In today’s Gospel reading we hear Jesus say, “Bring (to me) some of the fish YOU just caught.” It’s a call to evangelize, to reach out to our brothers and sisters who have been away from us and invite them back to our worship. But this concept seems strange to contemporary Western Catholicism. How do we do it exactly? Here are some examples:
Evangelization Retreats were introduced to Sacred Heart Church in Boise, ID with the purpose of providing an intense encounter with the Risen Jesus and to foster the development of small faith communities. Based upon the book, Evangelization: God’s Love for Man by Alfonso Navarro the retreat focuses upon the Sacraments of Initiation: BAPTISM, CONFIRMATION, and EUCHARIST.
In keeping with the experiences of the early Church, lay Catholics share their stories of faith through a series of personal testimonies. Small group discussions give retreatants the opportunity to dialogue and perhaps for the first time say out loud who and what God means to them and how God has touched their lives. Through a special Liturgy of Consecration, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are rekindled and stirred within the lives of the people. The retreat uniquely moves from the basic foundations of initiation and conversion to specific actions necessary in one’s walk to live the Christian life: prayer and study, suffering, community and witnessing. Christians of other denominations are also welcome to attend Evangelization Retreats. As of now, almost 40% of the parish has attended these retreats!
Queen of the Rosary Parish in Elk Grove, Ill realized that different people are in different stages of their spiritual journey to Christ or back to the church. Thus different approaches/programs need to be offered to people who are in different spiritual places.
Church is normally associated with missionary activity. However, a real need for evangelization exists for those in our own community who have left the Church. Catholics Returning Home is an effort to help parishioners share their faith, to non-practicing Catholics in their circle of family and friends who might be wondering if they’d be welcome if invited to come back but don’t know how to do so.
QRP also places much emphasis on their RCIA Program. They know that, for each of us, the path to accepting new life in Christ has been unique. Some have found their way into the Church walking a ‘smooth’ road, and for others, the road has seemed long and hard, with many twists and turns. The reality, however, is that it does not matter what you have done or how far away from God you think you are. Christ welcomes you into His Church with open arms.
Several years ago, a number of members of St. Kateri Parish (Santa Clarita, CA) took part in the Catherine of Siena “Called and Gifted Program.” they began to ask where their “charisms” were as a parish and as individuals. From this prayerful discernment, a number of ministries were developed:
- Pitches Detention Center (Men) partnering with Finding The Way In Jail.
- Camp Scott (Girls) offering Bible study, Sacramental Care and Christian Mentorship.
- As partners with Family Promise of SCV we join them as hosts for homeless families who are in their program.
Go fish: Going Forward In Serving Him by caring for the Hungry And The Homeless
- Weekly Suppers and Lunches
- Bridge-To-Home Winter Shelter
- Washing the Feet of The Homeless
- Two Can Dan on-going food collection for local food pantries. Look for our bins at church.
Health and Well Being:
- Monthly blood pressure checks at church
What’s interesting about all of these examples is that, at first glance, they don’t seem to be anything spectacular. What is key is that the people of the parish do not see these are activities for which they volunteer. They seem them as personal “missions” and ways that each member of the parish can reach out, touch, heal and invite people to the Lord and ultimately the Lord’s community.
What are the ways by which St. Monica might do this as well? I suggest a three-phased approach
Phase 1 – Initial Contact and Introduction:
- Confidence: Pray to the Holy Spirit for the “guts” to work on His behalf.
- Coincidental Conversation: The Holy Spirit will “coincidentally” place your greatest talent where there is the greatest need. Once in front of that person, simply let them talk. Engage in a conversation that is supportive, inviting and open-ended (not catechetical, preach-y, overly spiritual or prying).
- Consolation: People are hurting. Offer them sympathy.
Phase 2 – Lowering The Nets in “Deeper Water”
- Call: Phone, write or email them a few days or weeks later. Let them know that you’ve been praying for them and would be happy to meet and talk with them again.
- Compassion: From the two Latin words cum – passio or to “suffer with” someone. You can’t solve their problems but perhaps you can accompany them along their journey for a while.
Phase 3 – “Catching, Cleaning and Cutting Away:“ The root of the word, “discernment” is “to cut away.” This next step requires some careful discernment and decision-making.
- Contemplation: By means of your prayer life, you must comprehend what God’s next step for you and the people with whom you are in contact.
- Confine: … your activities to “your sphere” only. You’re not the Messiah. You can only do so much and, at times, you only should do so much. Don’t over-extend yourself into realms where you simply do not have the talents and experience. Saying “no” is sometimes the most important task that God wants from you.
- Cut Away: When your time is done, you need to move on. God might have someone else in mind for the next step. Or God might be protecting you and pulling you out of a situation that has simply turned in the wrong direction.
Audio version of the homily is here: