospel, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And, remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
To watch Bishop Hicks talk more about his vision for the diocese, click on this link: https://youtu.be/CGKlGhiBgcw