'GoodNews People' aims to share, deepen faith
Parish-based effort will educate participants on Catholic social teaching, send them out to live the good news
BY TERRY MCGUIRE
Picture this: thousands of new volunteers eager to throw themselves into a myriad of social concerns efforts, everything from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul to Big Brothers Big Sisters.
That's the goal of a new parish-based program set to launch this fall in dioceses around the U.S., including the Archdiocese of Seattle.
The GoodNews People Program is designed to educate parishioners about Catholic social teaching, and in the process inspire them to go forth and become "Good News People" to the world through their volunteer work.
The program involves 14 sessions divided over the fall and spring, with a group immersion experience tied into the works of mercy in between. With session topics including discipleship, responsibility, Scripture, God's love and grace, and the church's social justice mission, the program seeks to make participants more aware of the social justice elements of their faith.
Catholics typically are not very familiar with their church's social teaching and social mission, said Jack Jezreel, president of the Louisville, Ken.-based JustFaith Ministries, which developed the program.
"They might have heard of (the Society of) St. Vincent de Paul or they might have heard of Catholic Charities, but they're by and large not real clear on what they do, even locally," he said, "so we would like to remedy that.
"Our interest is to try to familiarize as many Catholics as possible with what is really a remarkable and heroic and inspiring tradition of the church's commitment to the poor and vulnerable."
Small group format
Key to the program is its intimate size. Each GoodNews group will consist of 10 parishioners, and the goal is to involve 10 groups in a parish, with groups made up of parishioners with shared experiences, such as young adults, active retirees, parents with young children, and working professionals, among others.
"After going through the program, (participants) get a real sense of what it means to live the Gospel, and (they) take the good news message to other people," said Vince Herberholt, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Seattle who sits on the board of JustFaith Ministries.
Jezreel was in Seattle May 16 to talk about the new program with local religious educators. In 1989 he founded JustFaith Ministries in his Louisville parish in an effort to help parishioners experience Christ's call to care for people in need. Since then approximately 30,000 people in more than 120 dioceses around the country have participated in the 30-week JustFaith program, he said.
But with 70 million Catholics in the U.S., he said, they realized the need to develop a program that would be less intensive and more accessible to Catholics.
"A lot of people simply don't have the time to put into that big of a project," Jezreel said of the JustFaith program.
"My experience has been that a lot of Catholics have thought of social mission as something they feel obligated to do but maybe they don't think of it as exciting or compelling." But "when people get engaged, they find it very life-giving."
Parish financial assistance
The new program has the support of the archdiocese's Office of Catholic Faith Formation and the Missions Office, which is providing financial assistance to parishes. A parish with 10 groups of 10 volunteers in each would pay approximately $800 for the curriculum and other materials, Herberholt said. The facilitators are volunteers.
Dr. Mary Cross, director of the Office of Catholic Faith Formation, noted the church's emphasis on adult faith formation and said the new program represents a "great opportunity" to provide adult faith formation while deepening people's faith and building community in the parish.
"I think it's a real quality program," she said, citing the materials and facilitators that will be used, along with JustFaith's track record in the archdiocese. And as the church nears the conclusion of the Year of Faith, "we're looking at ways to sustain the new evangelization," she said.
Jezreel noted the new program also responds to Pope Francis' call for the Catholic community to be committed to aiding those who struggle and suffer.
Jezreel recalled a recent meeting he had with a California bishop regarding the new program. He asked him to imagine his diocese a year from now with thousands of new volunteers ready to plunge into social concerns.
"How many kids get a Big Brother or a Big Sister because parishes offer this program?" Jezreel asked rhetorically. "How many refugees can (we) help resettle? … How many new volunteers does St. Vincent de Paul get? … How many new donors do Catholic Charities or Catholic Relief Services get because people now realize what great things their organizations are doing and want to participate?"
GOODNEWS PEOPLE PROGRAM
For more information about GoodNews People, contact Vince Herberholt at 206-4914486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 23, 2013