10 ways to revitalize the Catholic Church (Opinion)

10 ways to revitalize the Catholic Church (Opinion)

(Andrew Medichini/AP )Reform is afoot in the Vatican.

Pope Francis has tightened the reins on the Vatican bank, worked through a grueling visit to Brazil, named a new secretary of state, and  is now busy preparing for the October meeting of cardinals who will advise him on how to breathe new life into the Catholic Church.

The new pope’s agenda is simple: spread the good news of Jesus Christ in a freer and more convincing way. Christ stated the church’s mission very plainly: “Go out and make disciples of all the nations.”

Here in America, Catholic parishes need to take measures to better carry out this mission:

1. Parishioners and clergy must take responsibility for evangelization. The church is not a spiritual McDonald’s whose success largely depends on its managers, the clergy.

Paraphrasing President John Kennedy’s call to service, “Ask not what the church can do for you, but what you can do for the church.”

Evangelicals and Pentecostals have much to teach Catholics in this regard. Polls show Catholics stayed away from church because they were ignored, slighted, or scandalized.

Sometimes they misunderstand church teaching.

They need to know that they are missed and that the door is open for them.

2. A priest in France has attracted people to packed Masses largely by spending six hours every night in the confessional. (He also wears priestly garb on the street so that those who want a priest know where to find one.)

Clergy here need to recommit themselves to the sacrament of confession. They must be available at convenient times for more than a perfunctory half-hour before Saturday evening Mass.

Frequenting the sacrament themselves, priests can awaken in their parishioners the need for repentance and conversion.

3. A pope once said that one good catechist is worth a hundred outstanding preachers. Yet there are wealthy parishes that expect directors of religious education to work as unpaid volunteers! Catechism needs to be taken more seriously as a ministry.

In many parts of the world, the minister whom Catholics see the most is their catechist, not their pastor. Parents must be willing to be trained and work as catechists. More adult Catholics must also take responsibility for handing on the faith.

This also includes shouldering ministries that care for the least, such as visiting the sick.

4.  Catholic colleges and universities believe unequivocally that it is an honor to be Catholic, and need to be demonstrably evangelical. The people who are often proudest to be part of Catholic education are in fact non-Catholics: Protestants, non-Christians, and even atheists.

5.  More clergy and religious need to regard the church’s teaching on sexuality and family as good news. It is part of the Gospel, and not something to be ashamed of.  Granted, it must be done with tact and understanding. But it must be done, with the confidence that is part of the saving truth given by Jesus Christ.

6. Pray. A Protestant pastor in Carthagena, Colombia, is organizing 3:30 a.m. prayer rallies in the streets where violence, poverty, and prostitution reign. Catholics here could even do the same in neighborhoods where indifference rules.

The world has just finished a day of prayer and fasting for peace. Friday is still a penitential day even though Catholics are not required to give up meat. The U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference issues weekly intentions for prayer and fasting. These calls can make for powerful spiritual kindling.

7. Catholic social teaching is an essential consequence of the Gospel, which means we must be involved in the public square – as Catholics. With enough prayer, sacrifice, advocacy, common sense, and sheer grace, Wall Street might cease being a casino; and likewise, civic leaders, public unions, and bondholders might be able to find agreement in the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression.

8. Pope Francis rightly warns us of the evil afoot in this world. Religious liberty is being threatened daily in the West, while 200 million Christians worldwide are in mortal danger because of their faith. Catholics must become more aware of the plight of our brothers and sisters abroad.

9. At the same time, we must forgive and pray for our adversaries. Recently, the parishioners of one of the many churches burned in Egypt wrote on the wall of their church that they forgave their enemies and would pray on their behalf to God, who is love. That’s Gospel!

10. Remember that being Catholic in America, or anywhere, means we can rejoice and trust Christ’s admonishment, “be not afraid.”

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About The Voice Of Bombay's Catholic Laity

Bombay Laity Ezekiel’s Chapter 3 Task as Watchman 17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 18 When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for[b] their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. 19 But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself.
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6 Responses to 10 ways to revitalize the Catholic Church (Opinion)

  1. Very nice and appropriate suggestions; but point number ONE should have been ” the clergy must stop robbing, stealing, pilfering, looting funds which are in their trust. Why do we shy away from the fact that our clergy are more common thieves than loving clergy

    • ISAAC GOMES says:

      What a great observation! This is the specific reason why most parish priests (the leader of the pack) in India do not have Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) and Parish Finance Committee PFC) as mandated by Vatican Council II. If they have PFCs, they have to be transparent and accountable in matters of finance. In the Year of Faith they are beating the trumpet of 50 years of Vatican Council II. Can Catholic Bishops Conference of India say for sure how many parishes in India have implemented Vatican II mandates? Who is checking the reports CBCI submits to the Vatican on compliance with the norms?

      In Calcutta so many articles and reminders have been given to the Archbishop. In open forums he talks of transparency and accountability. But actual practice he prefers to be ornamental than being effective or an agent of change.

      So the decadence goes on and more and more Catholics are joining the Pentecost (Report of John Dayal in Ucan News August 2013).

      Isaac Gomes – Kolkata.

  2. ISAAC GOMES says:

    Given below is Kolkata’s way of improving the lives of Catholics. This can be replicated for Catholics elsewhere.

    IMPACT POTENTIAL OF CATHOLIC ASSOCIATION OF BENGAL FOR DEVELOPMENT OF LAITY OF BENGAL FROM GRASSROOT LEVEL

    During the Annual General Meeting of Catholic Association of Bengal in Kolkata on 1st September 2013, in the august presence of its Ex-Officio Chairman Archbishop Thomas D’Souza, some members drew attention to Housing for minorities, widow pension and BPL cards. Though the CAOB (the abbreviation CAB is a trademark of the Cricket Association of Bengal) President parried the queries, he has to gear himself for more such bouncers at large assemblies because CAOB claims to be the oldest laity association of India, having been established in 1911. In its Memorandum and Articles of Association (CAOB was registered on 24th July 2008 under West Bengal Societies Registration Act) strangely, there is no mention of its birthday.

    CAOB’s main activities are to organize the Annual Corpus Christi Procession, Bible School, Annual Blood Donation Camps during Lent and Merit Award (to toppers in Class X and XII Board Examinations) and the once-in-a-year Educational Aid to Catholic students of Class XI.

    But if it is to be remembered in letters of gold (like Abou Ben Adhem) in the Annals of Bengal, it needs to work in areas which are the crying needs of Catholics of Bengal – in education, Housing, Health and Sanitation. It should lead a Committee of like-minded groups comprising experts and sit with the Archbishop to work out strategies on Development Concept. After getting a feel of people’s pulse through administration of a well-structured questionnaire at different parishes, the following possible areas can be looked at:

    • Identification of meritorious Catholic students for higher studies
    • Arrangement of professional courses (Civil Service, Judicial Service, MBA, CA, Medicine, etc.) by creation of a separate fund for such courses (it has an Educational Corpus Fund which is used for the Annual One-time Merit Award and Educational Aid)
    • Eco-friendly low-cost housing, thermal insulation, rain water harvesting, water recycling
    • Use of non-conventional renewable energy including skylights in interior rooms to reduce electricity use during the day
    • Low cost preventive health care facilities
    • Assistance in obtaining
    o BPL Cards
    o Old age & widow pensions
    o UID / Aadhar Cards
    o State Assisted Scheme of Provident Fund for Unorganised Workers (SASPFUW)
     Each subscriber to the scheme is required to contribute Rs. 20/-per month.
     An equal amount is credited to his account by the State Government as matching contributions.
     Interests are paid by the State Govt.
     The amount credited to the account of the subscriber will be paid back when he attains the age of 55 years

    Things would get a head-start if the Archbishop of Calcutta, in his capacity as Ex-Officio Chairman of CAOB, initiates this multi-faceted process. In doing so he would be rendering a very important pastoral service which is: “take care of my sheep, feed my lambs” as Jesus said to Peter. He would also help rediscover “What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow” giving Narendra Modi a tough challenge!

    In his inaugural address on March 19, 2013 the Holy Father Pope Francis appealed to all world leaders to make protection of the environment a priority, urging “all men and women of goodwill to be guardians of Creation, Protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature”. CAOB can take the lead in spreading this “goodwill” by initiating projects on sustainable development taking particular care on the preservation of nature. This process can be started from school levels with various projects on environment.

    Regarding healthcare, going by the maxim “Prevention is better than cure”, cost-effective preventive healthcare alternatives should be looked at. Some of these are Yoga, Swimming, Free-hand exercise, Naturopathy and Homeopathy. Yoga and Swimming help in blood circulation, oxygen supply to problem organs and muscles, improvement of immunity and insurance against illnesses. Self-defence too is a good art for alertness and fitness in view of increased threat perception, particularly for girls, at the hands of miscreants. CAOB has a couple of reputed doctors on its Board.

    For all these projects to be sustainable, active participation of each parish is a must for building up and sharing of common facilities such as practice arenas, shared cost of trainers (it is a must to hire Trained Experts), etc. Group exercises will boost good health, bonding and promote wholesome parish-wise growth. Particular care should be given to woman and girl child as they are the pillars on whom the whole edifice of family life rests. Active Listeners should be deputed at each parish / diocese to keep their ears open to the needs of parishioners and their suggestions for improved delivery of service. If all the activities are done in a planned and meticulous manner, the output will speak for itself, making CAOB a role model for many parishes in India and abroad.

    Priests and nuns must enjoy these facilities – it will reduce their medical expenses and stress.

    Since the name is Catholic Association of Bengal it has a lot to do for Bengal. First, its logo which is in English should also have a Bengali face say বঙ্গীয় খ্রীষ্টীয় পরিষেবা. Secondly, the perception of the Laity is CAOB is Elitist and meant only for English-speaking parishioners has to be changed. Last but not the least, it should reach out to the whole of Bengal instead of concentrating itself primarily to Kolkata.

    ISAAC HAROLD GOMES * Telephone 9433060603 * E-mail: isaacgomes@hotmail.com

  3. I believe the rot has reached the bone, Once tasted blood it could be hard to let go. secondly each one covers the others butt, these fellows need to be exposed and shamed. Punishment must be accorded to them here on earth. then what is left can burn in the everlasting fires of hell.

  4. Like in other countries I would really like to see at least O N E priest convicted for financial misconduct and fraud and sent to jail for a long long time. This will really put a scare in to the wily clergy. Many will dislike what I have just said, but silently wish it were to come T R U E !!!!!

    • Fergus, I do recall that sometime in the last 80’s, a priest and a few others were convicted at Singapore for alleged financial misconduct. It rocked the catholic church. However there needs to be a will by the people to expose the alleged financial scams.What you have said is the truth and the truth hurts a lot. We should not worry about what people say, just do what is right.I know it is shameful to expose our “dharma Gurus’ yet when the “gurus” become “sevaks” what is left.

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