Step into a Catholic Church and you’ll see signs of it. Banners, bulletin covers, and, at some parishes, like St. Matthias, Milwaukee, T-shirts proclaiming the celebration. The Catholic Church is in the midst of a celebration termed the Year of Faith.
On Oct. 11, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI announced that a Year of Faith would begin Oct. 11, 2012, and conclude Nov. 24, 2013, the feast of Christ the King. The Holy Father chose the opening date to coincide with three historic occasions in the church; the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, the 20th anniversary of the release of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the world Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization held Oct. 7-28 at the Vatican.
Regain roots of heritage
How can this special “Year of Faith” be relevant to families?
Dr. Marisa Beffel, the mother of nine who holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master’s degree and doctorate in medical bioethics, says it’s a perfect time to focus on passing the faith onto the next generation.
“We need to regain the roots of our heritage, share and understand and pass them along to family, children, grandchildren, and friends,” Beffel said. “This is the perfect time as we are in the Year of Faith and this is the first time in our history that our faith is not shown to be passed along to the next generation. There have been other times in history that faith has been passed along, but it is not happening now.”
Her comments came during a Sept. 27 presentation, “One Nation Under God: A Place for Faith & Freedom” at St. John the Evangelist Church in Greenfield.
An associate member for the Milwaukee Guild of the Catholic Medical Association, she’s a frequent speaker on the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, pro-life issues and end-of-life issues.
Melding the Year of Faith with studying the faith-based principles of the Founding Fathers is an important step to evangelization and retaining the country’s heritage, according to Beffel.
Faith not shared is lost
If faith is not shared with youth and young adults, there is great risk in losing the next generation of Catholics, she said.
“We have to make sure to do our part and exclaim that the Year of Faith can really make a difference,” she said. “As Americans, we believe and follow natural law. As Americans, we follow our Ten Commandments. As Americans, we believe and follow the documents that our right to life is an inalienable right. Life is and always has to be, number one.”
By studying the Declaration of Independence and the U.S Constitution, as well as the individual writings and letters of our Founding Fathers, Beffel believes Americans will encounter a new appreciation and understanding of the Christian principles on which the country was founded.
“It cannot be emphasized enough, that this great nation was founded by Christians and on the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” she said. “In fact, 11 of the original states required faith in Jesus Christ in order to hold office. The state constitutions of all 50 states currently call on the providence of God for the blessings of freedom – this is in every constitution in every state.”
In fact, the preamble to Wisconsin’s Constitution includes the line, “We, the people of Wisconsin, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure its blessings, form a more perfect government, insure domestic tranquility and promote the general welfare, do establish this constitution.”
It further says, in Article 1, Section 18, “The right of every person to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of conscience shall never be infringed.”
The American way of life must be restored, said Beffel.
“It was hijacked and taken away. We need to restore our culture, and raise children to be good Americans. Once we get our culture back and get people to understand what we have and protect it, then we can live in one nation under God with liberty and justice for all.”
Learn about John Paul II Center offerings
According to Lydia LoCoco, director of The Nazareth Project for Marriage and Family Formation, the Year of Faith is a good opportunity to become familiar with the John Paul II Center to learn of regular activities and programs that highlight the many ways they minister and reach out to families throughout the archdiocese.
A popular event is the annual Nazareth Family Day at Holy Hill, which will be held July 14, 2013. Mass will be celebrated by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, and the event will include confessions, picnic and family activities.
“The Year of Faith is a special opportunity for all parents to go more deeply into their faith in an intentional way with their children,” said LoCoco, noting the website for the Nazareth Project for Marriage and Family Formation and a regular e-newsletter are good ways of staying informed. (See box for web addresses.)
Reaching out to youth after the sacrament of confirmation into adulthood is another key aspect to sharing and retaining faith in the next generation. Many parishes face an exodus of young Catholics after confirmation, and grapple with keeping them engaged in parish life.
St. Pius X Parish in New Orleans struggled with getting adults to attend catechetical sessions, so it devised a plan that was so successful, it set an example for other parishes in the archdiocese.
According to Beth Donze, reporter for the Clarion Herald, it was a tough sell to get the adults to show up, as they were dealing with busy schedules, babysitting issues and fitting in mealtimes.
“They invited the whole family to attend their sessions, and gave them a free dinner, offered free babysitting for children ages 0-2, and after dinner, they split the group into age groups and sent them to different locations for an age-appropriate catechetical session on the night’s topic,” she said. “They held all the sessions on Sunday night to maximize turnout and the approach worked like a charm and had more than 130 people turn out for the first session.”
Good occasion to ‘reinforce families’
According to Jowita Kostrzewska, a correspondent at the Polish Catholic weekly, Niedziela, families suffer when marriage is superficially lived.
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“A growing number of divorces occur when persons don’t struggle for unity and reinforcement of the sacred dimension of their families,” she said, in a Sept. 4 article for Zenit.org. “Such situations often take place when God and faith don’t have their rightful place. I think that the Year of Faith will be a good occasion and an extraordinary event to reinforce families.”
During this Year of Faith, Kostrzewska believes Catholics can rediscover and deepen the quality and quantity of relations in the family, and reflect on what faith really is and how it can be transmitted.
“I think, practically, that during the Year of Faith, the family must find the time to be together to read the Bible and to pray, but also to talk, to laugh, to share joys and sorrows, that is, to reinforce the bonds of affection among all the members of the family,” she said.
“If our faith is strong, it will enable us to overcome even the greatest difficulties. For the family of believers the Year of Faith is the occasion to evangelize and to help families hit by the crisis, those who are in greatest need of our help. It is necessary to give families spiritual and material support. In this way, we will discover many spiritual treasures.”