Bridging the Gap: 'Go out ... and ...'
By Bishop David Zubik
In both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark, beautiful renditions of Jesus' last words to His apostles are recorded before He ascends back into heaven. Jesus gave the apostles an important mission: "Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation." (Mk 16:16)
Those words of Jesus: "Go out to the whole world" underscore the challenge Jesus gave to the apostles as the first bishops. That instruction was not only intended for the apostles then, but for all of their successors, the bishops, throughout all the centuries up to and including now. And Jesus didn't stop there. Incumbent in His challenge is the responsibility we all share in passing on the Good News, both by word and deed. I am reminded of a very quotable quote of St. Francis of Assisi who said: "Always preach the Gospel, and sometimes use words." Clearly the challenge of Jesus (and Francis) is that faith is meant to be lived. But faith lived is also faith learned.
We sometimes hear the expression "the deposit of faith." The Apostles, at the charge of Jesus, entrusted the depositum fidei contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition to the whole of the Church. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church so beautifully defines it: "By adhering to [the Deposit of Faith] the entire holy people, united to its pastors, remains always faithful to the teaching of the Apostles, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers. So in maintaining, practicing and professing the faith that has been handed on, there should be a remarkable harmony between the bishops and the faithful" (CCC #84).
Since arriving in our diocese more than 20 months ago, as I have visited with many faithful in our diocese, many adults have shared with me your need for good adult faith formation. I have heard from so many a desire to learn much more about our God and our Church. While a number of our parishes do in fact have programs for adult religious education, there is clearly a call from you and a need for us as a diocese to provide more opportunities for adult faith formation.
Over the years, many have had the opportunity to enroll in classes in the Religious Studies Department and Master of Theological Studies program at St. Norbert College, sponsored by our long time, good friends and faithful brothers, the Norbertines.
Still others have benefited from theology classes at Silver Lake College, sponsored by our loyal and energetic collaborators in the faith, the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity in Manitowoc.
In both these well established Catholic institutions of higher learning, adults have a chance to take the religious studies and theology classes for credit. Still others have taken courses as an "audit," without the goal of a degree, but out of a desire to learn more on their faith journey.
Just recently, a third opportunity arrived in our diocese for adults to take courses for either a theological degree or for religious faith formation. Just about a year ago, Ave Maria University, located in Naples, Fla., expressed a keen interest in establishing a satellite program within our diocese. I was most pleased by the offer, because it affords yet another opportunity for our adults to be more firmly grounded in our faith, and come to know better our God and our Church. I warmly welcome this satellite program in our midst.
The Ave Maria program affords the opportunity for faith formation for adults who otherwise are not able to be part of the programs at St. Norbert College or Silver Lake College. The Ave Maria program is a very solid theological program that is also very sensitive to the busy lives of adults who hunger and thirst to know God better as well as His Church.
For adults who wish to learn more about the programs available from these wonderful schools, I refer you to the following information: For the Ave Maria University satellite
program, you may inquire at 1-866-866-1100 or (e-mail) email@example.com; or (website) www.naples.avemaria.edu; for further information about the offerings at Silver Lake College, 1-920-684-6691 or (e-mail) firstname.lastname@example.org, or (website) www.sl.edu; for information about the programs at St. Norbert College, 1-920-403-3165 or (e-mail) email@example.com; or (website) www.snc.edu.
Within days, school bells will ring for college, high school and elementary school students. Of that number, nearly 10,000 high school and 19,000 elementary school students in parish catechetical religious education programs; nearly 2,200 students in our six Catholic high schools and 10,000 students in the 65 Catholic elementary schools will not only begin another academic year, but, most especially, will have the wonderful opportunity of digging deeper into the treasure of our faith by learning more about God and more about the Church.
Many students in the second level will find excitement growing as they prepare to receive the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist for the first time.
Many students in Junior and Senior years will find the challenge of the faith become evermore real as they prepare to receive the sacrament of confirmation.
All those students (and their parents) have a right to expect that they will receive a good, solid religious education that reflects the deposit of faith and the universal teaching of the Church as I, as Bishop, together with the catechists, bear the serious responsibility of providing those essential opportunities for growth in the faith.
As I think of Jesus gathered with His disciples before He left this earth and ascended into heaven, and before He left the "Good News" to be passed on, I could picture myself and you there with Him too. What strikes me about that picture is the trust that Jesus places in us to pass on the truth contained in the "Good News."
The school bells that are about to ring are simply an occasion for us to remember the need we all have to learn more about God and His Church - and not only for the sake of learning from Jesus, but especially for the sake of "living" like Jesus. As Jesus says to us "Go out ... and ..." May you and I fill in the blanks and accept the charge of learning and living His "Good News."