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Hamburg area Catholic Churches lead the way to reignite faith

Blessed John Paul II Parish on Lakeview Road in Lake View handed out copies of “Rediscover Catholicism” for Christmas.
In an effort to get non-practicing Catholics back to the church, and practicing Catholics to reexamine their faith, the Catholic Church has embarked on an initiative known as the “Year of Faith.”

The “Year of Faith” began on Oct. 11, 2012, and will run through Nov. 24 of this year. The start date coincides with the 50-year anniversary of the beginning of the second Vatican council. Pope Benedict XVI announced the “Year of Faith” as a response to Pope John Paul II’s call for new evangelization, or preaching of the Gospel, said Deacon Michael Dulak, who serves at Our Mother of Good Counsel Church in Blasdell.

The goal of the initiative is to not only get people back to the church who may have left for one reason or another, but also deepen the faith of Catholics who are already attending church every week. It’s a “call to action,” said Deacon Mark Hooper from Blessed John Paul II Parish in Lake View.

“Action comes in terms of worship, service and giving witness to others,” he said.

It’s no secret that the Catholic Church has been embroiled in controversy for the past decade, with the priest sexual abuse scandals in this country and abroad leaving an indelible scar on the church. It’s important to remember, Dulak said, that while the scandal is an “incredible tragedy,” it only represents a small number of priests.

“You have the story of the Catholic Church, and it’s much more than just a few priests who didn’t understand what it means to be a priest,” he said.

Not everyone who was turned off by the scandal is going to return to the church, Dulak said.

“We’re in the middle of this whole thing,” he said. “It’s going to be difficult for some people to look beyond that.”

Hot-button social issues in American politics are also something the church is dealing with. While some may be turned off by the stand the church takes on issues like gay marriage and abortion, others appreciate the church for standing by its core beliefs, Hooper said.

“The church has held firm to what it understands as the word of God,” he said. “The church doesn’t compromise on some issues. People are starting to appreciate its standing on issues.”

In some ways, Catholics have “forgotten who they are,” Hooper said. The “Year of Faith” provides an opportunity for Catholics to ask tough questions of themselves.

“Who are we,” he said, “and what do we think about our faith?”

Emphasizing the good the Catholic Church does is one way to get people energized about their faith, Hooper said. Some of the church’s accomplishments include providing hospitals, education and charities to people in need.

“We tend to focus on negative aspects instead of taking a look at who we are,” he said.

Despite the scandals and controversies, it’s a mistake to think of the “Year of Faith” as solely a response to them, Dulak said. It has much more to do with the current culture we live in. Society has become more secular, leading to people feeling unhappy and restless, he said. The initiative provides an opportunity for the church to fill that void in people’s lives.

“It’s an effort to show baptized, non-practicing Catholics and all people the beauty and wisdom of the Catholic faith,” he said.

Telling the church’s story, and explaining what Catholics believe, as well as why they believe, is an important part of the “Year of Faith,” Dulak said.

“It’s hard to contradict the beauty and wisdom of the Catholic faith,” he said.

So far, feedback on the initiative has been positive, Dulak said. For Christmas, both parishes gave out a book by Matthew Kelly titled “Rediscover Catholicism,” and the response to the book and the discussion groups held in the weeks after Christmas has been good, both Dulak and Hooper said.

“We’re encouraged by the participation we have,” Dulak said.

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