‘If we don’t share the faith, who will?’

By Tim Lilley

This story’s headline comes from a rhetorical question Bishop Joseph M. Siegel posed to more than 100 catechetical leaders from across the Diocese of Evansville who attended the 2019 Formation Day at the Catholic Center in Evansville.

In his remarks, Bishop Siegel recalled the Doctors of the Church – the early leaders who laid a foundation that still serves us today. He told attendees it’s their turn now – to pass on the faith through the ministry of catechesis. He noted that the diocese will soon begin the celebration of its 75th anniversary, and said the catechists’ impact will shape the diocese of the next 75 years.

In his remarks, Bishop Siegel urged Formation Day attendees to remain steadfast in teaching the truth of faith, and he assured them of his prayers. The Message photos by Tim Lilley

He urged attendees to remain steadfast in teaching the truth of faith, and he assured them of his prayers.

Diocesan Director of Catechesis Kathy Gallo, in welcoming attendees, asked them to keep a question in mind throughout the day – and as they move forward: “How will what I do put people in touch with Jesus Christ?”

Dr. Tim Hogan of Plymouth, Michigan, delivered the keynote. He teaches at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan, and works in private practice in Plymouth, a Detroit suburb. He co-authored  “How to Find the Help You Need,” a guide to psychotherapy and spiritual direction.

Dr. Hogan told the catechists that personal relationships are critical. “We have to make connections that will get people back to the faith,” he said. He identified what he called a “nervous system revolution today,” in which the volume of information we are exposed to every day overwhelms brains.

To explain what he meant, he asked attendees to look around the room and count how many people they could see wearing something blue. After a few seconds, he asked them to close their eyes – and count how many people they saw wearing something brown. He then made the point that, possibly more than ever before, our brains are only seeing what we are telling them to look for.

“As catechists, we have to help people focus on what is essential,” he said. “All of us must be open to what is essential. The best way to achieve that is to always pray.”

He also said we all need to learn how to breathe again, and he led a breathing exercise to illustrate his point. The slow, deep breaths calm us and help us be open. “We all have to be open to receiving God,” he said.

Because of that information explosion, Dr. Hogan said people are experiencing more virtual interaction online and less in-person connection. As a result, he said, the population’s emotional IQ is declining. “We are in the relationship business; we are in the love business,” he said. “We are evangelists for love, and for the author of love.”

Following Dr. Hogan’s keynote, Formation Day offered 12 breakout sessions, including two in Spanish, designed to equip catechists with tools they can use in their parish and school ministries.