By Tim Johnson
FORT WAYNE — “This Christmas, I would like to invite you to become a student of Catholicism, so that together we can answer the questions that hold people back from fully embracing the beauty of our faith,” wrote Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades in a note to recipients of Catholic author Matthew Kelly’s book, “Rediscover Catholicism.”
The book, which has sold over 1 million copies, was given to those who attended Christmas Masses across the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
Kelly is the founder of The Dynamic Catholic Institute, which believes that millions of ordinary Catholics want to be involved in a movement that provides a game-changing strategy for the Church today. The mission of the institute is to “develop dynamic resources that inspire people to rediscover Catholicism, live with passion and purpose and bring spiritual vitality to the Church.”
In June, The Dynamic Catholic Institute sent a letter to several households in the diocese with a letter from Bishop Rhoades inviting donors to support the book effort, “so that this Christmas we can carry out this unprecedented initiative in our diocese,” the bishop wrote. In Kelly’s letter to the households, he noted the cost of the book was $2 per copy.
“It seems that with every passing day, people have more and more questions about Catholicism — both Catholics and non-Catholics. This is a time in history when people need, and deserve, answers to their questions,” Bishop Rhoades said in the card inside the book.
He added: “With this in mind, I offer you this book. If we are to become students of the faith, continuous learners, I am convinced that we need to resurrect the great Catholic tradition of spiritual reading.”
Bishop Rhoades said, “Imagine if every Catholic in our diocese read for just 15 minutes each day from a great Catholic book. Imagine the new life this would breathe into our spirituality, into our marriages and families, into our parishes and diocese … and imagine how many questions we would be able to answer about our faith for people who are hungry for answers.”
Kelly, in an e-mail interview with Today’s Catholic, discussed the history of this evangelization project: “A couple of years ago I asked my staff to come up with their best ideas for engaging disengaged Catholics and increasing passion among practicing Catholics. They came up with this book program.
“The idea is that more people attend Christmas Mass than any other time of year,” Kelly said, “and 30 percent of those who attend Mass at Christmas only come once or twice a year. We wanted them to leave with something that reignite their faith life.”
Kelly said in 2008, parishes across the nation distributed 88,000 books. The following year parishes distributed 300,000.
“This year,” he said, “more than 700,000 copies of the book will be distributed. In addition, many of the churches that (shared) ‘Rediscover Catholicism’ last year are distributing Allen Hunt’s book ‘Confessions of a Mega Church Pastor’ this year.
“Each year we plan to distribute a new book so that parishes can continue to feed their people with great Catholic books at a low cost,” Kelly said.
“Almost 1,000 parishes have participated in the program so far,” Kelly said of the national drive, “but under the visionary leadership of Bishop Rhoades and driven by his deep desire to feed his people and reengage disengaged Catholics, the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend will be the first diocese to undertake the program. I am so excited to see how the books impact people’s lives, and the lives of your parishes.”
When asked how he believes “Rediscover Catholicism” will help lead the lukewarm or non-practicing Catholics back to the Church, Kelly answered, “There are two things I believe very deeply that speak to your question. The first is that people don’t do anything until they are inspired. I think this is a time when Catholics need to be inspired, and from the opening story the book seems to inspire.
“The second,” he said, “is that people deserve answers to their questions. Catholics and non-Catholics today have more questions about their faith than ever before, and they deserve answers to those questions. I hope the book answers many questions that people have about Catholicism, and thus removes some of the obstacles that prevent them from participating more fully in the life of their parish.”
Kelly said the book program has showed success. “It is very humbling. The book spent more than eight years continuously on the Catholic bestseller list before we began this program. So, it is always encouraging to know as an author that your work is resonating with people.
“The program itself was not my idea. It was the idea of my staff,” he added. “And I think it was a stroke of genius. It has helped many thousands of people to come back to the Church, and that is one of the reasons we work so hard at DynamicCatholic.com.”
Some parishes will inevitably run out of books, said Kelly who noted that anyone can request a free copy at www.DynamicCatholic.com, and just pay shipping costs.
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