We find ourselves at a turning point in the history of the Church – globally, nationally, and locally. A tremendous amount of energy has been focused on studies that show a continuing decline in participation in organized religion in our country, especially among younger generations. To respond to these “signs of our times”, Bishop da Cunha has formed a series of Commissions as part of diocesan efforts at Rebuilding in Faith and Hope for our future. Among them, is this commission which focused its attention on ministry among youth and young adults. This commission was divided into a series of sub-committees to focus on particular areas of this important ministry:
- Youth Ministry (among high-school aged young people)
- Young Adults (18-35 years old)
- Faith Formation
- Family Life
- Campus Ministry
New modes, new ways. This moment in our history is one that is calling forth from all members of the diocese an openness to seeking out new means, new ways, new structures, and new styles that speak more powerfully to our times and situations. Pope Francis said in Evangelii Gaudium, “Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says: ‘We have always done it this way.’ I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities.”
Saint Pope John Paul II likewise called for this new evangelization. In Pastores Dabo Vobis, he said, “Today, in particular, the pressing pastoral task of the new evangelization calls for the involvement of the entire People of God, and requires a new fervor, new methods and a new expression for the announcing and witnessing of the Gospel. This task demands priests who are deeply and fully immersed in the mystery of Christ and capable of embodying a new style of pastoral life, marked by a profound communion with the pope, the bishops and other priests, and a fruitful cooperation with the lay faithful.”
Bishop da Cunha echoed these sentiments in his address to Commission members at the beginning of this process. He said, “The structures and modes that we have functioned out of served us well for many years. But the culture of the Catholic Church has changed in the last few decades. We no longer live in the Catholic Culture of our past – one where all those who call themselves Catholic attend church every Sunday, participate fully in the life of faith and the local parish; where parishes were full of people, replete with volunteers, never needing to have a capital campaign or worry about the collection – and where members lived lives fully shaped by the prayer and Sacraments of Church. In that culture, evangelization began in the home. Families were fully active in their faith and so in the home – the domestic church – new members were brought into relationship with Jesus and His Church. But this is not the Church we live in today. If we can let go of the way we have always done things, we will begin to be able to look at things through the lens of newness that Jesus always brings. And when we change the way we look at things, the things we look at begin to change. I know that Christ has something amazing in store for the people of the Fall River Diocese, and I know that He has something amazing in store for each of you who have stepped forth today to help us read the signs of our times and look forward to a future rebuilt in faith and in hope.”
Rebuilding in Faith and Hope. The story of Saint Francis of Assisi is well known. In the year 1205, while praying in the small country chapel of San Damiano, the saint miraculously heard the words of Jesus speak to him from the cross. Jesus said, “Rebuild my church!” What many do not know about that encounter is that Saint Francis initially misunderstood the mission that Jesus had given him. He thought it was about brick and mortar, and over the next few years, the saint would physically rebuild three churches before he came to understand that Jesus was calling him to an historic mission of rebuilding the whole of Christianity – not with brick and mortar, but through the living stones that are the true building blocks of the Church.
We too, can be tempted to think that the task before us is also about brick and mortar, about which church structures will remain and which will not. But much like Saint Francis, the Holy Spirit is calling each of us today to engage in a process that looks not only at the Church today, but more importantly the Church tomorrow. We, too, are being called again to rebuild the living stones of the Church into a structure that continues to carry the faith to future generations. Our efforts among youth, young adults, and their families, is the most important of these efforts.
THE FIRST RECOMMENDATION THE COMMISSION OFFERS IS ON THE STRUCTURAL LEVEL.
A simple assessment of existing structures – diocesan, deanery, and parish level – reveal structures that are inadequate to the task at hand. Our current structures are more attuned to the church of the past, and not up to the task of addressing the needs of the Church today and moving forward. A more unified, organized, intentional, and professional approach to evangelization and discipleship is needed to rebuild in faith and hope.
Patrick Donovan, director of The Leadership Institute for the Diocese of Bridgeport wrote, “We have to rethink the way we prepare parents when their infants are baptized so they understand their role as first teachers. Then we need to give them the tools to accomplish this. Moving backward, we have to rethink how we prepare couples for marriage, so they know the responsibility that lies ahead. We have to rethink early childhood education so something actually happens between baptism, first reconciliation and first Communion. We need to accompany families as they raise faith-filled children. We need to rethink comprehensive ministry to, with, and for young people. We need to rethink confirmation preparation and stop thinking of confirmation as graduation. Even when we use the correct language, many parishes still treat confirmation as graduation, evident by the lack of ways young people can be involved and are formed in the years that follow the sacrament. If we want young people to stay involved in the parish, why not provide an environment for them from a very early age so the parish community is an extension of the family. This will require a profound cultural shift, but if we reimagine the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and marriage, I believe we might have a shot at changing the future of faith formation.”
THE FIRST STRUCTURAL RECOMMENDATION IS THE CREATION OF A NEW CABINET LEVEL.
This would include the Vicar General, Chancellor, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, and Secretary of Youth, Evangelization, and Catechesis. The goal of this level is to assure that the spiritual and temporal planning of the diocese is seen as two branches of the same task, and that these levels are always in constant conversation for the mutual support and promotion of each.
As is obvious from this structure, we are also recommending the creation of a new
Secretariat of Youth, Evangelization, and Catechesis. This Secretariat, included as a cabinet level position, would highlight the importance of this work as the primary focus of our diocesan efforts to rebuild in faith and hope. The future growth of the Church depends upon our ability to effectively evangelize youth and their families. The other goal of creating this secretariat would be to bring together these evangelizing efforts in faith formation, youth ministry, young adult ministry, campus ministry, and family life ministry under one unifying umbrella.
Secretariat of Youth, Evangelization, and Catechesis.
Office of Youth Discipleship. This office would replace the current Office of Faith Formation. The shift in title emphasizes the shift in focus that is needed. Our focus can no longer be solely or primarily on the expression of church teaching and theology; this must be done in and through the lens of discipleship. The desired goal of our efforts must be the creation of disciples.
Director of Youth Discipleship. This is the position that currently is the Director of Faith Formation. The Commission recommends that we transition from the current traditional model of religious education classes organized by grade and adopt a new model of family faith formation that is organized so that parents and parish faith formation programs share the responsibility of forming children as disciples. This office would be concerned with:
- The evangelization and catechesis of young people at the parish level.
- The evangelization and catechesis of parents at the parish level.
- Create universal job description for the role of faith formation directors on the parish level.
- Create programs to train (certify?) catechists on the local level.
Create programs of support for faith formation directors, catechists, and volunteers on the deanery level.
Pursue a new curriculum based on various whole community catechesis models. These models include time for fellowship and community building in addition to the catechetical components of a program. These programs are also marked by their evangelizing mode.
Create programs that focus on family faith formation for the years between baptism and First Holy Communion.
Create a Youth Discipleship Council that includes membership from each of the deaneries. Should ideally include representation of DREs, parents, youth ministers, and youth. This Council will help direct the efforts of the office.
Additional suggestions: We recommend that the Catholic Schools Department look at a creating a comprehensive approach to campus ministry at all levels. Much like parish faith formation, Catholic schools have access to the parents of young people who are already disposed toward the Catholic Church. Just as parents are the key constituency that parishes need to reach on the faith formation level, parents in the Catholic schools are also a key demographic for evangelization and catechesis. We recommend that the School Department assure that every Catholic School have a paid, professional, trained individual to serve as campus minister. This role would attend to the spiritual needs of the student body, as well as seeking opportunities to evangelize and catechize parents.
Director of Family Life. As our studies have shown, the family is not only the primary unit of the Church, it is also the most important and critical place for continued evangelization. This office would be concerned with:
Marriage Preparation retreats and programs that are not only informational, but evangelizing. Marriage preparation is often a missed opportunity to evangelize the uncatechized.
Marriage Enrichment retreats and programs to help married couples sustain their marriages and thrive as Catholic families.
- Engaged Encounter
- Marriage Encounter
- Teams of Our Lady
- Promote programs to encourage the use of Natural Family Planning.
- Create resources that encourage family prayer.
Programs for separated, divorced, and remarried Catholics that keep them connected to the community of the Church, and assist them in their particular situations.
Create programs and structures that assist parishes in dealing with the wide variety of diverse family structures that are now more typical in our society.
Director of Youth Ministry. This office would focus on youth ministry among junior high and high school aged young people with the goal of continued engagement and on-going evangelization. This office would be concerned with:
Creating and promoting diocesan youth ministry events annually.
Training and supporting parish-level youth ministers.
Promoting programs of evangelization for young people:
Alpha for Youth
Providing and promoting retreats for teens throughout the diocese. These include:
- Christian Leadership Institute (CLI)
- ECHO of Cape Cod. Also, recommend restoring the ECHO program so that it is present in each deanery, as it was at its beginning.
- YES Retreat
- Parish or Collaborative retreats.
- Promoting other youth retreats/events outside of the diocese. These include:
- Annual March for Life in Washington, DC
- Steubenville East Summer Youth Conference
- World Youth Day
- Promote Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) sports throughout the diocese.
GOAL: THE COMMISSION RECOMMENDS THAT THE BISHOP MANDATE THAT EVERY PARISH ENGAGE A PROFESSIONAL, TRAINED YOUTH MINISTER WITHIN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS WITH THE GOAL OF EVERY PARISH HAVING A YOUTH MINISTER. Youth Ministers could be shared among parishes or within collaboratives.
The Commission also recommends that the Office of Youth Ministry be located at Cathedral Camp, and that the facilities there be improved so that it can be more widely used as a retreat and conference center for the whole diocese. Improvements need to be made for the facilities to be more accessible and more accommodating to parishes and collaboratives.
Director of Campus and Young Adult Ministry. This office brings a focus on reaching out to young adults (18-35) throughout the diocese in a unified and specific way. The office would be concerned with:
Exploring evangelizing missionary outreach programs. (For example: Focus, St. Paul Outreach, Evangelical Catholic)
Establishing a Catholic Center at the North Dartmouth Mall or other easily accessible off-campus location.
Establish a presence or relationship at all campuses with strategic plan tailored to each campus. Eight Campuses in the Diocese:
- Mass Dartmouth
- Stonehill (internal campus ministry program)
- Mass. Maritime Academy
- Wheaton College
- Cape Cod Community College
- Bristol Community College
- Bridgewater State College – two satellite campuses in FR Diocese
Establish a Campus Ministry Alliance to bridge the gap between college and Catholic school ministries. (Better manage the hand-off from high school to college.)
- Outreach for commuter students which make up a significant portion of the population.
- Establish small Christian communities/Christian living communities.
- Strengthen campus collaboration with local parish.
- Create a centralized resource for all ministry-related activities.
- Promote retreats for young adults throughout the diocese
- Emmaus Retreats
- Create programs and resources to engage young adult college students when home during the summer or school breaks.
- Focus on deanery based regular activities (spiritual, social, service) for non-campus young adults. These would be modeled after programs like LIFT, Jesus in the City, Pure in Heart.
Director of Adult Discipleship. Again, this office is part of our recommendations because effectively reaching young people must include the successful outreach to their parents and other adults. An office of Faith Formation for Adults would recognize the needed areas of evangelization and catechesis that are already a part of the ministry of the diocese (RCIA, Adult Confirmation), but would also expand to a more systematic approach to reaching this demographic. The office would be concerned with:
- Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA)
- Adult Confirmation Programs
- Retreats for adults (Cursillo, and others)
- The Annual Diocesan Women and Men’s Conference
- Women of Grace
- Bible Studies
- Engaging other programs on the deanery level (Alpha, Women of Grace, for example).
Director of Social Action & Advocacy. This office brings a more comprehensive approach to the issues of Catholic social justice to help promote a global understanding of the Church’s outreach towards those who are homeless, or hungry, refugees and immigrants, and of course the important pro-life issues that our society is struggling with in a greater way every day. This office would be concerned with:
Pro-Life Ministry that focusses on opposition to abortion, outreach to pregnant mothers, opposition to attempts to legalize euthanasia, and advocating for the abolition of the death penalty.
Work with United Interfaith Action on issues of social justice in the cities of our diocese.
Promoting care of the environment, our common home.
Promoting the work of social justice initiatives sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Areas of Further Exploration. The Commission also recommends that time and study be given to other areas like:
- Programs for youth/young adults with special needs.
- Accessibility issues related to space (Are buildings accessible to everyone? Can we make use of technologies that make programs accessible to those with limited hearing, sight?)
A laborer was breaking stones in a field one day and was asked by a passerby, “What are you doing?” The laborer replied, grumbling, “I am breaking my back to cut these stones.” The passerby walked on and came upon another laborer in the field who was also breaking stones and asked him the same question. He replied more matter-of-factly, “I am working to feed my family and keep a roof over our head.” But, coming upon a third laborer and asking the same question again this laborer stopped and, with a great smile and a gaze towards the heavens, replied “I am building a cathedral.”
The road ahead to rebuilding in faith and hope is a challenging one, and it can sometimes feel as though it is a burden, and the future is unclear. But this Commission has the firm faith that we have been invited to build a great and glorious cathedral in our diocese. This time, though, it will not be made of stone and mortar, it will be built one-by-one of the living stones that are the people of God in our diocese. Our future is one that is full of hope. By reading the signs of the times, and reimagining our structures on every level – diocesan, deanery, and parishes – we can find a way to light that fire of faith once again in our communities so that the Gospel will continue to spread, thrive and flourish in the communities of the Fall River Diocese. By inviting these structures to return to the Gospel impulse of evangelization, we will welcome people once again into a vibrant relationship with the Lord that is lived out in and through the life of the Church. Together, let us build that cathedral.
Very Rev. Thomas Washburn, Catholic Community of Central Fall River Fall River
Christine Creighton, St. Nicholas, No. Dighton – Campus Ministry
Kristine Lucca, St. Dominic, Swansea – Family Life
TJ Mills, St. Jude the Apostle, Taunton – Youth Ministry
Timothy Mitchell, Our Lady of Guadalupe, New Bedford – Faith Formation
Tabitha Monteiro – Young Adults
Daniel Seseske, St. Stanislaus, Fall River – Family Life
Amanda Tarantelli, St. Margaret, Rumford – Youth Ministry
Christopher Fortier, St. Anthony, Mattapoisett – Family Life
Fr. David Frederici, St. Mary, So. Dartmouth – Campus Ministry
Bea Furtado, Santo Christo, Fall River – Young Adults
Beth Mahoney, St. Mary and St. Andrew, Taunton – Faith Formation
Maria Antonelli, St. Bernard, Assonet
Jean Arsenault, St. Julie Billiart, Dartmouth
Steve Basara, St Mary, Norton
Kathleen Bendixen, Immaculate Conception, No. Easton
Luke Biello, St. Patrick, Somerset
Deacon Bruce Bonneau, St John Neumann, E. Freetown
Mike Boucher, St Mary, Fall River
Kelma Branco, St. Mary, Fall River
Fr. Jeff Cabral, Santo Christo, Fall River
Deborah Cabral, St. Anthony of Padua, Fall River
George Cabral, St. Anthony of Padua, Fall River
Adam Cadrin, St. Thomas More, Somerset
Kathleen Caldera, Immaculate Conception, North Easton
Rita Campoli, Immaculate Conception, New Bedford
Laura Caron, St. Andrew the Apostle, Taunton
Kristin Carrigg, St. Francis Xavier, Acushnet
Nicholas Carrigg, St. Francis Xavier, Acushnet
Laura Carrillo, St. Ritas/St. Anthony, Marion/Mattapoisett
Michelle Chenard, Annunciation of the Lord, Taunton
George (Philip) Cipressi, St Mary, Dartmouth
Jeannette Cooper, St Francis Xavier, Hyannis
Norman Corriveau, St. Thomas More, Somerset
John Costantino, St. John the Evangelist, Attleboro
Beni Costa-Reedy, St. Mary, So. Dartmouth
Karen Coughlin, Holy Family, East Taunton
Amber Couture, Saint Andrew, Taunton
Lynne Curnyn, St. Margaret, Buzzards Bay
Judy DaCosta, St. Anthony of Padua, Fall River
Irina De Lucca, St. Mary, Fall River
Maria De Lucca, St. Mary, Fall River
Lori-Ann DeResendes, St. Francis Xavier, Acushnet
Kristen Dutra, St. Vincent Home, Fall River
Margaret Dwyer Hogan, Holy Cross, Easton
John Edwards, Corpus Christi, Sandwich
Anne Fay, St. John the Evangelist, Attleboro
Michael Fitzpatrick, St. Thomas More, Somerset
Deanna Fitzpatrick, St Julie, Dartmouth
Brian Fraga, Espirito Santo, Fall River
Cindy Francis, St. Joseph-St. Therese, New Bedford
Sheryl Gagnon, Holy Trinity, Fall River
Tyrone Gonsalves, Corpus Christi, Sandwich
Felix Gonzalez, St. Mary, Fall River
Amanda Gregg Aiu, St. Mary, Mansfield
John (Jack) Hagenbuch, Our Lady of the Cape, Brewster
Janine Hammarquist, St. Francis Xavier, Acushnet
Kathy Harum, St. Vincent de Paul, Attleboro
Carolyn Heim, St. Mary, Norton
Kathy Hill, St. Mary, Norton
Jeanne Hodge, Corpus Christi, Sandwich
Karen Howard, St. John Neumann, East Freetown
Sr. Paulina Hurtado, OP, St. Mary, Fall River
John M. Jannis, St. Elizabeth Seton, Falmouth
Deb Jezak, Good Shepherd, Fall River
Tom Jezak, Good Shepherd, Fall River
Colleen Kearney, St. George, Westport
Kathleen Kelly, St. Bernard, Assonet
louise Kelly, St. Bernard, Assonet
Lisa Kelly, St. Thomas More, Somerset
Melodie Kirby, St. John, Attleboro
Philip Koch, St. Joan of Arc, Orleans
Mary Kortright, St. John, Attleboro
Timothy Legg, Sacred Heart, North Attleboro
Lorraine Levy, St. Ann, Raynham
Beth Lortie, St. Andrew, Taunton
Frank Lucca, St. Dominic, Swansea
Dr. Maribeth Manley, St. John Neumann, East Freetown
Robert Massoud, St, Mary, New Bedford
Michael McDermott, Our Lady of Fatima, New Bedford
Elizabeth McGinnis, Holy Cross, Easton
Tracey McKeen, Our Lady of Victory, Centerville
Claire McManus, St. Christopher, Marshfield
Patrick McNabb, Holy Name, Fall River
Henry Mello, St. Anthony, Taunton
Daniel Menard, St. Dominic, Swansea
Jessica Moreau, St. Mary, Mansfield
Elizabeth Mueller, St. Patrick, Falmouth
Brian Mulhall, St. Anthony, East Falmouth
Diane Mulhall, St. Anthony, East Falmouth
Fr. Juan Munoz, St. Mary, Fall River
- Christopher Myron, St. Bernard, Assonet
Leanne Nelson, Good Shepherd, Fall River
Brian Norton, Corpus Christi, Sandwich
Fr. Daniel Nunes, Holy Name, Fall River
Geraldine O’Malley, Holy Trinity, Harwich
Susan Pagliccia, Good Shepherd, Oak Bluffs
Patricia Pasternak, St. Stanislaus, Fall River
Robert Peterson, Immaculate Conception, North Easton
Michael Philipps, St. John the Evangelist, Attleboro
Kristie Ponte, Holy Name, Fall River
Jim Potter, St. Margaret, Buzzards Bay
James Quinn, St. Elizabeth, North Falmouth
Richard Raiche, St. George, Westport
Janet Rausch, St. Patrick, Somerset
Patrick Reynolds, Sacred Heart, North Attleboro
Eric Rodrigues, Santo Christo, Fall River
Jane Santos, St. Anthony, Taunton
Shelly Saucier, St. Thomas Moore, Somerset
James Sawyer, St Patrick, Falmouth
Lisa Scapellati, St. Joan of Arc, Orleans
Nate Schaff, Good Shepherd, Oak Bluffs
Maureen Lipp Schoonmaker, St. Patrick, Falmouth
Philip Schoonmaker, St. Patrick, Falmouth
Peter Shaughnessy, St. Francis Xavier, Acushnet
Priscilla Silva, Our Lady of the Cape, Brewster
Paula Sine, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Seekonk
Constance Rodrigues Soares, Our Lady of Assumption, New Bedford
Angela Stankiewicz, St. Mary, Fall River
Sr. Marianna Sylvester, RSM, Our Lady of Assumption, New Bedford
Jennessa Terraccino, St. Mary, Mansfield
Edward Trendowski, St. Francis Xavier, Acushnet
Richard Troland, St John Neumann, E. Freetown
Ryan Welter, St. Mary, North Attleboro
Deborah Zane, St. Mary, Fall River
Robert Zeida, St. Julie Billiart, North Dartmouth