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Bringing our creativity to faith development

Planning to build the Church for the future requires us to develop long-range vision together

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

How have you come to know Jesus? What difference has Jesus made in your life?

How do we learn to answer questions like that with greater ease and skill — questions to which the answer isn’t a theological concept but a witness to a personal relationship with Jesus?

As we join with much of the world in following the World Cup soccer matches, perhaps we can take a clue from athletic development.

The United States has one of the great swimming programs in the world, a greatness we show at every Olympics. Canada has one of the great hockey programs in the world, a greatness they show in every international competition, and in the number of players they send into the NHL. We see something similar with the great national soccer programs of the world, a greatness we’ll see in the spectacular plays of the World Cup.

What if we trained people to give witness to the faith in a similar way? What would it take to train for faith development as deliberately as we do it for athletic development?

It might take the same kind of creativity that produced the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program — a system based on a different educational philosophy, and bearing very good fruit.

It might take the same kind of creativity that built robust Newman Centers at public colleges, which happened when we realized that more Catholic students were attending public colleges than Catholic colleges.

All Things New provides an opportunity to bring a similar kind of creativity to faith development in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. What are the new opportunities, and how can we see things in a new way?

What does it mean to see something in a new way? Consider:

1) It’s valuable to intercede for people’s needs. But when we pause to ask how Jesus is interceding for a person or situation, so we can join our voice to His, it deepens our notion of intercession.

2) It’s valuable to recognize theological heresy and argue against it. But when we realize that many errors of faith are rooted in some kind of personal pain that needs healing first (and arguments after), it deepens our notion of how to engage those errors.

So, what might happen when we realize that we have as many children in CYC sports as we have in Catholic schools and Parish Schools of Religion (PSR) combined? That doesn’t diminish the place of Catholic schools and PSRs. But it shows that we have a new opportunity, and need a new kind of creativity.

Or, what might happen when we realize that people aren’t engaged by many of our catechetical programs, but that the series “The Chosen” is having a deep impact on people’s engagement with the faith? That doesn’t mean catechetical programs aren’t important. But it shows that we need a new creativity to engage people’s imagination.

I’ve discovered — to my delight — that St. Louis is a city of parks: think of Forest Park, Tower Grove Park, or whatever your favorite park is. These parks have become places of gathering and refreshment. But building them took long-range vision. You have to plant trees and wait for them to grow.

What kind of “parks” do we want to build for the faith in these days of change — parks in which people will gather and find refreshment 50 years from now? Let’s ask that question and develop long-range vision together as we move into the next phase of All Things New.

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