Catholic church bells resounded for three minutes across the United States Oct. 11 at noon not only to mark the Angelus, but also to ring in the Year of Faith.
Pope Benedict XVI called for the Year of Faith, which runs through Nov. 24, 2013, as "a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Savior of the world."
During this year, "we will have the opportunity to profess our faith in the risen Lord in our cathedrals and in the churches of the whole world, in our homes and among our families, so that everyone may feel a strong need to know better and to transmit to future generations the faith of all times," wrote the Pope in his apostolic letter Porta Fidei (Door of Faith).
The celebration also commemorates the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the Catechism; and the year began while Church leaders from around the world gathered Oct. 7-28 for the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization.
"The goal of the Year of Faith is to ‘re-propose’ Jesus Christ to those who think they know him and those who do not," said Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay, Wis., who is chairman of the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). "The Holy Father has called us to open the door of our mind and the door of our heart to Christ, who is always asking to be invited in."
The U.S. bishops’ conference, dioceses and apostolates across the country are seizing the moment to celebrate the Year of Faith and the anniversaries of key Church events.
Bishop Ricken’s committee recently authored an online resource guide on sacramental catechesis for dioceses and eparchies. The document is just one way the bishops’ conference will throw its weight behind the Holy Father’s efforts to encourage participation in the Mass and sacraments of the Church.
The USCCB’s Year of Faith Web portal (USCCB.org) will also showcase the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s recommendations for increasing the "quality of catechesis," by making the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church "more widely and deeply known" and working for "a correct understanding of the Council."
Threshold of Renewal
"Faith is at the heart of the true renewal that Vatican II envisioned," said Ralph Martin, president of Renewal Ministries in Ann Arbor, Mich., and director of graduate programs in the New Evangelization at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit. Martin serves as a consultor to the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization and is participating as an official expert during the Synod of Bishops.
"The Year of Faith, the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Vatican II, the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Synod on the New Evangelization all are linked," he said.
These efforts are designed "to bring out the heart of the Church’s life and mission, expressed by Blessed John Paul II as a rediscovery of our baptism and the call we receive from the Lord through it to respond to the ‘universal call to holiness and the universal call to evangelization.’"
"We’re at an incredible moment of history," said Bishop Ricken, commenting on the coinciding of the anniversaries with the Year of Faith. "The Year of Faith provides a kind of threshold experience."
In his own diocese, in addition to encouraging attendance at the Sunday liturgy and a return to the sacrament of reconciliation, Bishop Ricken has recommended that individuals read at least one of the documents of the Second Vatican Council during the Year of Faith. The Diocese of Green Bay (GBDioc.org) has also designated the Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier as a pilgrimage site. During the Year of Faith, the faithful may receive a plenary indulgence by visiting the cathedral and meeting the requirements of the indulgence. (See related story on page 6.)
In fact, the Vatican has made a plenary indulgence available to "all faithful who, truly penitent, take sacramental confession and the Eucharist and pray in accordance with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff" and meet the prescriptions required by the indulgence.
Many dioceses are still making final preparations for celebrating the Year of Faith.
Given the faith’s early arrival in the Americas at St. Augustine, Fla., the Diocese of St. Augustine (DOSAFL.com) has been one of the early adopters and has publicized its planned events.
Bishop Felipe Estevez opened the Year of Faith in the Diocese of St. Augustine with public solemn Vespers (evening prayer) at 7pm on Oct. 11 at the cathedral-basilica, with homilist Father D. Terrence Morgan.
In addition, the diocese initiated English- and Spanish-language study groups on the Catechism and study sessions on Vatican II documents. During Catholic Schools Week, Jan. 27 to Feb. 2, students in grades 1-12 can compete in the Bishop’s Bowl; the final round of that quiz-game competition will take place at the Eucharistic Congress on March 9, 2013, in Jacksonville, Fla.
During Advent, the diocese is planning an ecumenical event with Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church. Bishop Estevez also plans to issue a pastoral letter in time for Lent, which begins Feb. 13, 2013.
The Diocese of Joliet, Ill. (DioceseofJoliet.org), sponsored a special evening of faith for young adults at St. Paul the Apostle parish in Joliet on Oct. 11 at 7pm. There will also be a day of renewal focused on the topic "Called to be Saints in the Midst of the World" (DayofRenewal.us) on Nov. 3 at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Downers Grove, Ill.
Diocese of Raleigh, N.C., Bishop Michael Burbidge (DioceseofRaleigh.org/how/evangelization) has divided the year into quarters. Two themes, from each of the four pillars of the Catechism of the Church — Creed, sacraments, Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer — will provide a focus for each quarter. Throughout, there will be opportunities for prayer, Scripture readings, reflection questions, catechesis and faith in action, as well as time to study a key document from the Second Vatican Council.
Bishop Joseph McFadden of Harrisburg, Pa., encouraged his priests to foster renewal during the Year of Faith.
In a letter to diocesan priests, the bishop said it’s a time "for renewed catechesis, prayer and evangelization. It is my expressed wish that … you will take seriously the great gift of this Year of Faith and give considerable thought and reflection on how your parish community may be strengthened in its understanding of the faith, its fruitful worship and prayer, and its clear witness to the local community of the wonder and joy of believing in Jesus Christ."
Bishop McFadden opened the Year of Faith with Mass Oct. 11 at 10am at Holy Name of Jesus Church in Harrisburg.
Through a comprehensive list of print and online resources (HBGDiocese.org/YearofFaith), he also encouraged each parish family to remain active in the faith through study of the Bible, Catechism and the major documents of Vatican II.
He also suggested increased study of the Creed, renewed catechetical outreach to youth and adults and increased devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, and Eucharistic adoration.
The Catholic Campus Ministry Association, the Son Rise Morning Show and Verdin Bells promoted the national bell-ringing effort. Those interested can download a Verdin bell ringtone (Verdin.com/YearofFaith) to participate on an individual level.
"The Holy Father has invited us to manifest the Year of Faith in each of our dioceses — a year that will initiate a wave of increased fidelity to Christ and to the Church," said Curtis Martin, founder and president of Fellowship of Catholic University Students (Focus), who is attending the Synod of Bishops as an auditor. "The year is designed to rekindle faith for those who have it and for those who may not have a joy about it, and to rekindle a willingness to share the faith."
"We don’t lack the training; we lack the encounter," said Martin. "Evangelizing doesn’t mean to impose the faith, but to joyfully propose the faith. We’re here to invite others and leave the results to God."