PISCATAWAY – With the Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI set to begin this fall, the Diocese of Metuchen has launched a new website to prepare Catholics for this momentous time in the history of the Church. Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski introduced the new website, YearofFaithMetuchen.org, at a press conference in the St. John Neumann Pastoral Center Sept. 7.
“The Year of Faith calls us to deepen our personal relationship with Jesus Christ and to be evangelizers,” the bishop told pastors, parish staff, clergy and diocesan employees. Noting that evangelization is a fundamental responsibility of all Catholic Christians, the bishop said in May he established a 14-member Commission to help the diocese celebrate the Year of Faith and to help people and parishes to better understand their roles as evangelizers.
The bishop charged the Commission on the Year of Faith with developing and promoting ways the faithful could deepen their spirituality and reach out and bring the message of Christ to others, especially non-practicing Catholics and those who have fallen away from the Church.
A guiding factor in the diocese’s celebration of the Year of Faith, the bishop said, will be the new website.
Cecelia Regan, chair of the Commission and executive director of the diocesan Department of Formation and Leadership, said a website was selected as the primary means of communication for the Year of Faith because it is an all-inclusive way of reaching everyone in the diocese. “It is a site where individuals and groups can access a myriad of resources to learn about and celebrate the Year of Faith, be inspired by witness stories and share their own encounters with Christ,” she added.
Continuing, Regan noted that the website offers education, formation and practical ideas to bring back to the church lapsed Catholics and those Christians who were baptized but never developed a relationship with Jesus Christ. “We were able to develop a comprehensive website,” she said, “because it is a collaborative effort. All the members of the Commission on the Year of Faith contributed to the research and writing of its initial resources and the website will grow, especially as parishes and individuals post information.
Created by Martha Eckert, a consulting facilitator in the Department of Diocesan Planning, the website is inviting and easy to navigate.
Through a navigation bar at the top of the website, visitors can learn about diocesan and parish events related to the Year of Faith, the New Evangelization being emphasized in the Church, and how to delve deeply into Scripture. They can access a wide variety of resources from the Holy Father’s Apostolic Letter on the Year of Faith to relevant documents on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website. There are links, too, to full texts of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the documents of Vatican II.
One area of the New Evangelization section that Eckert made a point to comment on is an article by Terri M. Baldwin, “Creating New Witnesses for a New Evangelization.” In her piece, Baldwin outlines the easy to follow steps to writing a witness article. Eckert said the article is a key resource because it is important for individuals to know how to write and share their witness stories so they can bring others to Christ.
To help the faithful deepen their faith, the website provides numerous prayers for families, the Church and healing, as well as prayers of welcome and a prayer of the month.
Eckert said that one area of the website which she hopes will receive a lot of traffic is a blog where people can share their own witness stories and parishes can post their programs, activities and experiences related to the Year of Faith.
A side navigation bar on the website leads visitors to stories of conversion experiences wherein individuals came to know Jesus Christ. There is also a section on celebrating the Year of Faith in families, parishes, schools, the Diocese of Metuchen and around the world.
One topic Eckert believes many people will find helpful is under the section on families, “Inviting Non-Practicing Family Members back to the Church.” This section contains conversation threads for different situations from talking to divorced Catholics, to those who have been hurt by the Church, to those who have fallen away for other reasons.
Eckert and Regan said they hope visitors to the website do not miss the short quotes found at the bottom of most pages. Entitled “Pope Benedict XVI Explains,” this section features quotes taken directly from the Holy Father’s document, Porta Fidei, in which he called for the Year of Faith. “They succinctly tell us what the pope is asking us to do in each key area,” Eckert observed.
“The beauty of this website is that it is customizable and updatable according to the seasons of the year, the events of the worldwide Church, the diocese and parishes,” Regan said. “It is a work in progress and we will keep it current, so that no matter when an individual visits the website, there will be something new – new resources, new activities, new faith sharing.”