Dave Nodar recalled the lawn ornaments, windmills, garden gnomes and pink flamingos that adorned the yards and porches of many of the houses he and his family would pass in the family car on their way to Florida for vacation. Sometimes he said it was difficult to see a way into the house.
Few would deny that the Catholic Church loves adornments, liturgical and otherwise. But Nodar believes the treasures the Church has accumulated over the last two millennia may make it difficult for some to find the door into the house.
“Sometimes we feel as Catholics that we’ve got to get all the treasures of the Church out on the front lawn first,” Nodar, director and founder of ChristLife Catholic Ministry for Evangelization, told participants at “Discovering Christ,” a training conference on evangelization held in Poughkeepsie July 15-16. “We think it’s important for them to understand the sacraments, the saints and the apostolic succession, all the wonderful treasures that God has given to the Church, which are very important. But what happens is, it’s like that front lawn, it’s so covered with stuff that the pearl of great price is obscured. You can’t see him in there . . . the person of Christ.”
Making that door more accessible to seekers and to returning Catholics was the aim of the intensive training conference designed to equip parish leaders with the tools and techniques they need to bring the “Discovering Christ” program to their respective parishes.
“Discovering Christ” is the first seven-week component of the three-step ChristLife program, which emphasizes Catholic evangelization through personal encounters with Jesus. The full curriculum consists of three components, Discovering Christ, Following Christ and Sharing Christ. Representatives from 22 parishes in the archdiocese attended the training conference on the grounds of Holy Trinity parish in Poughkeepsie.
Lisa Timm, director of faith formation at Holy Trinity and a member of the conference planning committee, articulated her own difficulty in encountering a personal Christ within the Church.
“I met Christ for the first time after I left the Church,” she told CNY. “I was in the evangelical church and was very happy to be there but as soon as I settled down, the Lord called me back to the Catholic Church.” As it happened she returned to the Church around the time that the new evangelization movement was gaining momentum. She did a Web search on the new evangelism and found Dave Nodar and ChristLife.
“What led me away was that I never heard about Christ personally,” she explained. “I remember learning dogma and the sacraments... But then when I did come back, I started to study the Church fathers and found out the truth that we had in our faith but could never really come to know or appreciate because I never knew the bottom foundation, which is Christ himself.”
The Archdiocesan Catechetical Office partnered with Father Robert Repenning, pastor of Holy Trinity parish, and members of the faith formation teams at Holy Trinity and neighboring St. Martin de Porres parish and other volunteers from across the archdiocese to bring the conference to New York.
“I’m very happy with the turnout,” Father Repenning said. “We have 22 parishes represented here, and I think it’s great that the archdiocese is just embracing this wonderful program. A lot of times people mistake that being a good Catholic is by going through a checklist and it kind of opens and reacquaints us that our faith is a relationship, a relationship with God, a relationship with our neighbor and a relationship with Jesus Christ. He’s what brings us together and his love is unconditional.”