THE PRAIRIE CATHOLIC
Why should anyone want to learn about their faith?
'Fourth Plan' calls parents to pass on faith to their children
by Sam Patet
The Prairie Catholic / December 2013
NEW ULM – Monday afternoon, cross-country practice. Tuesday afternoon, volleyball game followed by pep band performance. Wednesday night, religious education. Thursday afternoon, cross-country meet. Friday afternoon, volleyball practice. Saturday, family chores.
Life is busy for parents Tony and Charlotte Rosemeier of St. Bridget’s Parish in DeGraff. With seven children, ages 5 to 22, it’s a given. On top of making sure their children are at school, band concerts, and sporting events on time with the proper equipment in hand, they’re also juggling their own lives. Tony works in the energy division of Glacial Plains Cooperative in Murdock, while Charlotte works as the financial secretary for the St. Isidore the Farmer Area Faith Community in DeGraff, Benson, Murdock, Clontarf, and Danvers.
Yet despite their busy lives, they’re committed to passing on the Catholic faith to their children, a gift they’ve come to appreciate more and more throughout their 23 years of marriage.
“I think that somebody can only learn so much at a certain time, and I think the Holy Spirit has just kind of worked in our lives because we’ve let him,” Tony said.
Both he and Charlotte know that passing on the faith to their children isn’t easy in the 21st century. While they don’t want them to be sheltered from the world, they know that much of what it offers goes against the teachings of Christ and his Church. “They ride the school bus, so they learn a great deal of things,” Charlotte said. “The world is just coming at them with all kinds of evil and temptation.”
That’s why they make it a point to talk to their kids about the Church’s teachings, whether it’s on hot-button issues like abortion and same-sex marriage or on doctrines that distinguish them from other Christians, like the role of Mary and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
“The older ones, of course they’re questioned by their friends,” Charlotte said. “They have questions for us and they want us to be able to answer. … But it’s good, because if we don’t know the answer, we’ll try and look it up.”
The two aren’t content, however, with looking up the answer to every question their kids throw at them. They also want to be able to give them the Church’s teachings on the spot. That desire has motivated them to take the time to study their faith.
For Tony, that’s taken the form of listening to Relevant Radio as he makes his deliveries for Glacial Plains. Two of his favorite shows on the Catholic radio station are “Fr. Simon Says” and “Go Ask Your Father,” where listeners call in to ask a priest any question they have about the faith.
“I’ve learned so much of my faith over the last five years … listen(ing) to Relevant Radio,” he said. “You’re learning, and you’re building on … what you did know.”
A year and a half ago the couple attended a set of talks on Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, which was sponsored by their AFC. “That was really enlightening,” Charlotte said. And they’ve also learned quite a bit just by getting involved in their children’s faith lives, from the sacramental preparation classes they’ve attended to the religious education lessons they’ve taught to their younger children.
“They’ve made me want to – or have to – learn more about my faith, because I want to have the answers for them,” Tony said. “They push you to be stronger in your faith because you’ve got to worry about their souls.”
Proclaiming the Good News
What the Rosemeiers are doing – learning about the faith and passing it on to their children – is exactly what the “Fourth Plan for Parishes” has in mind when it talks about Catholics exercising the prophetic office of Christ.
“Together, in their respective roles, the priests and the parishioners of the parishes of the Diocese of New Ulm carry out the prophetic office of the Church by living and handing on the Truth revealed by Jesus Christ,” the “Fourth Plan” states. “Christ, by revealing God (Truth), reveals the truth about us, that is, he reveals who we are” (pp. 4, 3).
In the Old Testament, a prophet was someone appointed by God who proclaimed the Lord’s message to the Israelites. Catholics, too, are commissioned by God through their Baptism to proclaim the truth about his Son, Jesus Christ, to their families, friends, and coworkers.
Bryan Reising is the director of Religious Education and Adult Faith Formation for the diocese. A word the Church has used to describe this activity of proclaiming the truth about Jesus Christ is evangelization, he said. It’s the essential mission of the Church, he continued, quoting Pope Paul VI’s 1975 apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Nuntiandi.”
“For the Church,” Pope Paul VI says, “evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new” (“Evangelii Nuntiandi,” no. 18, cited by “Fourth Plan for Parishes,” p. 44).
The New Evangelization
The way in which this Good News is brought to “all the strata of humanity,” however, isn’t a uniform process. Citing Pope John Paul II’s 1990 encyclical “Redemptoris Missio,” the “Plan” teaches that different approaches are needed in different situations.
Some communities, for example, have never heard the Gospel, while others are well-established in the faith and are fertile ground for the Church to carry out her pastoral activity, Pope John Paul II writes (“Redemptoris Missio,” no. 33, cited by “Fourth Plan,” p. 45).
But the situation that corresponds most closely to the 15 counties that make up the Diocese of New Ulm is neither of these, the “Plan” teaches. Rather, it’s a third situation, one in which many baptized Catholics are no longer practicing the faith.
“There is an intermediate situation, particularly in countries with ancient Christian roots, and occasionally in the younger Churches as well, where entire groups of the baptized have lost a living sense of the faith, or no longer consider themselves members of the Church, and live a life far removed from Christ and his Gospel,” Pope John Paul II writes. “In this case what is needed is a ‘new evangelization’ or a ‘re-evangelization’” (“Redemptoris Missio,” no. 33, cited by “Fourth Plan,” p. 45).
Fr. Paul Timmerman is pastor of the parishes in Clara City, Granite Falls, and Montevideo and serves on the diocese’s Evangelization and Catechesis Committee. This New Evangelization that Pope John Paul II talks about is simply “re-proposing the beauty of the faith – the Catholic faith – to Catholics,” he said.
In order for the baptized to have the courage to talk to their relatives and friends about Jesus Christ, they have to know who he is. That’s why the “Plan” stresses that catechesis is an integral part of implementing the New Evangelization.
Catechesis is the “education of children, young people, and adults in the faith” (“Fourth Plan,” p. 46, quoting Pope John Paul II’s “Catechesi Tradendae,” no. 18). While many immediately associate it with Wednesday-night religious education classes, it first and foremost should be connected with adults, the “Plan” teaches. That’s because adults have the ability to live the faith in its fullness and the greatest responsibilities (“Fourth Plan,” p. 47, quoting Pope John Paul II’s “Catechesi Tradendae,” no. 43).
Importance of the family
One of those responsibilities is passing on the faith to the next generation, which especially should be occurring in the family. “The family provides a unique environment for witnessing to the faith. Within it, members model Christ for each other in an intimate communion of love” (“Fourth Plan,” p. 47, quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1657).
Reising couldn’t agree more. After decades of working with religious education catechists, he knows that their work can only go so far. Parents play a critical role in passing on the faith to their children, he said.
“Kids in a family where the faith is lived and practiced as much as possible … have a better chance of staying with the faith and being affected by the faith,” he said. Parents need to provide teachable moments at home, he said, such as prayer opportunities and feast day celebrations.
As much as they can, Tony and Charlotte try to do this with their kids who are still at home. Every morning the two make a morning offering to God around the breakfast table, letting any of their kids participate who happen to be up. They go as a family to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least four times a year. They pray the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet with their children. Before going to bed they pray together in their room, even when their two youngest – ages 5 and 7 – decide to join them. And every week they’re at Sunday Mass, no matter what the weather or how hectic their week has been.
“A lot of teaching them is leading by example,” Charlotte said. “The parents need to learn the faith in order to pass it on, and in order to learn it, they need to go to Mass and they need to get involved.”
Yet the New Evangelization involves still something more. As the “Fourth Plan” notes, what will really draw others back to Catholicism is people who have been transformed by the faith.
Fr. Timmerman sees this interior transformation taking place especially through the Eucharist. Once a person realizes that he can actually have a personal relationship with Christ in the Eucharist, the rest of his faith life seems to fall in place, he said.
“If I have that relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist, I’m going to make time for what’s important,” he said. “I’m going to prioritize what activities I’m going to be involved in, or my family members are going to be involved in.”
Once a month, Sacred Heart Parish in Murdock hosts Eucharistic adoration during the day. Tony and Charlotte take the 5 to 6 p.m. time slot, which falls right after Tony gets off work. They love getting to spend that time with the Lord.
“You long for it again,” Tony said. “It’s truly the presence of Christ … (and) gives you wholeness and peace of mind.”
To help Catholics better exercise the prophetic office of Christ, the “Fourth Plan” points to the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Both of these sources provide the authentic teaching of Christ and his Church and should be studied by priests, parish leaders, diocesan employees, and the lay faithful.
The “Plan” also encourages parishes to support small faith-sharing groups among their parishioners. Not only do these groups provide Catholics with a forum to learn about the faith, but they also allow them to meet with like-minded individuals who will support and encourage them in their faith lives.
Tony and Charlotte know they have a lot more learning and a lot more teaching their children ahead of them. While it isn’t always easy, they wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“Seeing them take their faith and run with it – that’s kind of the payoff,” Charlotte said.