by Gordon Nary
Gordon: For our readers who may not be aware of Christ is our Hope, I hope that they may give subscriptions to it to their friends for Christmas. As the editor of this extraordinary publication, which reaches 170,000 households monthly, you must have an exceptionally busy schedule. Could you share with our readers your primary responsibilities?
Carlos: Other than a graphic designer who is based in Michigan, I don’t have a staff, so I think of story ideas; seek out writers to write some stories, along with photographers to take photos; write stories and shoot photos; make sure the magazine is free of mistakes during the proofing stages; and, in my free time, try to discover the cure for the common cold. (Ok, I don’t do that last thing, mainly because I rarely have free time.)
I also maintain the diocesan blog. And attend meetings. Lots of meetings.
Gordon: How to you select the primary features in Christ is our Hope?
Carlos: The primary goals of the magazine are to tell stories of faith, so that readers can grow in faith and be inspired and educated and catechized in their knowledge and love of Jesus Christ and His Gospel message. So, with all that in mind, I try to seek stories that do all that in ways that touch people’s hearts.
Gordon: What interested you in journalism as a career?
Carlos: When I was younger, I wanted to be a playwright, so I thought being a journalist would be great training for a writer. I also never wanted to view work as work. Being a journalist doesn’t feel like work to me. I am naturally curious, so, basically, I get paid to ask a lot of questions and learn and grow, and, as a result, I don’t feel like I’m actually working.
In reality, I’m basically learning. I also love to express myself, so journalism was a natural outlet for me.
Gordon: You have presented several workshops -- to Catholic young adults, directors of religious education, parish leaders, teenagers at a diocesan youth leadership conference -- to teach them the power of using empathy and design thinking as evangelization tools and ways to problem solve. What responsibilities do all of us have as evangelists to help others learn about Christ's love for us?
Carlos: You are correct to say that we have responsibilities as evangelists to help others learn about Christ’s love for us, but I view “responsibility” as a heavy word. I prefer to use the following sentence as a revised way to describe what you just asked: What are the joyful ways we, as evangelists, can help others learn about Christ’s love for us?
I like that way of saying it because responsibilities implies we have to do it, while being joyful about something means we not only want to do it, but we are full of God’s love and mercy, which results in our joy.
The best way for me to respond to your question is with a great quote from a priest from the Diocese of Cleveland, Father Damian Ference who wrote this in one of his blog postings:
“Pope Francis has offered an important contribution to efforts of the New Evangelization: before one can evangelize others effectively, one must first encounter others effectively. In other words, an often-overlooked step in the activity of evangelization is simply meeting people where they are, and loving them where they are, and understanding what it means to be where they are, and then working to understand how they got there. This sort of encounter is disarming, as it first speaks ‘I love you, and I want to understand you,’ rather than ‘I have the truth, and I want to change you.’ … Pope Francis is offering an important nuance that is easy to miss: encounter precedes evangelization.”
So evangelizing is wonderful and vital. But, in order to evangelize, we must encounter others first in the manner that Father Ference describes. Then, and only then, are we able to evangelize with great love and great joy.
Gordon: Why are you so interested in the concepts of empathy and being innovative?
Carlos: “Business as usual” is a common mindset for many people and organizations, which is another way of saying that change is difficult and, if we do change, how do go about being innovative? The Catholic Church, like many religions, is losing people, especially those who are young. Thus, if we who minister and work in the Church continue to react to this depressing fact with a “business as usual” mindset, it is safe to say that we will continue to lose many, many more folks in the years ahead.
One mindset that I have found to be an effective way to overcome this “business as usual” mindset is to use empathy in an intentional and consistent way. Empathy is at the heart of that quote by Father Ference I mentioned above – along with being at the heart of Pope Francis’ ministry.
Empathy is the first step in a process called Design Thinking, which many organizations/people have successfully used as a way to become more innovative. You can read more here in a blog posting I have titled: The Power of Empathy to Help Fuel the New Evangelization.
I believe that we, as Christians, should own the concept of empathy. But, sadly, I don’t see that mindset being used as intentionally, consciously and consistently by many leaders as much as it should be within the Church. It requires a vulnerability that is difficult for many to access.
Being innovative also requires a reliance and vulnerability to the Holy Spirit that is also difficult for many to access, as well. But, if we understand others deeply, and meet them where they are, deeply, and then fearlessly open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit, I believe that we can transform ministries in innovative and fruitful ways.
Later this year, I’m going to be creating a newsletter and podcast about empathy that I hope will be helpful to Church leaders. For those interested, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Gordon: What other ways are you try not to do “business as usual”?
Carlos: Sports has become a kind of pseudo-religion among many people. Many families see great value in getting their children involved in sports and then trekking around on travel teams as their children improve in skill in a variety of sports. I know from hearing stories among friends that, when given the choice between picking between a church/faith-related event or a sports-related event, sports usually takes precedence.
Because I am a huge fan of soccer, several friends and I in my diocese are trying to figure out how to create a fun experience for children to learn how to be better soccer players, while also learning about the Catholic faith and growing in virtues, leadership and discipleship.
Our vision also includes owning a local-to-the-Chicagoland area semi-pro soccer team so that, once the kids get old enough and good enough, they would consider playing for it. If we are able to own a semi-pro team in the area – either in the National Premier Soccer League or the United Premier Soccer League – our vision includes instilling within the organization a missionary discipleship mindset. This means the team’s organization would be a beacon of Catholic Social Teaching – for instance, being involved in social good and service to others in the community – and would serve as an inspiration for discipleship among its players, volunteers and in the community.
We are in the early stages of figuring all this out, but, to us, this represents an innovative way of fusing faith with sports, with the understanding that sports are important, but not as important as getting to know and love God – and then sharing that love with others so that soccer becomes the platform for growing disciples. For those who are interested in learning more about this or helping out in any way in the future, please email me at email@example.com.
Gordon: In closing, I wanted to share your article Making Hope Visible.