A fresh approach for fortifying the domestic church

By Megan Marley

As you may or may not have heard, there’s been a recent restructuring of offices within the Catholic Center.

“Yawn”—you might say. But the change hopes to have an impact on how teaching and sharing the Gospel and support of pastoral work in parishes and schools are carried out, focusing on the basic building block of society: the family.

The new office of Domestic Church and Discipleship established in May encompasses the existing offices of Catechesis and Faith Formation, Hispanic Ministry, Youth Ministry, Marriage and Family Life, and College Campus and Young Adult Ministry—an entire service area that serves, trains and consults across the diocese.

At the heart of this change is a desire to activate the laity in their proper role and function—to do the work of Jesus Christ within their workplace, their home and within the community as a whole, to be making disciples and converts.

“Bishop Johnston sees the vital importance of emphasizing one of the central concerns of the Second Vatican Council, which was to activate the laity to do apostolic work within their ordinary lives, and that means addressing the Christian household as an audience,” said Dino Durando, director of the new office and of the Family Life Office.

The change focuses on what Durando calls ‘the Principal of Intimacy’: the people who are most effective at passing on relationship with Jesus and the deposit of faith are those we’re closest to, through our ordinary relationships.

“It’s one thing to tell someone this is true, this is good, this is beautiful, this is a great way to live—it’s a whole ‘nother thing to show them. When those things come together, those are the most effective teachers of the faith,” Durando concluded.

Part of that is forming leaders, mentors and parents in knowing “the various stages of discipleship and being able to identify where people are in that range of stages and address their real needs at the stage where they currently are…intentionally to help them move from one stage to a deeper stage of discipleship…in ways that are specific to the person.”

It’s a principal of faith that is very old.

“It’s not in opposition to having buildings and structures and an administrative capacity—those are all things that are good—but what’s their purpose? Their purpose has been since the beginning at the commissioning of the disciples given by Jesus in Matthew 28—‘go make disciples of all nations’,” Durando said. “Any time we lose sight of that as our central identity, as a world-wide organization or as individual Christians, we’re missing something about what our real, true identity is.”

The mission is very personal to him. One of the ways the diocese can look at the vitality and growth of the church is the number of people attending Sunday Mass—and Durando’s seen the numbers.

“In my own lifetime, since 1975, our diocese has lost an average of 1,000 Mass-going Catholics per year. So in this calendar year, since our last Mass count…if that trend were to continue, this year we’ll be half the size we were in 1975 on that measurement,” he said seriously. “It’s sobering.”

“Restructuring a diocesan office is not actually going to solve a problem, but it’s possible that the Holy Spirit can work through a structure that is entirely devoted to mission in new and unexpected ways, and for that reason I’m very hopeful about the future of our diocese.”

“I think the first step for health for our domestic church is for more and more parents to think of their role as being something that has to be as intentional as possible—it doesn’t happen accidentally that our children ‘catch’ the faith.”

Currently, the offices are working on how to better reach leaders in parishes with mentoring and training so that they’re equipped to mentor and lead others better, intentionally listening to their needs, and evaluating means of support and new technology to reach more people, especially those who don’t live in the urban core. They hope to roll out more concrete opportunities within the next year.

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Sunday
December 16, 2018
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph