Imagine what a diocese would look like with kindness and prayers being intentionally done each week.
Imagine a diocese which is blanketed in the works of mercy.
Imagine the administrators of the local food bank when a whole town of Catholics show up with canned goods; imagine the faces of the children who will get a healthy meal tonight.
Imagine the looks on the faces of the folks at the local charitable clothes closet when Catholics show up with bags of clothes; imagine what it will feel like when you give away one piece of clothing for every new piece you receive; imagine how a man who is unemployed will feel when he receives a suit to wear for interviews.
Gathering Effective, Evangelizing Parish Practices for the Jubilee Year of Mercy - Joyce Donahue, Diocese of Joliet
As we enter the Year of Mercy, declared by Pope Francis, dioceses and parishes are putting out resources to assist lay people to develop a lived response to Pope Francis’ call to a closer relationship with Christ and to acceptance of the tender forgiveness of the Father. We hope this year will animate our people to engage in reaching out through corporal and spiritual works of mercy to serve and evangelize others in a variety of ways.
Our publishing partners in evangelization and catechesis, have aptly created web pages, prayer cards, bulletin stuffers, group resources and more to help accomplish this. Of course, we want parish leaders to make use of these items, created by professionals. However, in our diocese, we also believe that there is much creative wisdom among our parish leaders, who are engaging in evangelizing catechesis on the ground level.
Here, we have begun to solicit from our catechetical leaders the ideas and practices that are starting to spring up in parishes around the diocese, so they can be shared with other leaders - sort of a digital exchange webpage where Year of Mercy resources are given and “borrowed.” We’ll see how it goes but our catechetical leaders are excited about it and say they plan to use it. Perhaps your diocese might want to create something of this sort for your leaders to share their best, most evangelizing Year of Mercy ideas and practices. Talk to your diocesan leaders about this.
Check out our page here. The responses are just starting to come in. We hope to build a good collection of sharable resources on the page. Stay tuned and check back soon!
Click her for the Diocese of Joliet - Year of Mercy Resource List.
A recent poll shows that, among religious groups, 60 percent of American Catholics think America’s best days are yet to come - in sharp contrast to 40 percent of Protestants and 49% of all Americans. There is something about being Catholic that imbues us with a positive sense of the future and hope for better things to come.
Especially as we celebrate the liturgies of Advent and Christmas, the words of the Mass speak of the Incarnation as a beacon of hope. Jesus was born a human being to show us the unfailing love of the Father, give us the promise of his presence and ultimately, victory over death. Our worship is filled with the confidence which led the Apostle Paul to write: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
“Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1817).
A few years ago, not long after my husband and I had moved from the city where we raised our children, I found myself standing in the back of church after Mass, anxious to leave, waiting for my husband who was talking with a new acquaintance. In the midst of the move, I had become disconnected from the community of faith. The following week, I called the choir director of our new parish, explained that my schedule is very haphazard, and wondered if I might help with the choir in some way. The director, Yvonne, welcomed me to sing, whenever I was in town, for rehearsals even if I was not going to be at the parish on Sunday, or on Sunday, even if I had been gone during rehearsal. Occasionally, after a long time away, I would pray as part of the assembly at Sunday Mass, and Yvonne would find me afterwards, asking why I had not joined the choir for the day. She built a bridge for me, connecting me to the community and more deeply to Christ, through her warm and welcoming ministry, and for that, I am deeply grateful.
Pope Francis has called on all of us to become what he calls “spirit-filled evangelizers.” In other words, he wants us to invite others and welcome them, to live convincingly and to speak up about our faith when the right moment presents itself. The starting point for such a mission is in the home. We tend toward a parish-centered approach, one in which we tend to see the church and the parish as one and the same. But in fact, the church is the people of God living their everyday, ordinary lives. It’s precisely in this “everydayness” that the invitation and welcome to faith must be given. This means we must develop household-centered catechesis - and this will require us to change.
There are a variety of prepackaged programs for outreach programs to inactive Catholics. This article reviews nine programs that you might consider using or adapting for your parish. They are listed by two criteria, cost and effort (planning, volunteers, and work). Programs are tools, like a set of keys. They do not evangelize by themselves. Each of us needs to grow in our own faith in Jesus and to develop good relational evangelizing skills in order to use programs effectively.
It can be difficult to reach inactive Catholics in our parish. What if we re-envision our efforts as a journey together toward and with them, where we take the first step, the next one, and then the next? We have learned over decades that there are at least 10 steps to starting effective inactive Catholic outreach programs:
John J. Boucher is a Catholic evangelization consultant and trainer. He served for many years as the director of evangelization in the Diocese of Trenton. He has authored/co-authored over 300 religious articles and many books including, Sharing the Faith that You Love: Four Simple Ways to Be Part of the New Evangelization and Mending Broken Relationships, Building Strong Ones: Eight Ways to Love as Jesus Loves Us.
Pope Francis’ Vision is Great in Theory - But In Action, Even Better - Tom Quinlan, Diocese of Joliet
This is a follow-up post to my broad reflection on Pope Francis’ trip to the United States last week. The following is an email message I sent to catechetical leaders in our diocese, offering a strategy and a tactic for a narrow slice of parish life. While the focus is on child and youth formation ministry, I would assert that there is a strong evangelizing element here, as we reach out to marginal parishioner families and non-parishioners.
In the light of Pope Francis’ visit to the United States last week, I would like to invite you to consider the following action steps. I offer them knowing that these weeks are some of the busiest of our catechetical year. Nonetheless, please take a moment to ponder them prayerfully and what they might mean for your ministry.
Please comment below with your suggestions for turning the Pope Francis momentum into concrete action steps for evangelization and renewal. The sharing is so valuable. (The first comment here in the diocese was from an RCIA director who has reached out to her list of former candidates and catechumens who didn’t complete the process previously. Already, one woman is coming back…along with her sister!)
What does the momentous visit of Pope Francis to the United States mean for the Church going forward? How can parishes leverage this powerful pastoral visit into a furtherance of our common missional agenda to evangelize? Having followed his words and actions carefully, and also listening closely to some of the cultural reaction (religious and secular), I’d like to offer the following insights. (I imagine these applying primarily in the parish setting, though they could be just as apt in diocesan systems.)
1. Every parish in the nation should engage immediately in two actions: #1. Proactively consider how to incarnate the model and exhortations of Pope Francis into action; and #2. Consider how the parish will intentionally ready itself when, not if, the “Francis effect” comes to its door, in whatever form. I suggest that parish leadership gather as soon as possible to begin to discuss these two pastoral considerations with an eye on the remarkable evangelizing opportunity the Pope has handed us.
In the Church these days, we worry about evangelization. We design programs, we train our people, we read and write and talk about it, we pray about it, we form e-teams. But there are very small, simple but important changes we can make in our churches that can take away the obstacles that may have been erected over time, that block our evangelization efforts. For instance: When visitors walk in the doors to your church, what do they see?
I recently visited a church where, upon walking in the main door, I was met by the backs of the liturgical ministers. They were huddled in the entryway, chatting about the business of who would serve at each station for Communion. I had to wind my way through the group of them to reach the cart with the missalettes on it, and then swim back between them to find a seat in the sanctuary. I caught myself apologizing to the people as I walked in front of them.
For me, as a "churchy" person, this is annoying but not a deal-breaker. I wouldn’t turn and walk out if I came into this setting, nor would I turn and slink into the sanctuary bookless, hoping I’d be able to keep up without it. But this would be a very discouraging start if I were new in town, or I was feeling some embarrassment about being there after a long absence, or I was thinking of joining a new parish.
In our city the stoplights have signs hanging on them that remind drivers “don’t block the box!” They are there to remind drivers that the intersections should be kept clear to allow for free through-travel of emergency vehicles. I think it’s a good rule in our churches too. Don’t be an obstacle between worshipers and the sanctuary. Don’t block the path between the doors and the books, or the books and the sanctuary. Make it physically and emotionally easy for people to enter the worship space.
Indeed, the entryway is the natural place for ministers to gather before the procession. But anyone in that space should be facing the doors, smiling and saying hello to each person. Hospitality must be considered part of the responsibilities of all liturgical ministers. If a conversation needs to happen about the Mass plans, be sure it happens to the side or in the sacristy. No Mass "business" is as crucial as the business of welcoming people to the table.
At the NCCL conference in Buffalo, Dr. Tim Hogan presented a keynote, Encountering Who? The Gift of the Cultural Hurricane: How to build Bridges that Empower Parents and Transform Catholic Families. A facilitated conversation with evangelization leaders followed asking the question, “What are the gifts in the cultural hurricane and how can we respond?”
The conversation began with leaders from Texas and Florida, those who live in areas where hurricanes occur. They recalled their experience of hurricanes, sharing it is not the destruction of the hurricane remembered, but the gift of gathering, the communal aspect resulting that is life-giving, significant and remembered before during and after the hurricane.
From this starting point, the group reflected on and began answering the following question: “If a real hurricane can bring about communal gifts, can a cultural hurricane bring about similar gifts?” Collectively hospitality, hope and healing were discovered to be the gifts of the cultural hurricane.
The following is a synopsis of our discussion on the cultural hurricane and some suggestions on how we might respond in our faith communities.
Beginning evangelization in a diocese or parish requires taking one little step at a time. I believe that the New Evangelization will truly occur when all the members of the Church come to understand that it is their mission to evangelize, not just the clergy or people who work in ministry for the parish/diocese. It has been a year and a half since I began to do parish Evangelization Team training in the Diocese of Beaumont, and it is truly going along “step by little step”.