Catholics called on to rebuild 'religious sense'
By Nathan Rumohr
The B.C. Catholic
Sometimes it only takes an invitation to get someone back to church. But while the "harvest is plentiful, the labourers are few," according to Kyle Neilson, the evangelization director for the Archdiocese of Vancouver.
"The habit of seeking out and inviting people to come one step closer to the Church is very rare," he added.
Neilson hopes to offset that lack of initiative as he leads the archdiocese's effort to follow Pope Benedict XVI's call to a Year of Faith.
The Year of Faith will run from Oct. 11, 2012, to Nov. 24, 2013, as part of the "new evangelization" called for by Pope Benedict's predecessor and close friend, Blessed Pope John Paul II. The year's start coincides with the anniversaries of the opening of the Second Vatican Council in 1962 and the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 1992.
"Ever since the start of my ministry as Successor of Peter, I have spoken of the need to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever-clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ," Pope Benedict wrote in his apostolic letter Porta Fidei (Open Wide the Doors of Faith).
The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has constructed a comprehensive strategy for dioceses around the world to bring people to the Church.
"This Year of Faith is not just a nice idea, it's an urgent and necessary idea in my humble opinion," Neilson stated. "As Scripture says, 'Without faith it's impossible to please God.'"
"I hope the Year of Faith will open wide the doors of faith in Christ in the Archdiocese of Vancouver," said Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB. He said Catholics must rebuild their "religious sense."
Neilson noted that a 2010 archdiocesan survey revealed that out of 450,000 Catholics in the Vancouver archdiocese, only 96,000 practised their faith regularly.
"I thank God for Pope Benedict's decision. The culture is very dark, and there is a lot of this culture that wants to stamp out faith."
Neilson said it's counter-cultural to be a Catholic in today's world, but that also means it's an exciting time for the faithful to live authentic lives.
He summed up Porta Fidei, dividing it into two parts. He said first that faith is revealed truth, given to the faithful, by Jesus Christ through the Church. The second part is the personal response from the faithful to Christ's revealed truth.
"We don't want to limit these dimensions to one or the other," said Neilson. "The two go together, and both need to be strengthened. We will be looking to work on that this year."