Cardinal Wuerl Highlights Challenges Facing Teachers of the Faith, Cites ‘New Evangelization’ as Source of Hope

October 29, 2011

In addresses to two groups of religious education instructors in recent days, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, acknowledged the challenges faced by those charged with passing on the faith, and offered encouragement, saying, “We live in an age of hope.”

In an address to a conference of Catholic high school religion teachers as part of High School Principals Association Professional Development Day at Archbishop Carroll High School on Friday, October 28, Cardinal Wuerl highlighted three elements that are critical to carrying out the work of the New Evangelization: solid catechesis, confidence in the faith and sharing the faith.

“The introduction of a person to Christ must be in the context of a clear presentation of who Christ is, what his Gospel proclaims and the nature of the kingdom to which he invites us,” the Cardinal said. “The appropriation of the faith has to be strong enough to provide the believer with a level of confidence and assurance that what we accept in faith is, in fact, the truth – God’s word – revelation….Finally, such confident appropriation of the faith – of our encounter with Christ – should lead us to share that joyful experience.

“You are on the front line of the New Evangelization – an effort that mirrors so clearly the work of the early Church and the first disciples….The New Evangelization is not a program. It is a mode of thinking, seeing and acting. It is a lens through which we see the opportunities to proclaim the Gospel anew. It is also a recognition that the Holy Spirit is actively working in the Church.”

In his address, the Cardinal impressed on the religion teachers how important it is that they communicate a confident message of the “offer of an encounter with Christ, an invitation to faith, and another way to live.” He acknowledged the barriers to such an encounter as identified by Pope Benedict XVI – secularism, materialism and individualism – but noted, “Increasingly, I find young people who are open to the Gospel message. These are people who find that the world does not have all of the answers, or even significant answers.”

“No darkness, no matter how dense, can thwart or shroud the seed of new life waiting to emerge in this fresh moment,” said Cardinal Wuerl. “The missionaries in the first evangelization covered immense geographic distances to spread the good news. We, the missionaries of the New Evangelization, must surmount ideological distances just as immense, oftentimes before we ever journey beyond our own neighborhood or family….We can profess with pride and conviction that the Gospel message continues to be the answer to our needs and longings today.”

Today, at a Mass he celebrated as part of Multilingual Catechetical Day at Bishop McNamara High School, the Cardinal told the nearly 900 archdiocesan catechists and religious education leaders gathered that “part of the challenge of our ministry is to help those entrusted to our care understand that it is in the Church that they encounter Christ in his Word and in the sacraments.

“We are finding that we are dealing with a generation that has not had the opportunity to be introduced into that great dialogue of faith that is Christ speaking to us in and through his Church and our response in loving acceptance and commitment….Too many people have little familiarity with the wisdom of God. Many have simply drifted away….Yet there are also positive signs of our young people searching for more. We are experiencing that even in the face of a diminished appreciation or understanding of the content of the faith there is a longing of the human spirit for God.”

Again, the Cardinal encouraged those engaged in the teaching ministry, saying that the New Evangelization is “a new moment for catechesis in our country”.

“We live in an age of hope,” he said. “This is not a groundless euphoria but, rather, a confidence that God continues to grace the Church with opportunities to reach deep within our own lived experience of Jesus to find the practical means to introduce a whole new generation into the knowledge – into the encounter with the living Lord.”

Cardinal Wuerl concluded by thanking the group for their commitment to sharing the faith through catechesis and reminding them of the message of Blessed John Paul II, which became a mantra for the whole Church: ‘Do not be afraid, open your hearts to Christ.’

“Let us never be hesitant and let us always rejoice to share the words that give life, to model the faith in our lives, to proclaim the good news of Christ and to invite those entrusted to our care to the celebration of the Eucharist.”

The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 600,000 Catholics living in Washington, DC, and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

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