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Faith: Archdiocese to stress sacrament of reconciliation

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Renewing and spreading the faith in Jesus Christ.

Those are the simple goals of Pope Benedict XVI's Year of Faith, which begins Oct. 11 on the 50th anniversary of the opening of Second Vatican Council, and concludes Nov. 24, 2013, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King.

And the Archdiocese of Omaha is setting into motion plans for the year to help archdiocesan ministries and parishes meet those goals, said Bill Beckman, director of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.

Those plans include new initiatives, such as a program sometimes called "two-by-two" that encourages people to tell others - in small group settings or even door-to-door evangelizing - why they find hope and fulfillment through faith in Christ, Beckman said.

"The best way for faith to be passed on is person to person," he said.

Beckman said he began touting the program to pastors last winter, and several have shown interest. Pastors will be key players as they set up appropriate evangelization programs and find parishioners who can help, Beckman said.

"In every parish, part of the discernment process of a pastor is 'Who can I send?'" he said. "Jesus started small, with 12 apostles."

The archdiocese also is urging parishes to include parents in their children's parish-based religious education courses, much like Sacred Heart Parish in Norfolk began doing last year under a program called "Family Formation," which involves sharing lesson plans with parents, who teach their children at home, Beckman said.

Also to honor the Year of Faith, the archdiocese is considering ways to stress the sacrament of reconciliation during Lent, encouraging people to take advantage of its graces to strengthen their faith or help them return to the church if they have stepped away, Beckman said.

Details have not been worked out, but one way to highlight the importance of confession might be to set aside an extended and unified time across the archdiocese for priests to be available for the sacrament, such as a Tuesday or Thursday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Beckman said.

The campaign might be something like a hotel chain's well-known commercial tag line: "'We'll leave the light on for you,'" Beckman said.

Having that time set aside could help people by providing opportunity and the freedom of anonymity as they seek graces that flow from the sacrament, including closer intimacy with Jesus, he said.

Msgr. James Gilg, superintendent of Catholic schools in the archdiocese, said the schools will integrate goals for Year of Faith as major themes emerge. School leaders also are being encouraged to pursue related studies and faith formation efforts that appear to particularly interest their local communities.

The archdiocese already has begun to honor the Year of Faith with faith formation materials available on the archdiocesan website, www.archomaha.org.

It also will help parishes find speakers and other resources to hold prayer and faith formation sessions on topics such as Vatican II, the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" and the new evangelization stressed by Pope Benedict, Beckman said.

In addition, the archdiocese will highlight activities already taking place - from archdiocesan-wide faith-sharing conferences and rallies for women, men and youths, to parish Bible studies and other faith formation programs, Beckman said.

The Year of Faith also is an invitation for people to spend quiet time in prayer, he said.

"For some people, it might be a year of quiet and reflection," he said. "There are great benefits to taking time to look at what's really important and the role of faith in that."

KEY DATES FOR YEAR OF FAITH

Pope Benedict XVI announces the Year of Faith in "Porta Fidei" ("The Door of Faith"), an apostolic letter released Oct. 17, 2011.

The Year of Faith begins Oct. 11, 2012, the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the promulgation of the "Catechism of the Catholic Church," and concludes Nov. 24, 2013, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King.

The main ecclesial event will be the Oct. 7-28 XIII General Assembly of the Ordinary Synod of Bishops, convoked by Pope Benedict in Rome and dedicated to the "New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith."

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