By Dave Jolivet
FALL RIVER —On July 1, 2021, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., established the diocesan Secretariat for the New Evangelization whose mission is to assist parishes, schools, college campuses in providing area Catholics of all ages with the tools needed for the Church’s New Evangelization.
A few months later, Bishop da Cunha released his fourth pastoral letter since coming to the diocese, “Journeying Together: With Jesus on the Path of Faith & Hope.” The bishop’s latest letter provided steps for diocesan faithful to become sources of invitational witness to the faith, and the Sacramental life and vocations to which each individual is called.
The new ministry involved the restructuring of the Office of Faith Formation, Campus Ministry and Pro-Life Apostolate. The Secretariat was to not only continue the fine work of these important ministries, but expand upon them.
Selected to captain the new ship was David Carvalho, the former diocesan Senior Director for Youth, Young Adult and Family Life Ministries. Carvalho is now the Secretary for the New Evangelization.
“The mission of the Church to proclaim Christ and the Gospel will never change,” Carvalho told The Anchor. “But the pandemic has caused us as a Church to reflect on what exactly are the best ways to go about doing that effectively. Bishop da Cunha’s forming of the Secretariat as a department within the chancery was such a response; to better situate the support that the diocese offers to parishes in evangelization going forward.”
Carvalho and the bishop have assembled an experienced and innovative team to lead each of the branches in the Secretariat.
In the less than seven months the ministry has been in service to the diocese, it already has an impressive and inspiring track record when it comes to witnessing to the New Evangelization.
“Ultimately, our focus has been on how we can directly support those we serve,” said Carvalho. “What obstacles or problems do they face and how can we help? While we still have a great deal to accomplish and have not yet helped every parish, it’s important that we always keep that question at the forefront of what we do.”
Since July, on the road to continuing its mission, the Secretariat and its team have:
— Provided retreats, training sessions, workshops, talks, and evenings of Eucharistic Adoration in 23 parishes and three diocesan schools; with more such sessions planned for 2022;
— Consulted with 49 percent of the parishes in the diocese, addressing the needs and offering services in the evangelization process;
— Picked up in mid-stream the Church’s Year of St. Joseph, which began in October of 2020 and ended in October 2021. During the five months since its inception, the Secretariat held several events related to the Year of St. Joseph, including three talks, two Holy Hours, two feast Masses, a Consecration to St. Joseph, and offered family and parish resources throughout the diocese;
— Hosted four summer coaching groups, gathering nearly 200 parish leaders, providing guidance in the areas of youth, adult and family formation; and technology;
— Organized a Catholic Youth Day for 200 young faithful in the diocese on beautiful Martha’s Vineyard. This resurrected the tradition after a two-year absence because of the COVID pandemic;
— Launched a diocesan Pro-Life Conference in October through the Family & Respect Life branch of the Secretariat;
— Launched and initiated Parish GPS (Gather. Prepare. Set.) sessions to assist parishes in conversation, understanding their mission area and a discipleship pathway;
— Worked with the Revitalization Committee to host a Parish Ambassador Day in November of 2021 which attracted 130 ambassadors from 91 percent of diocesan parishes;
— Worked with Campus Ministry and the Newman House in Dartmouth in launching Student Small Groups that included sessions such as Search and Walking With Purpose;
— Launched Adventure 2021, free Advent resources for parishes and families to carry past Advent into the new year;
— Worked with three parishes to bring ECHO to the diocese. ECHO is a two-year graduate program through the University of Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life. Post-graduate students commit two years of full-time parish ministry while earning a master’s degree in Theology;
— Launched The Peak, experiences of formation and worship for parish leaders, catechists and volunteers, as Part I of the Formation Suite, which will continue in 2022.
The team also provided fall Adult Confirmation preparation and/or conferral for candidates from 24 parishes;
— Provided Marriage Preparation and/or FOCCUS inventories for couples from 44 parishes;
— Began the overseeing of the Catholic Youth Organization as part of Youth Ministry; and
— Offers ongoing support through Project Rachel, post abortion counseling and healing.
“As we continue to establish ourselves and our work, moving forward, we will continually have to find new ways to support those in the field as well as evangelizing families,” Carvalho told The Anchor. “If we as a Church can successfully evangelize families then we will see a tipping point to change the tide.”