Catholics to Embark on Journey in Faith
as Part of the Celebration of the 40th Anniversary
Why Catholic? offers the opportunity to grow in ‘faith seeking understanding’

Story: Joan Kurkowski-Gillen, Correspondent

The Diocese of Fort Worth will introduce a comprehensive, innovative adult formation program as part of its 40th anniversary celebration next year.

Why Catholic? is based on the four pillars of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and offers in-depth information and insight into core beliefs, the sacraments, morality, and prayer. Developed by RENEW International, a Newark, New Jersey-based Catholic ministry organization, the four-year program includes workshops, retreats, and prayerful small group discussions that help parishioners relate Catholic teaching to their everyday lives.

Information sessions detailing specifics of the program and its implementation are set for Oct. 26-30 throughout the diocese. Pastors, deacons, parish ministers, staff, and volunteers are invited to attend the gatherings, which will review training and other steps necessary to launch the program in parishes. Evening and Spanish sessions are also planned to encourage as many to participate as possible.

The Diocesan Capital Campaign will fund the cost of the program.

Why Catholic?
, designed to help parishioners develop a deeper relationship with Christ and his Church, complements the 40th anniversary theme chosen by Fort Worth Bishop Kevin Vann which is communion.

“One critical aspect through which we can grow in communion is through our catechetical efforts, especially in the way of adult catechesis and faith formation,” Bishop Vann explains. “Learning and growing in the knowledge of the Catholic faith is a lifelong process and is indispensable to living a dynamic life of faith.”

Being Catholic in today’s world is not easy, the bishop admits. Faith-based values, beliefs, and tradition are often challenged by a society that is becoming increasingly permissive and materialistic. Nonbelievers and other Christians also question and confront Catholics about church teachings and rituals.

To be effective witnesses to the truth about Christ and his Church, “adults today need to be continually fed both doctrinally and sacramentally to fulfill the mission that Christ has entrusted to us,” Bishop Vann says. “Therefore as an integral part of our anniversary celebration, I’m inviting the Why Catholic? adult catechesis program to be the cornerstone for our spiritual and catechetical renewal efforts as we celebrate 40 years as a local Church.”

Dominican Father Carmen Mele, director of Hispanic Adult Catechesis, will serve as diocesan coordinator for the program. Developed by the same group that introduced Catholics in the Diocese of Fort Worth to the RENEW program in 1989, Why Catholic? differs in several ways.

“This program has a couple of added features including an annual retreat and sessions for leaders,” Fr. Mele points out. “But most importantly, this is the spiritual part of our 40th anniversary. We want to build up the spirit of evangelization and give people the opportunity to grow deeper in faith.”

Research indicates the church is battling several negative trends, including a breakdown of Catholic identity, lower Mass attendance numbers, and a diminishing involvement of families. The reality of those numbers warrant concern, but the decision to implement Why Catholic? in the diocese is not a reaction to statistics, Fr. Mele says adamantly.

“Our goal is to develop a person’s spiritual life by increasing one’s understanding of faith and the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” he says.

Participants in Why Catholic? will study the Profession of Faith — what the church believes during the first year — of the program. The following year is dedicated to the Celebration of the Christian Mystery followed by a study of the life of Christ in the third year. Christian prayer is the focus of the program’s final year. The materials and format offer a concrete approach to the Catechism, and Scripture passages and are designed to create an environment where people can dialogue about things that matter. Forty-eight sessions explore Catholic beliefs, Scripture references, the sacraments, and reflection questions.

Recent church documents such as the U.S. bishops’ pastoral plan for adult faith formation Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us, have made continuing religious education for adults a priority, says Lucas Pollice, diocesan director of Adult Catechesis.

“Why Catholic? provides a wonderful opportunity to get a better grasp and understanding of the Catholic faith and how we can live it more fully in our daily lives,” he says.

The seasoned catechist compares the faith journey sparked by programs like Why Catholic? to the “faith seeking understanding” message of the Annunciation. When an angel appears to Mary and announces that she will conceive the Son of God, the young girl accepts the news but asks, “How can this be?” The question isn’t based on doubt.

“That was Mary demonstrating faith-seeking understanding,” Pollice insists. “She wanted to know what God’s plan was so she could understand it more fully.” Effective adult catechesis generates similar queries. “We ask those questions so we can better cooperate with God’s plan,” he explains.

This article first appeared in the North Texas Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Fort Worth.

North Texas Catholic also featured an article by Lucas Pollice, Diocesan Director of Adult Catechesis, in which he shares the United States Bishops' vision for adult faith formation and how Why Catholic? can play an integral role in making it a reality. Click here to view the article in PDF format.