“What I know for sure,” Matthew Kelly told attendees of the ZEAL: Missionary Discipleship Summit on Saturday morning, Sept. 9, “is that you can’t catechize someone if they’re not engaged. And the most effective way to get them engaged is to help them hear the voice of God.”
The ZEAL Summit, held in Warsaw at Lakeview Middle School, was for catechists, directors of religious education, youth ministers and others who help teach the faith, and featured Kelly as the keynote speaker. He also spoke to teachers across the diocese, as well as at two sold-out parish events on each end of the diocese.
Kelly started out his ZEAL presentation by thanking those present for what they do for the church and youth, and said it had more impact than they might ever know. He asked the audience, “If I put you up against the culture who’s going to win?” When a participant said, “Us,” he responded, “No. You are going to get your butt kicked. Our culture has a relentless communication of trash, so we need backup. We have to understand that part of our job … is to give people the opportunity to have a personal encounter with God.”
Kelly said while there are numerous ways that God speaks to us, he wanted to focus on three ordinary voices. The first is the voice of the legitimate needs of food, water and sleep; the emotional needs that include the opportunity to love and be loved and to make a difference in people’s lives; and intellectual needs such as the opportunity to learn new things and our spiritual needs for silence, solitude, scripture and the sacraments.
“The problem is we ignore our needs, and we live in a culture obsessed with wants,” he said.
To illustrate, he used an analogy of a flight attendant instructing passengers to put their own oxygen masks on first.
“God wants you to serve powerfully and for a long time, and in order to do that you have to take care of your legitimate needs, because that’s when you thrive, and when you thrive you get joy. It’s hard to bring someone closer to God when there’s no joy.”
“The reality is we are each billboards for God and for our parishes, ministries and faith. God needs us thriving because joy is very attractive,” he said.
The second ordinary voice God speaks to us is through talents and abilities, he said. There are two types of talents — universal and unique. Universal talents are those we all have, to do good and make a difference in other’s lives. Unique talents are those that God gives to each of us. Kelly advised the catechists that when young people say they wished they had a talent like someone else, they should be told, “You have a perfect mix of the talents you need that God gave you to carry out his plan and live an incredible life. If you don’t have the talent, you don’t need it.”
The third voice is deepest desire for good things. The biggest desires are vocational — to be married and have a family, for example.
“The world is constantly filling our hearts with shallow, superficial desires — we have to dig down deep to find our deepest desires,” Kelly said.
God gives us awareness in order to put things in context, he said, to understand and appreciate true value and he said there are different levels of awareness as we grow spiritually.
Kelly acknowledged that it’s sometimes confusing to determine whether a desire is because of something we want or what God wants, so teaching others how to better listen to hear God’s voice is key.
“Asking people, ‘What is God saying to you in this?’ will get them thinking if they don’t know,” he concluded.
A group from St. Mary of the Annunciation in Bristol shared their thoughts following Kelly’s talk. Judy Keller was struck by the idea of “not just teaching kids, but engaging them and teaching them to slow things down enough to listen to God.”
St. Mary Director of Religious Education, Mary Stutzman said it was sobering to realize “if it was us against the culture, we’d lose every time. God wants us to step out of the way and realize it’s not in our hands, but in God using our hands.”
That message also spoke to Paul Offert of St. Patrick Church, Fort Wayne. “Too many times, as catechists, we think it’s all our responsibility to teach,” he said. “But maybe we’re just planting seeds, and we need to step back and get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit take over.”
Prior to Kelly’s talk, Mass was celebrated by Father Dan Scheidt. During his homily, he spoke about St. Peter Claver, whose feast day the church was celebrating. He brought up how the saint, when he gave out lemons and tobacco to the slaves, also showed them a crucifix so that they would connect the joy of receiving the gifts with Jesus’ outstretched arms — and see their suffering reflected in Jesus’ face.
Two sessions of workshops were held in the afternoon with topics including “Divine Pedagogy,” “Fatima and Missionary Discipleship,” “Networking for Youth Ministers” and “Helping Young People Form Their Conscience and Grow in an Age of Relativism,” among others.
Andy Oross led the workshop on relativism and told those present, “The best we can do is be consistent and logical and most important, witness to that.” He used Greek mythology as an analogy of the self-centeredness in the culture today, comparing people to the gods of the ancient Greeks, where they each wanted their own truth.
“‘I’m god’ versus ‘God is God’ is at the heart of relativism,” he said. The problem with people each having their own truths and being their own gods is that people can’t co-exist that way, just as the Greek gods couldn’t. He said Jesus is the key to showing there is no competition, because Jesus was God and Man in one. Total cooperation is how God created the world until the fall of man.
“How much more astounding proof is there that God’s not in competition with us than him saying, ‘Oh, you want to kill me? OK.’”
“We have to understand and help our young people understand that natural moral law was written into the very essence of our humanity,” Oross continued. “Truth is at the core of my being. God simply abides. When I turn my attention to that God is giving as a gift, not imposing himself upon us, that’s when we discover joy, happiness and love.”
Kelly keynote inspires educators
By Jennifer Miller
“You never know who is in your classroom.” This was the last statement Matthew Kelly, international Catholic speaker and founder of Dynamic Catholic, shared with the educators of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend on Thursday and Friday, Sept. 7-8, at their annual Catholic Schools Mission Days retreat and training events.
“Because of one teacher, 1 million people visit dynamiccatholic.com every day. Because of one teacher, 75 million read my books. Because of one teacher, I am here today. You never know: That is why we do what we do.”
In addition to sharing with the educators the impact one teacher had upon his own vocation, his keynote talk focused on three ways that God speaks to humans and how they can be attentive to God’s voice in their own lives, as they guide and teach the young people in their classrooms.
Every year teachers and staff from the diocesan schools gather to be renewed, refreshed and build community during Mission Days. The days aim to recollect the mission and purpose of Catholic education. Matthew Kelly’s work with inspiring and motivating the faithful to live “the best version of themselves” was appropriate for the educators, and for them to share with those they teach.
Using humor and examples from his every day, family life, Kelly pointed out that throughout human history, as described in Scripture, God communicated with his people — and he still does so today. “The most common phrase in the Bible is “God said …” God said to Moses …” God said to Noah …” This occurs first through their legitimate needs, secondly through their God-given talents and abilities, and thirdly through their deepest desire. The latter, he explained, can help “point us down the path that God wants us to walk, our vocation. Sometimes there is a path down a path, a little “v” vocation. It is a gift to walk with God, to grow in awareness. Awareness is evaporating in our culture. Lack of awareness is diminishing our communication.”
The Gospel puts life in perspective; we see the true value of things … God wants you fully aware of what is happening. God would like to give us elevated experiences.” This comes from a growing and deepening relationship with God, which is cultivated by developing one’s awareness, Kelly suggested. “There are different levels of awareness. It changes the way we live, the way food tastes. It elevates our experiences. Young people are hungry for it. Yearning for it. The world can’t give it to them.”
Kelly offered that teachers can share this with their students, after discovering and living it first themselves. He said, “Find that place in your life, find that deep place.” He told of a memory of St. John Paul II visiting Sydney, Australia, where Kelly grew up, when he was 13 years old. “It was the first time I ever saw someone really pray. You don’t see it that often. See someone really pray. He knelt down and closed his eyes and went to that deep place. Find that deep place in you. That is what the world needs.”
Carl Loesch, director of the Office of Catholic Education, reflected on Kelly’s talk. “In his typically engaging and humorous way, Matthew Kelly shared stories that encouraged our teachers to engage their students through their own authentic witness and to help our students develop a deeper prayer life. He said that at times, striving for holiness could seem like an unreachable goal for us and for our students. But the saints did not live holy lives. They lived holy moments. We are called to do the same.”
Following the keynote, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrated Mass with the educators. He spoke of Mary, as the feast of her nativity and the true mission of Catholic schools.
“The centrality of the true God revealed in Jesus Christ in the life of our Catholic schools is the formula we offer for the true human flourishing of our students. With the deepest conviction, we hold, as the Second Vatican Council taught and as the great Pope John Paul II never ceased to proclaim, “it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear. The woman who carried the Word made flesh in her womb is the most beautiful example of true human flourishing.”
Later, he elaborated: “In the Bible, the heart denotes the spiritual center of the person, our core, so to speak. In speaking of the Sacred Heart of Jesus or the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the church is referring to the center of their being. A Catholic education is about the formation of the hearts of our students according to the hearts of Jesus and Mary, hearts that are filled with love. A truly Catholic school educates the heart as well as the mind and the body. The great patron saint of school children and youth, St. John Bosco, once said, “Education is a thing of the heart.” How do you educate the hearts of your students? I think you do so by personally accompanying your students, wisely and lovingly leading them to experience God’s love for them, their dignity as his children, and their high calling to serve him. You educate them by your witness as well as by your words of instruction. The vocation of a Catholic school educator is really a supernatural one. You are called to form your students not only to be good citizens of this world, but to be citizens of the world to come, to fulfill their destiny to become saints. And who can better help us in this task than the one whom we honor as the Queen of All Saints?”
On each of the two days, educators celebrating milestones of five to 35 years of service to the diocese were recognized. Recent retirees were honored, and Jane Goldsberry of St. Joseph High School and Theresa Lolmaugh of St. Matthew Cathedral received special awards for 40 years of dedication to their mission.
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