Fr. James Mallon
Catholic identity is at stake unless Catholic schools do a better job of making disciples, Father James Mallon told the Canadian Catholic School Trustees' Association Oct. 5.
Mallon urged the hundreds of trustees, educators and administrators gathered for a conference in Ottawa to take a prophetic stance by preaching the Gospel in the schools and making space for students to have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.
Mallon challenged the trustees, educators and administrators present to be able to sum up the Gospel, the kerygma in one sentence. "The Good News about Jesus is Jesus himself," he said.
Mallon said the Church is good at "going" because she is found all over the world; she is good at the sacraments; and she is good at teaching because Catholics schools are renowned.
"What is our one weakness? In making disciples," said Mallon, founder of the John Paul II Media Institute.
The disciple is one who "learns continuously," and who eventually becomes a missionary, who is sent to evangelize others. "If our churches are filled with disciples, our churches will be renewed," he said. "Many people in the pews are not disciples. They have checked out."
Today's young people in our postmodern, post-Christian culture might as well be wearing t-shirts saying, "Been there; done that" regarding Christianity, he said. They think Christianity is "all about external rules and no inner transformation."
If they are looking for inner transformation, something like yoga is more likely to appeal to them, he said.
Evangelization requires both words and actions, he said. "Without actions, our words will not be believed; but without words our actions will not be understood."
The pope as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was the chief author of the Aparacida document put out by the Latin American bishops in 2007 on the New Evangelization, which uses the words "missionary disciples" 121 times, said Mallon.
The document's authors did "exit interviews" with some of the hundreds of thousands of Latin American Catholics who are leaving the Church, he said.
They discovered most had left because they found a religious experience; they found a better community life; better biblical and doctrinal formation; and a better missionary community, he said.
In other words, "they never had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ" in the Catholic Church, Mallon said.
Part of the problem is the Church stresses catechism and sacraments. Instead, talk first about the kerygma and conversion, then talk about the sacraments, he said.
Mallon urged Catholic schools to stop preparing students for sacraments but to leave that to the parishes.
In his parish in Halifax, he has stopped automatically preparing young people for sacraments when they reach a certain age. The approach of catechizing students who come for their First Communion even though their parents never attend Mass, and confirming them, without their having had a transformative religious experience is not working.