By Linda Andrade Rodrigues, Anchor Correspondent
FALL RIVER, Mass. — The most successful New Evangelization initiative in the United States today, the Dynamic Catholic Parish Book Program, is quietly sweeping the country. During the past five years, more than 4,000 parishes and five million Catholics have benefitted from the program.
Launched by the Dynamic Catholic Institute, its mission is to re-energize the Catholic Church in America by developing world-class resources that inspire people to rediscover the genius of Catholicism.
“I recommend the Dynamic Catholic Parish Book Program as an effective tool in the efforts of the New Evangelization, and I would encourage you to bring the program to your parish,” advised Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, on the Institute’s website DynamicCatholic.com.
Locally, in the Diocese of Fall River, parishes are taking advantage of this tremendous resource.
Father Jay T. Maddock, pastor of Holy Name Parish in Fall River, distributed 1,000 copies of the book “Rediscover Catholicism” as a Christmas gift to those who attended Mass on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
“It is a beautiful read for people at all stages of faith,” he wrote in the parish bulletin.
Later this winter, Holy Name’s adult Faith Formation sessions will focus on discussing the aspects of the book as parishioners seek to strengthen their faith.
“Pope Francis is encouraging us to reach out to our sisters and brothers and together grow in our faith,” wrote Father Maddock. “Pray this effort will bear much fruit in the lives of those who receive this gift.”
An anonymous donor at St. Bernard Parish in Assonet recently offered the congregation a copy of “Rediscover Catholicism” after weekend Masses. Parishioners signed a waiting list when the supply of books ran out, which the donor underwrote as well.
The Dynamic Catholic Institute offers a growing range of Catholic books, CDs and DVDs by some of the best Catholic authors and speakers of our times, including Pope Francis, Matthew Kelly, Scott Hahn, Peter Kreeft and John Michael Talbot.
Parishes can request 500 copies of any of the Institute’s paperbacks or single CDs for $2 each. Individuals also can choose a free book or CD. Its mission is to get as many great Catholic books and CDs into as many hands as possible.
The first book offered through the program was “Rediscover Catholicism” by New York Times bestselling author Matthew Kelly. First published in 2001 at a cover price of $17.95, the book was on the Catholic Book Publishers Association bestseller list for more than seven years in a row before the Dynamic Catholic Parish Book Program began. Today it is the best selling Catholic book in America ever.
“We have become too comfortably a part of the modern secular culture, and this comfort has resulted in a dangerous complacency toward the life-giving words of the Gospel,” cautions Kelly. “Too often, we listen to these words but do not allow them to penetrate our hearts and transform our lives. There is something ultimately attractive about men and women striving to become all that God created them to be. It is this striving that we need to rediscover as a Church.”
He urges us to get back to basics.
“When Catholics dedicate themselves to the basics of our rich and dynamic Spirituality, extraordinary things begin to happen,” he said.
Kelly explains that those of us who call ourselves Christian do so because we believe that the life and teachings of Jesus Christ are the personification of truth, sincerity and authenticity, and, in a practical sense, simply the best way to live.
“The essence of Catholicism is dynamic transformation,” he said. “You cannot become more like Jesus Christ and at the same time stay as you are.”
Kelly writes that if we live and love the way the Gospel invites us to, we will intrigue people.
“Respect and cherish your spouse and children, and people will be intrigued,” he said. “Work hard and pay attention to the details of your work, and you will intrigue people. Go out of your way to help those in need, people will be intrigued. When we do what is right even if it comes at a great cost to ourselves, people are intrigued. Patience, kindness, humility, gratitude, thoughtfulness, generosity, courage and forgiveness are all intriguing.”
He points out that when we live this way, we are most fully alive. We are changing and growing and exploring all that we are capable of becoming.
“God calls each of us to live a life of honesty and integrity — an authentic life,” he said. “I discovered that when we pursue what is good, true, beautiful, and noble, with honesty and integrity, we are holy, yes, but this is also when we are most fully alive and most truly ourselves.”
Kelly writes that at this moment in history life and faith are being attacked with the full force of a culture racing toward self-destruction and that these are direct attacks on the essence of the human person.
“I believe the best way to defend life is to celebrate life,” he said. “I believe the best way to celebrate life is to live our own lives to the fullest — to embrace life with arms wide open, to lay our lives enthusiastically at the service of humanity, to love deeply the people who cross our paths, and above all, to embrace our God.”