Amid misrepresentations in the media and public square, a newly-formed U.S. lay Catholic group is working to communicate the Church's message in a way that is clear, positive and captivating.
“I think the role of the laity is to be engaged and knowledgeable and to show others the joyful, life-affirming nature of what the Church teaches,” said Kim Daniels, coordinator of Catholic Voices USA.
Daniels told CNA on June 26 that the organization seeks to offer “a new apologetics for the New Evangelization.”
She described Catholic Voices USA as a group of lay faithful who have come together to help the Church “make its case” in the public square.
The lay Catholics who comprise the organization “know and love the Church” and are able to speak about its teachings from their direct experience, she said.
In May, Catholic Voices held its first U.S. training session for lay Catholics, mobilizing them to “make the Catholic case” in debates, interviews and other public settings.
Catholic Voices USA is based on the British model that was started by Jack Valero and Austen Ivereigh to carry out a similar mission in the U.K.
Daniels, who has a background as a religious liberty attorney, said that while the American group is still in its infancy, it has already “had a great deal of success.”
Members from the initial training class have published op-eds in secular newspapers, made television appearances and participated as speakers in local religious freedom events.
Such involvement is crucial now, during the “hour of the laity,” Daniels said. “We have been called by the Church to step forward.”
People often learn about Church teaching through the media, and misunderstandings continue to exist, she noted. Therefore, “we need to be engaged” and present the “positive case for Church teaching.”
Daniels emphasized the laity’s role in showing the joyful reality of Church teaching rather than the caricature that is often used to depict it.
This is carried out through one-on-one discussions in parishes, neighborhoods and families, as well as participation in public debate and discourse, she observed, adding that “obviously, prayer is central to any of these efforts.”
“My experience is that people are eminently encouraged when they see Catholics confident in their faith engage in the public square,” said Kathryn Lopez, editor-at-large of National Review Online, who is also a coordinator of Catholic Voices USA.
“The Catholic Church has a remarkable story to tell, that speaks to our deepest desires and makes life make sense,” she stressed. “If we can tell that story better, lives will be transformed.”
She explained that the Catholic Voices model seeks to help the lay faithful fulfill this mission.
“We encourage one another. We share our experience and talents. We educate. We love one another,” she said. “This is our call as Christians, to be open to, study, love, and share the Good News.”
Lopez added that she has been “humbled” when people have approached her and told her that something she covered, mentioned or even linked to online has had “a transformative effect on their lives.”
She explained that it was not so much her own words or actions as the fact that she “was an instrument in a lifesaving process.”
The authentic witness of a Catholic life is important partly because “you never know who is looking,” she observed. Similarly, when you have “access to a public platform,” you may never know who is consuming the material you produce.
“Media can be a powerful evangelization tool,” she said, “even when it's not explicitly Catholic.”
Lopez acknowledged that it can sometimes be tempting to become confused or discouraged by lack of feedback or negative responses.
“But that's all going to be fine if you know your real Editor is the one who gives you the words, too, as He brings peace to your heart,” she said.