The spirit of renewal is sweeping through Amarillo.

Last year, a spark ignited across the vast, northern Texas plains in the
Diocese of Amarillo. This bright, glowing light was fueled by a new program from RENEW International that has drawn more than 3,000 parishioners throughout the diocese into an experience of dynamic faith formation.

In an area where Catholics are the clear minority, these parishioners are banding together to learn more about their faith and how to model it for their children. The future of the Catholic Church in the diocese has never looked brighter.

Designed to re-engage Catholics with their faith and renew a sense of commitment to parish communities, the program, “Why Catholic? Journey Through the Catechism,” has been instrumental in fostering evangelization and faith formation in dioceses across the country.

Why Catholic? AmarilloBecause of its proven success, Catholic Extension granted $120,000 in 2011 to the Diocese of Amarillo to fund the four-year program. RENEW coordinators at the diocesan parishes are inspired by what they have seen. “There are so many ways it touches people,” said Sister Janet M. Abbacchi, SSND, Director of Faith Formation for the diocese. “It’s prayer and the Spirit working together.”


The program, offered in both English and Spanish, takes participants through sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church to explain the in-depth meaning behind prayers, lessons and actions that play an integral role in the Catholic faith.

Participants, most of whom completed their Catholic educations in eighth grade, learn how to “renew” their spiritual relationship with God. RENEW Coordinator Mary Rausch noted, “Hearing what the prayer ‘Our Father’ means helped people say, ‘I finally get it.’”

Small, multi-cultural groups are formed, creating a tight-knit, comfortable place for sharing, praying and building relationships. Away from the stresses of the day, “People seemed to blossom,” said Coordinator Margie Clements about the first year of the program. “It was refreshing to see how they were drinking it up.”

Added Rausch, “The small group has been very liberating. We’re comfortable sharing things that we might not share with others.”


Why Catholic? AmarilloYounger generations of parishioners have seized the opportunity to connect with their Catholic peers. In some parishes, young couples share babysitters so that they can make it to meetings; in other cases, fathers and mothers split meeting nights so they can both participate. They are finding value in the program, which offers parents a fundamental understanding of Catholic teachings and traditions that form the basis of strong families and encourage active participation in the parish.

Moved by the tremendous response in Amarillo, Catholic Extension has partnered with RENEW International to bring its “Why Catholic?” faith formation ministry to other mission dioceses across the country. With Amarillo as a model, these dioceses will work together to ignite change in the hearts of their parishioners for generations to come.

Posted with permission from Catholic Extension. Copyright 2012.Catholic Extension, 150 South Wacker Drive, Suite 2000, Chicago, IL 60606

To learn more about the work of Catholic Extension Society, see the April 2012 of Extension Magazine.

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