We Hold These Truths – Jeanne D. Schrempf, Diocese of Albany

Jeanne D. Schrempf, winner of the F. Sadlier Dinger Award in 2019, originally published this beautiful eassy on our blog in 2015. We are reposting it to celebrate the 4th of July in 2024.

I was moved by the morning newspapers on the Fourth of July that carried a full page replica of the Declaration of Independence. No commentary, no ads, no glitz – just this incredible testimony to vision, belief, hope, and courage and the signatures of those who placed their lives on the line, literally. What was remarkable was the meaning of those words over two centuries ago and how they have lived through generations to shape and mold a nation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness ….  

This is not a document to be only studied in school or visited in our nation’s capitol. It is, I would suggest, a primary document, essential to who we are and who we strive to become. The power of these words and its directives offer us the same challenge in 2014 as they did in 1776. If we are open to its inspiration, it can serve as an assessment tool for both our personal and communal lives.

I then thought about the power of our foundational ecclesial documents – especially those that create our vision of catechesis and evangelization. I realized that I am rooted in those documents – these truths that are self evident. I owe my place in ministry to the General and National Directories for CatechesisEvangelii Nuntiandi and Go and Make Disciples, and the Documents of the Second Vatican Council. The prayer, dialogue, research, study, and writing that brought each of these to life have shaped our Church into the future.

Selecting just one – the National Directory for Catechesis – I  suggest a new read of this incredible visionary document. Take some summer nights – or even that lazy day at the beach – and see it anew with who you are today. Everyone has their favorite sections or lines. My copy is filled with post-it notes and hi-liter markings. One of the gifts of the NDC to the contemporary busy minister is that it picks up the “sound bites” of major ecclesial documents and weaves them into a contemporary vision. We learn that  evangelization is Church’s “deepest identity and that She exists in order to evangelize (p. 41). And, the stop in my tracks statement for me – that the “definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch, but in communion, intimacy, with Jesus Christ” (p. 55).

I have decided that these two directives will be my personal assessment tool for ministry for this upcoming year – and I offer them too for your own consideration. Do our gatherings planned and unplanned “put people in intimacy with Jesus Christ”? Can appointments,  phone calls, and electronic communication be turned more intentionally to this vision? Can interactions with family, friends, neighbors,  commuters, parishioners, staffs, service providers and whoever God places in our paths be opportunities for evangelization? How are these truths self evident in our own lives? In addition to the Declaration of Independence, these truths are also our inheritance.

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