Today marks the beginning of our Year of Faith, and as our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI explains in his 2011 apostolic letter, Porta Fidei (the Door of Faith), it is a time for Catholics “to deepen faith and strengthen bonds with God.”
The Year of Faith is also a time when we are called to reach out to those who have left the Church, but still yearn for God in their lives, and to respond to nonbelievers who are searching for true meaning and help in life. “Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received, and when it is communicated as an experience of faith and joy.” (Porta Fidei).
At the very heart of this special year is evangelization. Dioceses, parishes, pastors, Church leaders, and lay people are called to act and participate.
This is a particularly bountiful time for us to enhance our stewardship efforts and initiatives by embracing the Year of Faith, and by offering unique and distinctive programs and offerings closely related to stewardship and faith.
We are the stewards of our Catholic faith — this Year of Faith calls us to gain greater understanding of our faith, as well as nurturing it and fostering it in others. Truly this is an opportunity to receive the gift of faith; care for it and share it responsibly; and return it with increase to the Lord.
Most parishes have already launched initiatives or made plans in relation to the Year of Faith. In the event you have not completed your planning and preparation, Catholic Stewardship Consultants would like to share with you these 15 examples you can implement to enhance your faith and stewardship efforts. Also included at the end of this list are some online “Year of Faith” resources you can utilize to help prepare your efforts:
- Launch a series of small group studies spanning six weeks with the Bishops’ Pastoral Letter Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response as the focus.
- Dedicate two weekends during the year during which members are encouraged to invite someone to join them for Mass.
- Begin study groups on the U.S. Catechism.
- Review, study, and discuss Vatican II documents.
- Assure that every family in the parish has a Bible.
- Study the four major constitutions from the Second Vatican Council: Sacrosanctum Concilium, Lumen Gentium, Dei Verbum, and Gaudium et Spes.
- Make use of Father Robert Barron’s series. Catholicism, to enhance parish adult education and promote its use through small group reflection.
- Make efforts to offer faith formation programs to parents of catechetical-age children in order to help them in their role as the first teachers of the faith.
- Promote opportunities to make visits to the Blessed Sacrament at local Perpetual Adoration Chapels and in the parish church.“…knowing the content to be believed is not sufficient unless the heart, the authentic sacred space within the person, is opened by grace that allows the eyes to see below the surface and to understand that what has been proclaimed is the word of God.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, #10)
- Plan a significant celebration of the parish patronal feast day and the annual anniversary of the dedication of the parish church with special liturgical services and fellowship opportunities.
- Offer increased opportunities for small group prayer and promote meditation on the Word of God through Lectio Divina. “We must rediscover a taste for feeding ourselves on the word of God, faithfully handed down by the Church, and on the bread of life, offered as sustenance for his disciples.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, #3)
- Provide new opportunities of service in which the parish will reach out to an organization or institution in need of helping hands and loving hearts.
- Review current efforts and policies and undertake to have regular and varied opportunities to register new parishioners in an easy and welcoming way.
- Be proud of the good things accomplished in and through the parish and begin a new effort to send updates about parish life to diocesan publications and to local newspapers and TV stations.
- Organize study groups on the Apostle’s Creed and reflect on the meaning and implications of the statements.
Year of Faith Links to Online Resources♦ The Vatican website on the Year of Faith ♦ U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Year of Faith website ♦ Archdiocese of Milwaukee resources ♦ Fr. Robert Barron’s Catholicism Series ♦ The Holy Father’s Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei ♦ Documents of Vatican II ♦ The Catholic Churches of England and Wales ♦ Written support materials
I am sure many of you have already seen some of these ideas presented on the Vatican and other Catholic websites, and I hope this list of 15 examples helps inspire you to kick-start Year of Faith initiatives in your parish. If there is anything we can do to help you with your Year of Faith stewardship efforts, please feel free to contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.