October 4, 2019

Truth, beauty and goodness should guide evangelization, speaker says

Katelyn Stumler, left, director of music at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in New Albany, and Courtney Seiwert, director of music and pastoral associate at St. Ann, St. Joseph and St. Mary parishes in Jennings County, take part in a panel discussion on sacred music. Both are also members of the Archdiocesan Music Commission. (Photos by Mike Krokos)

Katelyn Stumler, left, director of music at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in New Albany, and Courtney Seiwert, director of music and pastoral associate at St. Ann, St. Joseph and St. Mary parishes in Jennings County, take part in a panel discussion on sacred music. Both are also members of the Archdiocesan Music Commission. (Photos by Mike Krokos)

By Mike Krokos

God is truth. God is goodness. God is beauty.

And in our roles as his disciples, we can use these tenets of the faith as we evangelize others, said the keynote speaker at the fourth annual archdiocesan Gathering of Disciples at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis on Sept. 7.

“Since Pope Paul VI, we’ve talked about a re-evangelization or a new evangelization,” said St. Francis of the Martyr St. George Sister Johanna Paruch, associate professor of theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio.

Since 1965, popes have talked about the importance of catechesis and asked members of the Church to step up their evangelization efforts, Sister Johanna noted. The theme of the conference was “Beauty, Truth and Goodness: Called to Discipleship.”

Quoting St. Paul VI, the keynote speaker said, “The Church exists in order to evangelize.” St. John Paul II, she later added, said the two aims of catechesis are understanding the faith and conversion.

Although Pope Francis does not use the phrase “new evangelization,” the one word that sums up his pontificate is “encounter,” Sister Johanna said.

“It’s an encounter with the person Jesus Christ,” she told the catechists, school teachers, liturgical ministers, parish evangelization teams and approximately 200 people in attendance. The keynote talk was also available in Spanish for the approximately one-third of the attendees who took part in the Spanish track of the gathering.

In his writings, Sister Johanna said, St. John Paul II also told catechists they must teach “the person of Jesus of Nazareth.”

“If that encounter isn’t real, if we don’t encounter him first, if we don’t bring people to encounter him as well, it’s fruitless,” she said. “No one is excluded from the joy of the Lord.”

Disciples, she added, must have a passion for Jesus. “Our hearts must be on fire. … Our hearts must be enlightened by the fullness of revelation. Jesus is the fullness of revelation.

“Jesus tells us everything that we need to know in order to get to heaven,” Sister Johanna said.

The Church is asking us to “hand on the deposit of the faith,” she added.

The theology professor said beauty is the capacity to produce joy through perception. “If we look at something, and it shines through and it produces joy, then that’s beauty. … But it is a beauty that demands conversion.

“True beauty for us sparks joy, and causes us to change, causes us to convert,” Sister Johanna said.

It is not enough to know about Jesus, she continued. “We have to change. We have to get rid of our sinfulness. We have to turn to him. We have to have this conversion of heart,” Sister Johanna said. “That is what evangelization is all about.”

Pope Francis says goodness tends to spread. “Every authentic experience of truth and goodness speaks by its very nature to grow within us,” the speaker said. “It’s not sterile. … Any person who has experienced a profound liberation from sin becomes more sensitive to the needs of others.”

Goodness as it expands, Sister Johanna said, takes root and develops. It is also attractive to others. “Goodness attracts goodness. … If we wish to lead a dignified and fulfilling life, we have to reach out to others and seek their good.”

While some in society follow their own truth—“I can do whatever I want”—“there’s only one truth: Jesus Christ,” Sister Johanna noted.

Beauty, she said, is the glow of the true and the good. “When truth and goodness are coming forth from somebody, obviously it’s beautiful.” An example of this is St. Teresa of Calcutta. “There was a truth and a goodness in her that the whole world recognized, and she was beautiful.”

Quoting the late author Father Thomas Dubay, Sister Johanna said, “Truth, beauty and goodness have their being together.”

Saints offer a great example, she added. “Saints are people who the light shines through, who that beauty shines through, who that goodness shines through, who that truth shines through.”

Sister Johanna said truth, beauty and goodness are seen in Christian art, which can also serve in planting seeds of discipleship. She cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church to show how our faith embraces it.

“Sacred art is true and beautiful when its form corresponds to its particular vocation: evoking and glorifying, in faith and adoration, the transcendent mystery of God—the surpassing invisible beauty of truth and love visible in Christ, who ‘reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature,’ in whom ‘the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily’ ” (#2502).

In our roles as disciples, we must follow what Scripture and most recently Pope Francis have instructed us to do—to “go” and teach others. “We have to go proclaim the Gospel,” Sister Johanna said. “We can’t stand around looking at the sky.”

There will be challenges, she added, including when the devil uses beauty to entice humankind into sinfulness.

“The devil doesn’t want us to look at what is true, beautiful and good,” Sister Johanna said. “He tries to sever the beauty of Christian art from the truth of the dogmatic creed and the goodness of moral virtue.”

Besides several breakout sessions, the day also included a panel discussion with local Catholic artists. The group included an author, music director, poet, sacred artist and artistic director in theater, and they shared how faith plays an integral role in their ministries.

Ken Ogorek, archdiocesan director of catechesis, said attendees were appreciative of Sister Johanna’s message and how she delivered it.

“Quite a few catechists tend to lead with truth, use goodness as an example and maybe never even get to beauty,” he said. “It’s refreshing for folks to hear that sometimes starting with the beautiful can be an excellent way of accompanying the faithful, by God’s grace, to draw accurate and life-changing conclusions about what’s true as well as what is authentically good.”

He added he hoped attendees came away with “practical tips and examples to help them be fruitful, by God’s mercy, in their ministry efforts, and a sense of camaraderie … providing assurance that we have companions on our journey of serving God’s people, that we have friendly, faith-filled and joyful co-workers in the Lord’s vineyard.”

A former student of Sister Johanna at Franciscan University, Kristina Seipel attended the Gathering of Disciples for the first time with some of her parish’s catechists. She was happy they made the two-hour trip, and she came away with a strong reminder of what discipleship is about: keeping the focus on Jesus.

“We need to be leading everybody to Jesus because he is the truth, doing that through things that are good, and things that are beautiful,” said the director of evangelization at St. John Paul II Parish in Sellersburg. “That looks different for everyone because we come from different places in our lives. But at the end of the day, it’s all about Jesus.” †

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