CALLED TO BE CHURCH
Albany Diocese planning evangelization initiative
Though still in the works, the Albany Diocese has drafted a detailed plan to invite back those who have left the Church because of parish closings, scandal or other issues.
Dozens of laypeople and clergy have already been recruited to train parish evangelization teams, plan events and publicize the new diocesan initiative, titled, "Amazing God!"
Organizers hope that events over the next three years will offer the faithful opportunities for spiritual renewal, reach inactive Catholics and increase active membership in parishes, especially among younger adults and families.
The initiative comes about three years after more than 10,000 Catholics in the Diocese met to discuss reorganizing parishes, facilities and programs through the "Called to be Church" process. That was prompted by population decline in urban parishes and other demographic shifts, as well as a decline in diocesan priests by about 69 percent since 1960.
Parishioners are still feeling the effects of Called to be Church, which resulted in parish mergers and a plan to close 33 churches by the end of 2011. Most of these changes have already occurred.
To ease the transition, parish leaders at surviving or merged parishes are reaching out to displaced parishioners. At the same time, laypeople are being urged to claim parish leadership roles.
The dioce-san Of-fice of Evangelization, Catechesis and Family Life proposed the idea of "Amazing God!" to Bishop Howard J. Hubbard in 2008. Now that the dust is settling from Called to be Church, wounds need healing, explained Jeanne Schrempf, OECFL director.
"We've done the construction, and now it's time to live the mission," she stated.
The program will kick off in November, when the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany reopens after renovations.
"Amazing God!" may also include DVD retreats featuring interviews with parishioners, service, Scripture studies and encouragement for those who have left the Church to "come home" for Christmas and Easter.
At the end of the three-year program, the OECFL aims to celebrate the experience at a large venue, such as the Times Union Center in Albany or the Cathedral.
CORRECTION: The "Amazing God!" initiative originated with a task force assembled by Bishop Howard J. Hubbard and consisting of diocesan and parish representatives. Now called the Amazing God Task Froce, it has been holding orientation sessions for parish evangelization teams.