We are called to renewal, growth

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Sunday, December 2, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI summoned the faithful to a period of renewed conversion and growth during the Year of Faith, said Sister Madge Karecki, director of the archdiocese’s Office for Mission Education and Animation.

“It’s important that we grow in our faith, and if we are going to engage in the new evangelization, we have to know our faith and we have to integrate our faith into our lives,” said Sister Madge, a Sister of St. Joseph-Third Order of St. Francis. “We can’t just be Catholic when we’re at Mass on Sunday and not the rest of the week.”

To that end, the Office for Mission Education and Animation and Resurrection Parish, 3043 N. Francisco, are offering a 13-month lecture series in English and Spanish that focuses on the materials that are at the heart of the Year of Faith: the documents of the Second Vatican Council, which opened 15 years ago this year, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which was published 25 years ago. For a full schedule and more information, visit

The office and its staff also stand ready to assist other parishes that want to offer their own Year of Faith events.

Second Vatican Council

Catholic Theological Union in Hyde Park offered its own lecture series about Vatican II, and the lectures will be made available for those who want to watch them on DVDs put out by Know You Know Media, said Divine Word Father Stephen Bevans, a professor at CTU who organized the series. Some of the lectures also may be posted on CTU’s website.

“I think it’s important for lay Catholics to learn about and reflect upon the documents of the Second Vatican Council because, as many people have said, the council was the most important religious event of the 20th century,” Bevans said in an email interview. The council had a profound impact on the church and our Christian life, even if laypeople are not totally aware of it.

“The vision of the church as a community rather than just a hierarchy; the understanding of the liturgy as something that all participate in rather than watch the priest ‘say’ the Mass; the change from seeing Protestants as enemies to seeing them as brothers and sisters, though separated; the change of attitude toward the Jewish people; the realization that people have the possibility of being saved even if they do not believe in Christ and are not in the church; the importance of committing ourselves to justice and peacemaking in the world; the realization that people have a right to follow their conscience, and the duty to inform it rightly, these are all products in one way or another of Vatican II.”

These are some of the most important values Catholics have developed, he said.

“I think it’s important to know where we have come from in order to know where we are going. In addition, sometimes — because of controversies in the church — we forget how important the teachings of the council are. They are not radical. They are rather deeply traditional and lead us to a deeper Christian life. The council’s teachings can really help us deepen our faith in this Year of Faith.”

In the same vein, he said, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is really a “distillation” of the teachings of the council, set out in a more systematic way.

For people who want to read the council documents for themselves but want some guidance, Bevans suggests “Keys to the Council” by Richard R. Gaillardetz and Catherine Clifford (The Liturgical Press, 2012) and “A Concise Guide to the Documents of Vatican II” by Edward Hahnenberg (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2008).

Read the documents

Katarzyna Kasiarz, associate director of the Institute for Lay Formation at the University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein, seconded Bevans’ recommendation of Hahnenberg’s book, and said there are plenty of other resources now available in print, on video and online because of the 50th anniversary of the council.

“I think the most important thing we can do is spend time reading these documents. Some of them bear reading and rereading and studying,” said Kasiarz, who recently gave a talk about Gaudium et Spes (the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) at the archdiocese’s catechetical conference. “Because we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of the opening of the council, there’s a bumper crop of resources out there.”

She also suggested that parishioners who are interested in delving more deeply into the catechism or council documents approach the pastor of their parish, or maybe the director of religious education, to pull a group together to study the documents.

A good place to start would be Gaudium et Spes, which is written to the entire world, believers and non-believers alike, or the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity (“Apostolicam Actuositatem”), which teaches that “There are no passive members or parts of the Body of Christ. All of us have to become active.”

Kasiarz acknowledged that she did not really start reading the original documents until she was in graduate school, but that shouldn’t stop other people from trying them.

“They’re not that scary to read. They’re actually more homiletic in nature.”