Your innovative ministry may qualify to receive big bucks

OSV Institute is investing in evangelization that works

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If your Catholic ministry is working, the Our Sunday Visitor Institute wants to help you.

After granting $75 million of service in over a hundred years to the Catholic Church in the country, the OSV Institute has rethought its way of giving out grants and is now focusing on supporting innovative ministries that touch on what it designated as the three biggest needs of the Church in the U.S.: re-captivating millennials, Hispanic ministry and supporting parents.

“The board wanted to relook at the institute. We wanted first of all to continue to give out grants but be much more strategic in doing so, really focusing on what we’re calling an ‘impact agenda’: What are the top needs of the Church of today within the United States, and how do we address those needs?” said Jason Shanks, President of the OSV Institute. “We wanted to focus on much more measurable, outcome-driven information. We really think that the Catholic Church does a lot of things, but nobody knows if they actually work.”

The institute — already a big sponsor of FOCUS, Word on Fire and V Encuentro — does not only want to help creative Catholic ministries and organizations financially, it also has “Think Tank contributors,” or national experts who would help these ministries “from a thought leadership standpoint.”

“The institute overall is becoming much more like an innovative playground, if you will, for the Catholic Church to really figure out what works and to be able to scale it on a national level to multiple dioceses, parishes and different groups,” Shanks said.

What does it take to qualify for a grant?

The organization must be a non-profit officially recognized in the Catholic Church and be listed in the official Catholic directory. This includes parishes, dioceses, and also approved apostolates or groups that are just growing, etc. The ministry must also be directed to at least one of the three “impact areas”: re-captivating millennials, Hispanic experience or supporting parents.

“What we’re looking for is innovation, creativity and people who can pilot and measure [the impact of their ministry],” Shanks explained. “Maybe there’s something really great happening in Denver that we can point to and say, ‘We’ve got data, we’ve tracked this, it’s working,’” Shanks pointed out. “We think a lot of the things that are being done and tried in the Church today are, in some regards, failing.

“So, we’re looking for organizations that want to have impact, to measure impact, and that can be creative and innovative enough to do things that are outside the box. That’s really going to move the needle. We’re looking for new ideas.”

Application deadlines:

Supporting Parents: Due April 15

Re-captivating Millennials: Due Sep. 15

Hispanic Experience: Due Dec. 15

Visit osvinstitute.com for more information.

COMING UP: Getting beyond Darwin

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Bishop Robert Barron and others working hard to evangelize the “Nones” — young adults without religious conviction — tell us that a major obstacle to a None embracing Christianity is the cultural assumption that Science Explains Everything. And if science explains it all, who needs God, revelation, Christ, or the Church? To be even more specific: if Darwin and the Darwinian theory of evolution explain the origins of us (and everything else), why bother with Genesis 1-3 and Colossians 1:15-20 (much less Augustine’s “Thou hast made us for Thee and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee”)?

That’s why “Giving Up Darwin,” an essay by David Gelernter in the Spring 2019 issue of the Claremont Review of Books, is both a fascinating article and a potential tool in the New Evangelization.

No one can accuse Dr. Gelernter of being an anti-modern knucklehead. He’s a pioneering computer scientist, a full professor at Yale, and a remarkable human being: a package from the Unabomber blew off his right hand and permanently damaged his right eye but didn’t impede his remarkable intellectual, literary, and artistic productivity.

In his Claremont Review essay, Gelernter gives full credit to what he calls “Darwin’s brilliant and lovely theory” and readily concedes that “there’s no reason to doubt that Darwin successfully explained the small adjustments by which an organism adapts to local circumstances: changes to fur density or wing style or beak shape.” But Darwinian evolution can’t “explain the big picture — [which involves] not the fine-tuning of existing species but the emergence of new ones.” What Darwin cannot explain, in short, is “the origin of species” — the title of the British naturalist’s first, revolutionary book.

The argument is complex, so it’s important to read Gelernter’s entire article carefully, and more than once. But to be desperately brief:

First, Darwinian evolutionary theory can’t explain the so-called “Cambrian explosion,” in which, half a billion years ago, a “striking variety of new organisms — including the first-ever animals — pop up suddenly in the fossil record.” How did this “great outburst” of new life forms happen? The slow-motion processes of Darwinian evolution can’t answer that question. Gelernter concludes that “the ever-expanding fossil record” doesn’t “look good for Darwin, who made clear and concrete predictions that have (so far) been falsified.” (This gaping Cambrian hole in the Darwinian account goes unremarked in the otherwise-magnificent new David H. Koch Hall of Fossils at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.)

But there is more. For “Darwin’s main problem….is molecular biology:” a scientific field that didn’t exist in his era. Given that he knew nothing about the inner-workings of cells through proteins, Darwin “did brilliantly” in explaining species adaptation. But Darwin and his Neo-Darwinian disciples can’t account for the incredible complexity of the basic building-blocks of life: for as we now know, “genes, in storing blueprints for the proteins that form the basis of cellular life, encode an awe-inspiring amount of information….Where on earth did it all (i.e., all that “profound biochemical knowledge”) come from?” From random mutations? Maybe, but very unlikely, for as Gelernter puts it, “You don’t turn up a useful protein by doodling on the back of an envelope, any more than you write a Mozart aria by assembling three sheets of staff paper and scattering notes around.”

Put the Cambrian fossil record together with the high statistical improbability that the information-dense building-blocks of life happened through random mutations and you’re forced to consider what amounts to cultural heresy: that “the explosion of detailed, precise information that was necessary to build the brand-new Cambrian organisms, and the fact that the information was encoded, represented symbolically, in DNA…” falsify the Darwinian explanation of the big picture.

David Gelernter is intrigued by “intelligent design” approaches to these evolutionary conundra but also suggests that, “as a theory,” intelligent design “would seem to have a long way to go.” But to dismiss intelligent design out of hand — to brand it piety masquerading as science — is, well, unscientific. The fossil record and molecular biology now suggest that Darwinian answers to the Big Questions constitute the real fundamentalism: a materialistic fideism that, however shaky in dealing with the facts, is nonetheless deeply entrenched in 21st-century imaginations. Thus, Gelernter asks whether today’s scientists will display Darwin’s own courage in risking cultural disdain by upsetting intellectual apple carts.

The empirical evidence suggests that the notions of a purposeful Creator and a purposeful creation cannot be dismissed as mere pre-modern mythology. That may help a few Nones out of the materialist bogs in which they’re stuck.