Dear Catholic Exchange:
I would also like to ask some advice. I'm a 63-year-old parishioner at Ascension Church in Boca Raton, Fl. In my course through life I have been quite erratic in my faith (cradle Catholic, fallen away, evangelical Protestant, Messianic Judaism, revert to Catholic home). As a result, I'm very sensitized to the fact of how our Church continues to suffer great losses as many of the baptized drift away — or are lured away. There are many reasons, of course, but, in my opinion, one extremely significant cause is ignorance. This ignorance — whether caused by poor catechesis or personal laziness — results in way, way too many Catholics not having adequate knowledge or understanding of their own faith. As such they become easy pickings when they encounter secular cultural forces or non-Catholic evangelists. In my own case I lay the blame primarily on my own laziness. But, whatever the reason, I went through roughly three decades of my life arrogantly thinking that the Catholic Church didn't have solid 'answers', thinking that the Catholic Church was clumsy, pathetic, and confused, thinking that the 'evangelicals' were the only Christians who were articulating the Christian faith clearly. Without going into details, suffice it to say that, when I finally (by grace) became exposed to the wealth of superb Catholic print, audio, and video material, my journey back into the Church was very rapid.
I have been back in the arms of the Church for going on 10 years. But, as time passes, I become more and more aware that I'm not much of a 'soldier of Christ', that I do far more 'resting' than 'fighting'. One fight I think I might engage in is the fight against ignorance, to try and do something to help other Catholics avoid the kind of error and arrogance I fell into, to try and help other Catholics to realize that the Church indeed has the answers, that it is NOT pathetic and confused, that it is indeed the 'pillar and bulwark of Truth'.
I've approached my local pastor about trying to establish some kind of local parish ministry to combat ignorance. I'd like to set up some kind of program or service that would maintain a collection of the best (non-scholarly) books, pamphlets, tapes, websites, and videos addressing many of the hot topics Catholics face. I foresee a library of apologetic and catechetical material that would support them when faced with doctrinal and scriptural challenges from evangelicals (Eucharist, sacraments, Purgatory, etc.), when faced with anti-Catholicism ('whore of Babylon', idolatry, etc.), when faced with challenges on moral issues (abortion, contraception, chastity, etc), when faced with historical challenges (Crusades, Inquisition, Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust, etc.). I view my own role in this as one of facilitation and organization — a guide to best of breed resources, a provider, a middleman. I see myself as being more a learner than an actual teacher. In other words, I want to avoid becoming any kind of ‘expert resource' or 'pillar/bulwark' myself, and concentrate rather on simply being some kind of road sign pointing to the 'pillar and bulwark'.
Up to this point I am just thinking this out on my own. It would be good to know if there are others out there doing similar things. My question to you is this: are you aware of other people or other parishes that have programs or activities of this type.
Thanks in advance.
Yours in Christ,
You've come to the right place!
Catholics United for the Faith (CUF) is an international lay organization formed in 1968, headquartered since 1994 in Steubenville, Ohio. CUF was formed at the close of what Pope Paul VI called the "year of faith" — so-called because of the crisis of faith that was afflicting the Church. In addition to issuing the "Credo of the People of God" summarizing Catholic beliefs, the Pope also issued in 1968 Humanae Vitae to reaffirm the Church's perennial teaching regarding contraception amidst widespread confusion and dissent. For nearly 40 years, CUF has been a leading voice of lay support for the Holy Father and the Magisterium of the Church during these turbulent times.
CUF has not only defended the faith against erroneous teaching or inadequate catechesis, but also has proactively advanced the Church's evangelistic and catechetical mission, helping to overcome the widespread ignorance concerning the saving truths of Christ and His Church. One of CUF's finest efforts in this regard was authoring the Faith and Life catechism series for children, which has been endorsed, among others, by Mother (now Blessed) Teresa of Calcutta, Mother Angelica, Scott Hahn, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn (Archbishop of Vienna and general editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church), and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now, of course, the Pope!), and many others. The newly revised edition is now available for grades 1-8.
For adults, CUF offers a wide range of materials, from the award-winning Lay Witness magazine; to apologetics tracts and position papers; to a Catholic helpline available through our Catholic Responses department; to Catholic Bible studies and other materials offered through Emmaus Road publishing, our publishing division, just for starters.
But getting back more specifically to the sort of catechetical apostolate you describe in your question, I'd recommend becoming a CUF member and eventually forming a CUF chapter. We already have fine chapters in Pensacola, Gainesville, Ocala, and Tampa, but none presently in the Boca Raton area. The fourfold mission of the CUF chapter is prayer, doctrinal and spiritual formation, apostolic activity, and fellowship. Our chapters engage in the sort of things you suggest, from forming apologetics and catechetical courses, to organizing speakers series, conferences, and retreats, to starting Bible studies and other faith enrichment programs, among other things.
All this is completely in line with Vatican II's prophetic call for group apostolates of the lay faithful, realizing that on the spiritual as well as organizational level we can accomplish much more good working together than as "lone rangers."
Of course many other fine organizations have arisen since CUF was formed back in 1968 which can also be heartily recommended. Yet, I would suggest that you begin by going online to http://www.cuf.org/ to learn more about CUF. You will find there information about CUF's mission and resources, as well as introductory information on CUF chapters. For more personalized assistance regarding CUF membership and chapters, call toll-free 1-800-MY-FAITH and ask for Pete Balbirnie, director of chapter development.
United in the Faith,
Catholics United for the Faith
827 North Fourth Street
Steubenville, OH 43952