Pope Francis’ Vision is Great in Theory – But In Action, Even Better – Tom Quinlan, Diocese of Joliet

This is a follow-up post to my broad reflection on Pope Francis’ trip to the United States.  The following is an email message I sent to catechetical leaders in our diocese, offering a strategy and a tactic for a narrow slice of parish life.  While the focus is on child and youth formation ministry, I would assert that there is a strong evangelizing element here, as we reach out to marginal parishioner families and non-parishioners.

In the light of Pope Francis’ visit to the United States last week, I would like to invite you to consider the following action steps. I offer them knowing that these weeks are some of the busiest of our catechetical year. Nonetheless, please take a moment to ponder them prayerfully and what they might mean for your ministry.

  • We have, in this moment, a unique opportunity. It has been handed to us by Pope Francis (in his visit to our country last week). There is greater openness to Catholic faith and the Church than any time in recent memory. I believe it is up to us (indeed, not just catechetical leaders but all parish leaders) to seize this opportunity to both renew our Church from the inside…and also to be particularly outreaching. For us as catechetical leaders this can mean, among other things, that we conduct a plan of intentional outreach that invites families into our parish faith formation programs…now and throughout the fall. Please consider how you might wish to do this in your role in your parish. Yes, this might complicate things. However, every family that your outreach brings into the program will be pleasing to God and a blessing to the Church. This October might be the best time EVER to get word out in your community about faith formation and youth ministry in your parish!  Thanks, Pope Francis!
  • Outreach doesn’t only mean to folks who have never been connected to us before. It can also mean taking extra-generous steps with our formerly registered families. A catechetical leader this week started calling her families who were registered last year but have not returned for this year. Here are the responses she’s been getting:
    • Thanks so much!  Your call is a wake-up call to get the kids in.  Thanks!
    • We can’t make our schedule work for RE this year.  We feel bad.  Home-schooling?  We can do that with our kids here at home?  Great!  Let’s do it!
    • Thanks so much for calling.  We appreciate you thinking of us.
    • (No answer.  Leave a message…or not, if you prefer connecting live with the parent.)

Please consider what you can do to help families in your parish (and in the broader community) plug into the life of parish faith formation…and, hopefully, the parish itself. Pope Francis poured himself out for us in his time here. What can we each now do in response to our Pope’s generosity and inspiration to turn “good will” into good outcomes for marginal and disconnected families in our midst?

Please comment below with your suggestions for turning the Pope Francis momentum into concrete action steps for evangelization and renewal. The sharing is so valuable.  (The first comment here in the diocese was from an RCIA director who has reached out to her list of former candidates and catechumens who didn’t complete the process previously.  Already, one woman is coming back…along with her sister!)

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