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January 16, 2004
Greetings and welcome to Faith Formation Update, a free monthly e-newsletter for catechetical leaders with a focus on parish catechesis beyond textbooks and classrooms. I'm Judith Dunlap. In each issue I offer a brief starter and my "Every Family" column. My co-worker and fellow religious educator Joan McKamey offers video resources and ideas in her "Seen and Heard" column. Our co-worker Chuck Blankenship suggests other faith formation resources for adults from St. Anthony Messenger Press in his column, "Sowing Sampler." Finally, we encourage YOU to share views and program ideas about this month's topic on our online bulletin board, "Faith Formation Forum." Blessings on your work!
—Judith Dunlap

p.s. You're receiving this either because you signed up, or because you're a loyal customer of St. Anthony Messenger Press. We will never send you unwanted e-mail. There is an unsubscribe link at the bottom of this page.
Catholic Identity

Years ago we didn't need to put the words "Catholic" and "identity" together. We knew we were Catholic and we knew what made us Catholic. Those were the days when everyone was something: Lutheran, Baptist, Jewish, etc. And often the things that we thought made us Catholic (and by which other folks identified us) were the peripherals, such as meatless Fridays, statues and Marian processions.

When Vatican II decided to reprioritize things, we began to downplay some of the devotional elements of our faith. In the name of ecumenism, we minimized our differences and became more comfortable calling ourselves Christians. Unfortunately, one of the side effects is that many Catholics today are not quite sure what makes us different from other Christians.

I'm part of the team at St. Anthony Messenger Press that puts together the monthly newsletter Every Day Catholic. With the above concern in mind, we've decided to spend the year 2004 looking at Catholic identity. Each month the Franciscan theologian Father Tom Richstatter will discuss a different aspect of what distinguishes Catholics from other Christians. The newsletter will discuss not only the sacraments but also the distinctive Catholic sacramental worldview. In future issues we will look at the Eucharist (and Real Presence), the community of saints, the liturgical year and a Catholic view of peace and justice, just to name a few.

This four-page newsletter features a current movie/video review and a column called "Saints and Heroes Among Us." In addition, there is a family column (written by yours truly) which focuses on Catholic identity and suggests how family members can respond to the theme. Each issue also provides questions for family and small group discussions related to the main article.

The newsletter would be an excellent take-home for your parishioners as well as a great resource for small groups. See for yourself by viewing a sample of Every Day Catholic. I am not usually so blatant in recommending our products, but this award- winning newsletter offers a unique contribution to adult faith formation. Remember, one of the concrete suggestions offered in Were Not Our Hearts Burning is for parishes to provide materials for individual take-home study as well as resources for small faith communities. Every Day Catholic fills both needs.

Keeping Kids Catholic

I remember a Lent years ago when we packed away the "Alleluia" with a group of youngsters. We told them that as Catholics we believed the word "alleluia" was so special that we didn't use it all Lent. We "gave it up" for 40 days and saved it for our Easter celebration. A couple of weeks later we had a few parents call us asking us to speak to their youngster again. It seems that in their third-grade music class they were learning to sing "The Glory Hymn of the Republic" and they refused to sing the chorus. They told their teacher it was against their religion.

I love that story because it says something about how much children want something to stand for. By not singing "Glory! Glory! Hallelujah," these young people felt they were identifying themselves as Catholics. And from the way their parents told it, they liked the distinction. Wouldn't it be nice if they were equally aware of what really sets Catholics apart from other denominations and faiths?

The General Directory for Catechesis tells us there are two principal means of fulfilling the tasks of catechesis: transmission of the Gospel message and the experience of Christian living (GDC # 87). Our Catholic identity can be found in both approaches. We need to do all we can in our schools and religious education programs to emphasize what sets us apart.

Parents cannot leave it all to the professionals. They are the ones who are still primarily responsible for sharing the Gospel and witnessing a Catholic Christian lifestyle for their children. But we can encourage parents in this responsibility and offer them ideas and resources to help them carry it out.

To do this, gather parents together some time in the new year and talk about what it means to be Catholic. Have Catholic books, tapes and DVD's available, as well as rosaries, crucifixes and holy cards. Talk about why Catholics use sacramentals (our sacramental worldview). Suggest some daily or seasonal rituals they can do at home. The book Keeping Your Kids Catholic (Servant/St. Anthony Messenger Press) offers a "Taking Stock" questionnaire for parents. You might want to use it at your gathering as a warm-up activity. Click here to see the questionnaire.

We know that parents will often do for their children what they won't do for themselves. That's probably why family catechesis is an excellent approach to adult catechesis. Convince parents that their children need to know their Catholic identity, and the adults will also learn what it means to be Catholic.

Video Updates on Catholic Identity

Why am I Catholic? What makes me Catholic? How does my faith differ from that of other Christians? These are questions that my involvement on my parish's RCIA team invites me to consider—not just for myself but also for those with whom I am walking through this process. As a parent, I must consider and convey my Catholic identity to my young daughter. In my work at a Catholic publishing house, I regularly draw on my knowledge of the Catholic faith as well as my personal experience of being a Catholic. In your work as catechetical leaders, in your family or community life, in all you do, your Catholic identity also shines through.

For many people, Catholic identity is closely tied to certain actions and practices. Many of these "things Catholics do" have undergone changes since the Second Vatican Council. As we commemorate the 40th anniversary of Vatican II, we can look at the changes in what Catholics do and reflect on the attitudes and meanings behind our actions. We can also consider where we are being called as Church.

Members of your parish express their Catholic identity within their families, in their workplaces, in their volunteer work and organizations as well as in their parish involvements. Just as you and I need regular updating and time for prayer and reflection, so do those to whom we minister.

A video resource that helps both Catholics and those exploring the Catholic Church is What Makes Us Catholic? Discovering Our Catholic Identity. This one program (story, witness, teaching and music video segments) will find multiple uses in your parish: RCIA, adult faith formation, returning Catholics, interfaith couples preparing for marriage or a child's Baptism, catechist formation and enrichment, Confirmation preparation of adults and high school religious education. Click here to see a video clip from the teaching segment of What Makes Us Catholic? Discovering Our Catholic Identity (RealMedia | Windows Media).


Other videos on Cultural Diversity and Incarnation (click on the video title for more information):

• A Child's View of Community (10 min., grades 1-5).
• Spirit Alive in Community (four segments: story, witness, teaching, music video; adults).
• Our Catholic Creed, Series 5 of the DeSales Catholic Video Library (eight tape set, 60 min. each, also available separately, adults).
• The Mystery of Faith: An Introduction to Catholicism with Father Michael Himes (10-tape set, 20-25 min. each, also available separately, adults).
• The Vision of Vatican II for Today with Father Michael Himes (five-tape set, 20-27 min. each, adults).
Remembering Vatican II

Much of what we understand about being Catholic today has been filtered through the experience and legacy of the Second Vatican Council. It has now been forty years since the Council was in session. Whole generations of Catholics have grown up in the faith since the bishops of the world met in Rome for the Council, and the Church is still trying to understand just what happened there and what it means for Catholics today.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, St. Anthony Messenger Press is publishing a 12-part series of newsletters, Vatican 2 Today, that will address the experience and impact of the Council. A monthly publication that begins in March, Vatican 2 Today will explore a different aspect of the Council, from liturgy to Scripture, lay ministry to ecumenism, ordained ministry to Catholic family life, our legacy of faith and the concept of Catholic discipleship. Authors for the series include Father Jack Wintz, editor of Catholic Update; Karen Sue Smith, editor of Church magazine; Bishop Robert Morneau, auxiliary bishop of Green Bay, Wisconsin; Sister Dianne Bergant, biblical studies professor at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago; John Roberto, founder of the Center for Ministry Development; and other distinguished writers. Sidebar material will explore the stories of those present at or deeply influenced by the Council, look at some important moments and teachings of Church councils over the past 2,000 years, identify and explain vocabulary that has sprung from Vatican II and offer questions for reflection and discussion.

Vatican 2 Today will arrive monthly as a four-page, 8 ½"x11" publication (similar to Catholic Update), perfect for inserting into your weekly bulletin. The first issue will arrive in time for distribution at the beginning of Lent 2004. For more information about Vatican 2 Today, call St. Anthony Messenger Press at 800-488-0488, ext. 158.

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Faith Formation Forum

Share your ideas on promoting Catholic identity at our online bulletin board. Our editors will screen and post your thoughts, and you can learn from others' ideas. Submit your ideas by clicking here.

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