Sometimes it seems impossible to hear God’s voice. Other times, it’s difficult to ignore.
His voice was loud and clear in my head as I researched this column, which was supposed to be about how Catholics can go beyond merely attending Sunday Mass to become active members of their parishes.
I wanted to know how we can forge deeper faith by volunteering to serve as lectors, Eucharistic ministers, ushers, CCD teachers and in other positions. Yet, in interviewing Katie Dawson, the Diocese of Orange’s director for Parish Faith Formation, I unintentionally hit a nerve.
Volunteering isn’t the right word for active engagement with the Church, Dawson explains. Our baptism calls us each to fully participate in a robust faith community. And, “Mass” means “to be sent forth,” Dawson explains, so every week God renews the call for us to deeply live our Catholic faith.
Being a good Catholic no longer means just participating in the sacraments and sending the kids to parochial schools, she adds. Our faith instead compels us to act; as the priest says, we must each ‘go forth and proclaim the glory of God.’
Dawson’s remarks were a personal challenge: I must stop being complacent about my faith. It’s time to act. But where do I begin?
Dawson wisely put me in touch with St. Edward’s Parish’s Cathy Roby, lead presenter, who offers Called & Gifted programs upon request to parishes. Roby says the workshops change participants’ and parishes’ lives alike by helping individuals identify their unique gifts and matching them with parishes’ specific needs.
“When we have a deeper experience of God, all kinds of things start happening,” Roby notes. “We want to get out of the pew, past being nominal Catholics with no deep yearning for engagement of any kind. People come to the workshops searching for something more.”
In Called & Gifted workshops, participants learn what a spiritual calling is and what it means to be a lay person who is called to serve. They learn about the 24 different characteristics or “charisms” that individuals can possess and how each of the charisms work.
By matching each person’s charism to a parish need, the Called & Gifted philosophy goes, you no longer have unhappy volunteers ill-suited to their jobs. Instead, you fill the CCD classrooms with people who have the teaching charism.
“Jesus says ‘I come to give life and life to the full,’” Roby says. “When I do what I am called to do, I have a wonderful feeling of that aliveness.”
While there aren’t any Called & Gifted workshops for me to attend soon, I’m asking Dawson if I can borrow a set of CDs published by the Colorado-based company that developed Called & Gifted. Roby has volunteered to sit down with me to assess my own charism, although I strongly suspect it will involve writing and editing, my chosen profession of four decades.
Called & Gifted workshops are a local embodiment of Pope Francis’s call for personal evangelism that is sweeping the U.S., Roby adds. “There is a whole evangelism thing that is happening across the country.
“Like a sleeping giant, as more people wake up to this whole idea of engagement, they realize they can have a deeper relationship with Jesus. They can become enlivened Catholics, and they see what that can look like.”