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This week on Register Radio, Jeanette DeMelo reports from the U.S. Bishops’ meeting, where she spoke with Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville about the bishops’ efforts to reach Latino and other under-served communities through Catholic schools. Also Dan Burke speaks to Matthew James Christoff about his work to empower Catholic men in their witness to faith.
Catholic Schools with Bishop Daniel Flores
Bishop Daniel Flores, was appointed the sixth bishop of Brownsville Texas in 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI. He is the third native Texan to serve the Rio Grande Valley as bishop. He also serves as Chairman of the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, and is on the board of directors for Catholic Relief Services.
Speaking of the report he gave to the bishops, Bishop Flores said, “It was a report that was really collaborative, so that we could look at the issue of Catholic schools and the future of Catholic schools in the United States, to help people understand the benefits of a Catholic school education.”
The focus he said he tended toward in his remarks was under-served populations, including the growing Hispanic/Latino populations, which, he said, “with school-aged kids, it is a tremendously high number,” but also the African American and Native American communities.
These are communities, he said, that benefit greatly from a Catholic education, showing high success rates in terms of their careers and also in the life of the Church.
“We have to make a special intentional effort as a Church, diocese by diocese, parish by parish, to reach out to the Latin American community, the African American community, the Native American community to find ways to make our schools a possibility for them,” Bishop Flores said.
Whereas half of the school-aged children in the United States are Hispanic, in Catholic schools, the percentage is at about 15 percent, according to Bishop Flores. “In fact, we are experiencing a tremendous demographic shift in the United States, and the Church has to get ahead of the curve, especially since the success of our schools will depend a great deal upon our ability to attract the immigrant population,” Bishop Flores said.
Bishop Flores also noted that “the Catholic school system in the United States was founded precisely to assist the immigrant population.”
Catholic schools were instrumental in the nineteenth century with helping immigrant populations to maintain their faith, get a good education, and do well in the society. “That tradition needs to continue,” Bishop Flores stated, acknowledging that the bishops need to make an intentional effort to make a Catholic education a possibility for immigrants who would not have thought it possible based on the countries they came from.
Bishop Flores discussed the shifting demographics within the Church and how the schools have not shifted — it is, after all, impossible to pick up a school building and move it! He noted that, whereas the immigrant populations were in the North and the East during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it’s now more in the South and the West.
To hear the practical suggestions the bishops have made and the dioceses that are doing this well, be sure to listen to the full interview.
The New eMANgelization Project with Matt Christoff
Matthew James Christoff is a 2006 convert to the Catholic Faith. In 2013, he launched the New eMANgelization Project, to help the Church confront the Catholic “man-crisis” and to focus on evangelization of Catholic men.
“This man-crisis is something that’s been growing for a long time,” Christoff said, “but at the essence of it, it’s that men have not had that conversion experience that has drawn them into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. As a result, it’s hard to get them to show up a lot of times, especially for mixed gender events.”
Since launching the project last year, Christoff and his team have assembled quite a bit of research. “What we’re finding is that large numbers of men really need a male-to-male kind of evangelization effort for them to be drawn into the faith,” Christoff said.
Citing the work of the New Evangelization beginning after Vatican II, Christoff observed that most of the events have been gender neutral or focused on women. “What happens is, men don’t respond necessarily to a flat evangelical approach. Men are different and in the life of the Church, we’ve seen that men have always been evangelized differently.”
“Men need something specific, they need something different, and they need to be evangelized by men,” he said, calling it a “male thing.”
One of methods to get guys connected that Christoff advocated was having man-specific events. “Men don’t respond well and in big numbers to mixed gender events. They just don’t,” he said.
In addition, man-to-man invitation is critical, according to the research Christoff has conducted. “That male-to-male friendship thing is something that’s a great opportunity for us. Many men are lonely today, and many men are lacking those kinds of deep and enduring friendships.”
“The lowest rated thing that priests are doing — what they’re doing the least — is gathering fathers and sons together,” Christoff said. He pointed to the opportunity this presents to design events to fight, in particular, the issue of pornography.
You’ll want to hear all of what Matthew James Christoff has to say, including his recommendations for what happens next in the complete interview on this week’s show.
You can find out more about the New eMANgelization Project, including many resources and interviews, at newemangelization.com.