5 years ago

franciscanway - Franciscan University of Steubenville

franciscanway - Franciscan University of Steubenville

Amy Roberts ’99

Amy Roberts ’99 MISSION IMPOSSIBLE? Carson Weber ’05 Eric Westby MA ’97 Emily Fogarty Emily Fogarty Emily Fogarty 14 Franciscan Fra Fr Fra Fr Fra FFra F FFrra r a nci nc n nci nc n ci cii sc sca sc sca cca can n nW n nW n nW n nnW n W WWay Way ay • Autumn Au Aut AAut Au Aut Au AAu ut u t tumn um umn u uumn u mn n 2008 20 2 08 Practice What You Preach. Why? Because the witness you give on this mission matters as much as—if not more than— the words you use. Reason number one? “Because that’s how we’re made,” says Eric Westby, MA Theology ’97, director of Family Catechesis in the Diocese of Phoenix. “We’re created to be in relationship with each other and learn through those relationships.” Reason number two? According to Westby, “The rise of relativism and skepticism.” In other words, even when abstract truth is denied, the witness of a life lived before our eyes can’t be. And reason number three? Consumerism. “The determining factor in so many of our decisions has become, ‘What does this do for me?’” Westby explains. “Consumerism has conditioned us to want the latest and greatest because it will benefi t us. That’s why we stand in line for two hours to get the Apple iPhone G3. And that’s why we have to show people with the witness of our lives what a relationship with Christ gives us.” After graduating from Franciscan, Westby served as a youth minister in a Phoenix-area parish. He’s already seen two of the young men from that youth group ordained priests, and in the next two years that number will climb to seven. “I’d love to say it was because of my stellar teachings, but 10 years later I don’t even remember what I said,” Westby confesses. “They learned more from the witness of my marriage “Knowing about theology . . . isn’t enough. You have to love the people you’re serving.” and my fi delity to my call than anything else.” The importance of personal witness is one of the main reasons Westby urges parishes and dioceses to incorporate mentor couples into their marriage preparation programs, as well as other sacramental preparation programs, such as baptism and confi rmation. It’s also one of the main reasons Jason Pohlmeier ’05 looks for every possible opportunity to introduce his students to Catholic saints. “Even in Catholic schools, most of the students arrive not being well formed in the faith. You have to fi ll in the gaps,” says the former catechetics student, who now heads the Religion Department at Subiaco Academy in Subiaco, Arkansas. “They attach very quickly to saints and get excited about those stories because they’ve never had those examples of holiness. They’ve been longing for it even though they didn’t realize it.” Love the People You Evangelize. God is truth. He also is love. When either is absent from your mission, it will inevitably fail. Case in point? The fi rst year Amy Roberts, MA Theology ’99, taught at Knoxville Catholic High School in Knoxville, Tennessee. “I’d been told you could always lighten up on the discipline, but you couldn’t get tougher,” Roberts recalls. “So I came in as the total disciplinarian. I was trying to prove myself. But everything went wrong.” Every day Roberts went into the classroom, she kept her poker face on and her guard up. It was all business and no fun, with Roberts keeping all her care and concern for the students to herself. She dutifully taught the students their lessons, and the students dutifully learned them. But something was missing. “They knew about God and the Church,” Roberts refl ects. “But they didn’t know God and the Church.” Year two at Knoxville Catholic started off much like year one. But then, a few weeks into the semester, Amy experienced what she calls “a moment of grace.” “For just a moment, I saw myself as they saw me. I wasn’t being me because I was scared they would take advantage of me. When I started letting go, and let them realize how much I delighted in them, the miracles started happening.” In the years that followed, she watched those students become passionate about the faith. Some started up their own Bible study after school. One girl went off to Calcutta to serve with the Missionaries of Charity. Others are now discerning priesthood and religious life. “It started with me wanting to bring Christ to them,” says Roberts.

“But it ended with them bringing Christ to me.” That’s a lesson Johanna Fuentes ’07 believes all agents of the new evangelization need to learn quickly…at least if they don’t want to self-destruct when evangelizing diverse communities. Today, nearly 35 percent of Catholics in America are Hispanic. By 2020, that number will climb to over 50 percent, with the remaining minority including a fair number of Catholics from other countries east, west, north, and south. Fuentes, who earned a bachelor’s degree in theology at Franciscan and now serves as support associate for Hispanic Youth and Young Adult Ministry in the Diocese of Newark, spends much of her time running interference between Anglo pastors and Hispanic youth ministers at odds over cultural differences. From varying understandings of stewardship and time management to questions of language, she regularly sees difference become a barrier to effective evangelization. “People waste so much time arguing over things that could be resolved just by getting to know the people and culture they’re serving,” Fuentes says. “But even knowing about theology and the culture isn’t enough. You have to love the people you’re serving and walk with them. That makes all the difference.” Be Flexible. Bringing the Gospel to men and women means exactly that— bringing it to them. You must take the Gospel where they are…or at the very least, coordinate your presentation of the Gospel with their mad dash of a schedule. Between long hours at the offi ce, daily commutes, soccer practice, ballet rehearsal, puppy training classes, and taking care of grandma and grandpa, people are busy—crazy busy— and the idea of traipsing up to the parish every Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. for a Bible study strikes all but a few as impossible. So, what is an agent of the new evangelization to do? For starters, if you’re a priest, never pass up an opportunity to evangelize a captive audience. “Sunday Mass is the one place you can always reach people,” says Carson Weber, MA Theology ’05, director of Evangelization for the Diocese of Sacramento. “Priests do so much just by conducting the liturgy with reverence, according to the mind of the Church. And even more so when they deliver quick and powerful catechesis through their homilies. “Today, a priest’s preaching has to be missionary,” he adds. “They can no longer assume they have living, breathing Catholics in front of them, who just need a little tidbit on how to better live the faith. Instead, they have to assume that many of the people in front of them have never even been evangelized.” Outside the Mass, there are other ways to work around the chaos of modern life. In the Diocese of Phoenix, Westby discovered that the number of women able to attend Bible studies rose exponentially when the groups met after 9:00 a.m. on a weekday during the school year. When parishes provided free childcare during the study, that number rose even higher, often passing 100. Finding a regular time that works for men, he says, is trickier. Instead, he advises teaching them in “short manageable bursts,” such as mini-retreats that begin on Friday night and end Saturday at noon. There’s also the option of taking the show on the road—conducting lunchtime Bible studies at central places of employment such as university campuses, hospitals, and factories—or simply letting Franciscan Catechetics Yesterday . . . Carrying out the new evangelization is serious business. Those tasked with teaching and shepherding souls need theology, but they also need to know how to best present Church teachings and how to show that Catholicism is more than a collection of doctrines, but rather a way of life. Recognizing that need, Franciscan University began offering catechetics courses in 1994 to complement its Theology Program. In the beginning, under the leadership of Barbara Morgan, theology master’s students had the option of receiving a special concentration in catechetics. Then, over the course of the next several years, Morgan built an undergraduate Catechetics Program from the ground up, turning it into the largest and most successful of its kind in the country. Her students eventually went on to head catechetical programs in dozens of dioceses and hundreds of parishes and schools. Likewise, Morgan and other members of the growing catechetics faculty traveled the world, answering the requests of parishes and dioceses for help with their own catechetical programs. Finally in 2001, the University created a separate catechetics major. Today . . . Following Barbara Morgan’s retirement in 2006, the reins of the Catechetics Program passed into the hands of her former student, Ron Bolster, MA Theology ’97. Barbara Morgan Today, catechetics is the second largest major at Franciscan University, second only to theology, with over 250 undergraduates and 35 graduate students enrolled in the program. But Franciscan’s Catechetics Program does more than just teach Franciscan students. The St. John Bosco Conference, held annually at Franciscan, attracts over 350 teachers, DREs, catechists, and youth ministers from around the country and offers ongoing catechetical training and certifi cation. In partnership with Notre Dame de Vie in France and the Maryvale Institute in England, Franciscan publishes one of the leading magazine resources for catechists in America, The Sower. Franciscan faculty also travel the world, speaking at conferences and advising dioceses. Closer to home, they fi eld calls weekly from dioceses looking to hire Franciscan graduates or asking questions about catechesis. And as the years pass, the demands on Franciscan’s Catechetics Program continue to grow. More students fi ll the classrooms. More parishes and schools call looking for graduates. More dioceses ask faculty to provide consulting services. More catechists request better resources. More challenges arise from contemporary culture. And more requests come from the Vatican asking Franciscan to help the Church in America and around the world fi ll those needs. But with a tight budget and only fi ve full-time faculty, the program has reached the limit of what it can do. Emily Fogarty Franciscan Way • Autumn 2008 15

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