Catholics are uncomfortable talking about their faith. It’s not a Catholic thing to do. Those two statements contained in an executive summary of Vision 20/20 listening sessions in the Davenport Diocese sum up two of the biggest challenges to evangelization. Now, more than ever, we’ve got to overcome those challenges for the future of our church. The Vision 20/20 process will show us the way.
But first, we have to confront the obstacles. Polarization among Catholics mirrors the political polarization of our country. The clergy abuse crisis has been rebooted — this time, bishops are being called to account for past failings to prevent or respond quickly to allegations of sexual abuse of children that occurred years ago. Meanwhile, young adults continue to leave the church, in part, because belonging to a faith community no longer seems relevant to them and the church’s teachings on some hot-button issues don’t mesh with the secular world’s views.
Catholic University of America Professor William Dinges addresses some of the myriad reasons why young Catholics are leaving the church. He says “Catholic disaffiliation — which currently represents the greatest net loss of any American religious group — mirrors the intergenerational and intragenerational realignment of religious preference and disaffiliation characteristic of the current American religious landscape in general” (America, Aug. 28, 2018).
Massimo Faggioli, professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University, writes that polarization of U.S. Catholics goes hand in hand with the political radicalization of the two political parties on a range of issues, especially social issues. He further states that the abuse crisis in 2018 “has become an integral part of the increasingly ugly war between competing narratives about the future of the Church in the US” (thetablet.com.uk, Sept. 29, 2018).
So where do we begin to mend the gaps and inspire the faithful to reach out? In prayer, and in practice that begins at home. Katie Prejean McGrady, a keynote speaker for the Vision 20/20 convocation in June, writes in America magazine (Jan. 22, 2019) that we can keep our kids Catholic if we make our homes a church. She shared a story about a conversation she had with Cardinal Joseph Tobin. He told her that his mother is proudest of the fact that all 13 of her children are still Catholic.
What did your parents do? Katie asked Cardinal Tobin. “I think for all of us, the church has always just been home. And you don’t leave home.” Church is home to Katie, as well. The young wife, mother, speaker and author said: “The deep faith of my adulthood was born out of a very rich experience of the simple Catholic living that surrounded me as a child.”
Pope Francis offers inspiration as well. In his homily during the closing Mass at World Youth Day in Panama on Jan. 27, the Holy Father called the youths to accept God’s invitation to evangelize. God “calls you in your communities and cities to go out and find your grandparents and elders; to stand up and with them to speak out and realize the dream that the Lord has dreamed for you” (America, Jan. 27, 2019). This is an intergenerational call to evangelization … to infuse the love of God in all who we encounter. “Let us allow the Lord to make us fall in love!” Pope Francis said.
That’s evangelization — allowing the Lord to make us fall in love, which in turn will inspire us to go out and share the Gospel with others.
Read about the executive summary of Vision 20/20 on the front page of this week’s issue. Then go to the diocesan website at www.davenportdiocese.org and click on the Vision 20/20 logo for resources. Download the prayer and pray it daily; ask your parish to pray before or after Mass to keep Vision 20/20 front and center.
All of us who love our church have a stake in Vision 20/20. “We are talking about our church and our response to the Joy of the Gospel,” says Sharon Roling, a co-chair of the Vision 20/20 Steering Committee. “The clergy need our help, they cannot do it alone.”
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor