News and Updates: April 2013

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

GSRRE Conference Discusses Movement to Revitalize Church

GSRRE Conference Discusses Movement to Revitalize Church

Contact: Joanna Klimaski
(212) 636-7175
The Most Rev. Frank J. Caggiano, S.T.D., said in his keynote address that the shifting cultural andscape will require the Catholic Church to find new ways to communicate with its members.
Photo by Dana Maxson
With roughly 68.5 million members, the largest single Christian denomination in the United States is Roman Catholicism.

The third largest group, if it were a denomination unto itself, would be ex-Catholics.

In response to a net loss of roughly 20 million members over the last decades, the Catholic Church has launched the New Evangelization movement, a comprehensive effort to reach out to members who have become alienated from the faith.

On April 20, Fordham’s Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education (GRE) hosted a daylong conference, “Taking It to the Streets: The New Evangelization,” which examined the movement’s efforts to revitalize the Catholic community.

The Most Rev. Frank J. Caggiano, S.T.D., vicar general and moderator of the curia in the Diocese of Brooklyn, said the key to reversing the decline is to evangelize—or, proclaim the good news—in a way that makes people feel welcomed. In his keynote address, “The New Evangelization: Our Journey Home,” Bishop Caggiano said that the church community should be like a home to parishioners.

“The image of home is at the heart of all we do in the New Evangelization,” he said. “The image conjures up… welcoming and belonging, a place of community, of relationships, of love, and also a place where we are nourished.”

Many Catholics no longer feel welcomed, he said, sensing a disconnection between their own lived experiences and what they hear at Sunday Mass. As a result, church leaders must find new ways to engage with contemporary parishioners.

“A growing number of individuals do not find the proclamation of the community to be credible—and that’s the great challenge in the New Evangelization,” he said. “The content is the same, but the context has changed. So the New Evangelization is about making the content available in this new context.”

In his presentation, “Changing Their Minds About the Faith and the Church: Why Are So Many Catholics Opting Out,” Tom Beaudoin, Ph.D., associate professor of theology at GRE, illuminated the staggering statistics that precipitated the New Evangelization.

Beaudoin and J. Patrick Hornbeck, D.Phil., assistant professor of theology, are concluding a study funded by The Louisville Institute on why so many Catholics are either leaving the religion or radically redefining their beliefs—in a word, “de-converting.” Since 2011, the team has collected more than 300 survey responses and interviewed dozens of people on why and how their relationship to Catholicism has shifted.

“Deconversion is changing one’s faith-mind—that is, beliefs and/or practices—in relationship to normative, or official, Catholicism,” Beaudoin said. “According to this definition, you can deconvert and be out the door, or you can deconvert and stay, even go to Mass every week.”

Feeling a disconnect between what one hears at Mass and what what one experiences in everyday life is one reason that some people "deconvert," said Tom Beaudoin, Ph.D.
Photo by Dana Maxson
The team found certain themes among the participants’ reasons for distancing themselves from Catholicism. First, participants said that the church has failed to modernize, and thus cannot respond to the challenges that modern Catholics face. Second, many participants say church rituals are prosaic. Third, participants cited detrimental relationships with church leaders or communities.

Beaudoin added that an overall cultural shift has also prompted many deconversions—not only within Catholicism but in other religions as well.

“The cultural landscape is changing profoundly about religious identity itself,” he said. “People are feeling more agency about religious identity, and they’re also trying to find a way on the ground to make sense of the fact that they live in a religiously pluralistic world. They want to take what’s good from the many things they’re learning. In general, they don’t feel that they have to be in church all the time to be a good Catholic, or a good Methodist, or otherwise in the mainline.”

A deeper understanding of the data is critical for any work within the New Evangelization movement, Beaudoin said. Moreover, church leaders must cultivate a curiosity about deconversion, rather than a condemnation.

“What is sacred for people in real life, and why are those things sacred?” he said. “For me, that’s got to be part of the New Evangelization.”

Other presentations included:
  • C. Colt Anderson, Ph.D., dean of GRE, “A New Rhetoric for the New Evangelization”;
  • Claudio M. Burgaleta, S.J., associate professor at GRE, “Four Popes and the New Evangelization”;
  • Harold “Bud” Horell, Ph.D., assistant professor of religious education, “The Challenges of Evangelization and Two Views of Catechesis”; and
  • Monsignor Michael Hull, S.T.D., pastor of the Church of the Guardian Angel in the Chelsea section of New York City, “What’s the Good News about the New Evangelization?”
Founded in 1841, Fordham is the Jesuit University of New York, offering exceptional education distinguished by the Jesuit tradition to more than 15,100 students in its four undergraduate colleges and its six graduate and professional schools. It has residential campuses in the Bronx and Manhattan, a campus in West Harrison, N.Y., the Louis Calder Center Biological Field Station in Armonk, N.Y., and the London Centre at Heythrop College, University of London, in the United Kingdom.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Recent Popes and the New Evangelization

Father Claudio Burgaleta, SJ, GSRRE faculty member, reflected on the Evangelization movements and recent Popes at today's New Evangelization conference. Father Burgaleta highlighted the creative work of movements like Focolare and Community and Liberation under recent Popes. Videos will be posted here in the coming weeks.

Deconversion and the New Evanglization

Dr. Tom Beaudoin, GSRRE, spoke at today's Evangelization conference at Fordham. Dr. Beaudoin shared his Lilly Foundation funded research on deconversion and also shared lessons pastoral ministers can learn from that research to inform their evangelization efforts. Check back here next for videos and more reporting.

Bishop Caggiano opens conference on the New Evangelization

Bishop Francis Caggiano of Brooklyn opened the GSRRE conference on the new evanglelization today with a talk entitled "The New Evangelization: Our Journey Home". Please check back next week for more on this event.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Dr. Marybeth Werdel appears on Busted Halo tonight.......

 Dr. Marybeth Werdel, GSRRE Assistant Profess of Pastoral Counseling, will appear on "Busted Halo" on Sirius XM Satellite Radio, Catholic Channel 129 at 6:20PM tonight.  She will be discussing her new book,   As Faith Matures: Beyond the Sunday God.

From the publisher's description of As Faith Matures: "Life is filled with entryways to the sacred: a conversation with a child, recovery from illness, and the gentle embrace of a close friend," Mary Beth Werdel wisely suggests in her book As Faith Matures: Beyond the Sunday God. She asserts that our deepest experiences can be simple or even life-altering. These moments are often doorways or an invitation into a more adult relationship with the God we encountered in our childhood or continue to encounter on Sundays.

Dr. Mary Beth Werdel, PhD, is an assistant professor of pastoral care and counseling in the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education at Fordham University. She earned her doctorate from Loyola University Maryland. She has both a master’s degree in counseling and a a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of new Hampshire. Dr. Werdel writes and lectures on the relationships found in spirituality, trauma, and growth. She is co-author of the book A Primer on Posttraumatic Growth: An Introduction and Guide (2012) published by Wiley. She is also published in the journals Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, Alcohol Treatment Quarterly, and Human Development. Dr. Werdel is a licensed professional counselor and most recently worked as a family therapist with primarily Spanish-speaking immigrant families from El Salvador and Mexico. She has traveled extensively in Central America and has done volunteer work in Honduras.

Professor Tom Beaudoin will be giving two lectures at Mercyhurst University in Erie, PA on Tuesday 16 April. His talks will focus on the widespread disaffiliation, or "deconversion," among Catholics and on the importance of popular culture for the spiritual lives of younger generations today. More info at the Mercyhurst website here.