What good is religious freedom, consecrated in the law, if we don't then use that freedom to seek God with our whole mind and soul and strength?" (Archbishop Chaput, National Closing Mass, Fortnight for Freedom)
When you hear the Catholic Church referred to as a "sleeping giant," it's largely because for generations (post-Vatican II) the jettisoning of solid doctrinal teaching and the peddling of a soft, plush-toy Jesus put most of us to sleep. And tens of millions of us sleep-walked en-masse right off the deck of St. Peter's Barque.
With no defenses against attacks on our faith, and worse, no tools and weapons with which to build up the kingdom and fight against immorality and ignorance, we were sitting ducks for every fad and fashion society was selling. In a sense, we ourselves became irrelevant, except as consumers.
The New Evangelization called for by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, seeks to "teach the art of living"—to meet people inside and outside the Church right where they're at, and compellingly prove that Jesus Christ is "the path toward happiness." Thank heaven above, some great catechetical programs have sprung up to answer that call.
David Dziena is the Parish Projects Manager and Acquisitions Editor for Our Sunday Visitor, the oldest and largest Catholic publisher in the world. With many years of experience in Catholic publishing, but just as importantly, as a DRE and Youth Minister, David has been teaching and presenting confirmation retreats for decades. His ability to communicate the Catholic faith in a relevant, engaging way is a great gift to the Church.
His brain child, Faith Fusion: Knowing, Loving, and Serving Christ in the Catholic Church, was published in 2010 by Our Sunday Visitor, and is a superb team effort with author and catechist, Gloria Shahin, along with contributions by two priests: Father George Hafemann, and Fr. Alfred McBride, who served as reviewer for the project.
"It's really a book that very few publishers have tried to do, because of what the Bishops require," says David. "There are two different categories it could fall under: as a regular catechetically-approved text, or as a supplemental text, like a sacramental preparation text. We didn't want it in the supplemental category, so we had to put all the protocol into one book. Things normally covered in a series in grades 1-6 had to be included in one book. It's a lot of content in a short amount of space, written succinctly, to Gloria's credit. We had to find a creative way to do it using Scripture and Tradition. Doctrines are woven into the 'scripture spread', and then more doctrine through the Q&A and the materials in the back of the book. Saints are also covered throughout the book, presenting their stories in a lively way to engage and inspire kids. There's a whole section back there on the Theology of the Body, and a Church history (with a timeline poster that folds out), Catholic prayers and practices, and more of the teacher's guide. It's been like discovering the Coke formula! To get everything just right is a big challenge."
The book is packaged as a junior high catechism review. Ably designed, the colorful text draws kids in with a mixture of classic and contemporary art and photography. But like many great resources, it has been discovered by savvy catechists who are increasingly using it in a variety of settings. They like its flexibility, its comprehensive content, the dynamic "fusion" of scripture and Tradition, saints' lives, Catechism and Compendium excerpts, online downloads of contemporary Catholic music, discussion questions, activities, and much more.
"It has multiple uses," says David. "The original intent was primarily as a 'catch-up' book for kids who came into the program probably in fifth or sixth grade with no knowledge of the Faith. The secondary purpose was to have a Confirmation textbook, a supplemental resource for reviewing all the key points.
"Faith Fusion is also used as a ninth-grade introductory course," he adds. "Sometimes kids are enrolled in a Catholic high school, but have not had a consistent teaching of the faith, or want a review before entering a regular high school curriculum. Many parishes are also using the program for RCIA with teens or even adults, or using the reflection questions for group discussion.
"It's growing in popularity for RCIA in the bilingual edition. There is very little out there in Spanish, so people are using it in that area as well. For Hispanic teens, most kids go to school and learn in English, but their families are often not English speakers. So the bilingual book teaches the family what's being learned in the classroom."