Why Catholic?
Program Hopes to Advance Evangelization


ORLANDO | Seeking to advance the Church’s mission to evangelize, Bishop Thomas Wenski is urging parishes to implement Why Catholic? — a ministry of RENEW International.
One-third of all parishes in the Diocese of Orlando have already signed on after attending information sessions held last month. Pastors and lay leaders are excited about the opportunities this new effort will bring.
“I’m excited about it,” said Father Michael Giglio, pastor of Church of the Epiphany in Port Orange. “I think it’s good for parishes. I hope this will be a tool for evangelization so that people who have been away will be drawn back in and invited to participate.”

Why Catholic? is an evangelization and faith formation program that encompasses four areas of the Catholic faith: what we believe, how we worship, how we live and how we pray from teachings based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Scripture. Leadership training will begin in February and the program will launch in participating parishes diocese-wide in October.

Parishes that participate will form small faith communities, led by a trained facilitator, that will meet during six-week sessions. In between sessions, workshops and retreats will be offered to continue the momentum. The program is available in both English and Spanish, and other languages such as Vietnamese and Creole.

“I really like that it’s offered in both English and Spanish so we can have a common experience among all groups in our parish,” said Jackie Smart, parish catechetical leader at St. Mary of the Lakes in Eustis. “During the six-week sessions, we want everyone to be on the same page.”

St. Mary of the Lakes will require all existing groups, such as Bible study groups, to incorporate Why Catholic? into their programs while encouraging new groups to form as well.

“Many in our parish have little understanding of the tenets of our faith and have trouble defending the faith. This will empower families and parents. If our people are more knowledgeable in the faith, they will feel more comfortable discussing it and sharing it with others. This will give our (parishioners) the tools they need to explain why they are Catholic,” added Smart.

RENEW International has been serving the Catholic Church for 30 years, offering various programs such as RENEW, ARISE Together in Christ, and Theology on Tap. Since its inception, Why Catholic? has been successfully implemented at 1,300 parishes nationwide.

“We are seeking to awaken the faith, deepen the faith and touch people’s hearts so that we will become proclaimers, sharers and livers of the word,” said Dominican Sister Terry Rickard, executive director of RENEW International.

Why Catholic? and its Spanish counterpart ¿Por Qué Ser Católico? were selected by the presbyteral council, diocesan pastoral council and Bishop Wenski to meet the objectives set by the synod’s Evangelization Commission in 2005 and 2006. The third goal of the Evangelization Commission is to provide parishes with educational tools and programs for evangelization.

In 1993, the U.S. bishops issued the document, “Go and Make Disciples,” a national strategy for evangelization. According to the document, a major goal of evangelization is to “deepen the sense of Scripture and sacrament that Catholics will pray more fully, and, with a greater understanding of Christ’s call, live as disciples at home, at work and in today’s many cultural settings.”

“The fruit of evangelization is changed lives and a changed world,” the bishops stated in the document.

This article originally appeared in The Florida Catholic and is used with permission.

Click to learn more about Why Catholic? and ¿Por qué ser católico?.