May 10, 2013

Evangelization Supplement

Parishes start evangelization team to share the faith

Father Scott Nobbe, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Dover, St. Joseph Parish in St. Leon, St. Martin Parish in Yorkville and St. Paul Parish in New Alsace, leads members of the Batesville Deanery faith communities in worship during a Mass celebrated on Oct. 7, 2012, at East Central High School in St. Leon to kick off the observance of the Year of Faith. During the Year of Faith, the parishes have started their Evangelization Team that will reach out in the coming months to inactive Catholics in the area. (Submitted photo)

Father Scott Nobbe, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Dover, St. Joseph Parish in St. Leon, St. Martin Parish in Yorkville and St. Paul Parish in New Alsace, leads members of the Batesville Deanery faith communities in worship during a Mass celebrated on Oct. 7, 2012, at East Central High School in St. Leon to kick off the observance of the Year of Faith. During the Year of Faith, the parishes have started their Evangelization Team that will reach out in the coming months to inactive Catholics in the area. (Submitted photo)

By Sean Gallagher

When Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI announced that the Catholic Church would observe a special Year of Faith during 2012 and 2013, his purpose was to renew the faith of Catholics around the world and to help them be more effective evangelizers in their everyday lives.

Four small parishes in southeastern Indiana are thousands of miles away from the Vatican in Rome, but their pastor, Father Scott Nobbe, and the Catholics there heard the pontiff’s call loud and clear.

Members of St. John the Baptist Parish in Dover, St. Joseph Parish in St. Leon, St. Martin Parish in Yorkville and St. Paul Parish in New Alsace have had many opportunities to grow in their knowledge of the faith since the Year of Faith began last October.

And a group of members of the parishes have been preparing since then to reach out to non-practicing Catholics as the Year of Faith comes to a close in the fall.

This group, known as the parishes’ Evangelization Team, has been guided in their preparation by “Disciples Called to Witness,” a resource developed by the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis.

Father Nobbe sees the faith enrichment efforts in the parishes as a whole and the preparation of the Evangelization Team as essential steps to make the upcoming outreach as effective as possible.

“We’re always evangelizing, whether we know it or not,” he said. “The majority of the time, we’re doing that implicitly in our lives. And so the more that we can equip people in the faith to be comfortable and confident living their faith, they’ll be better evangelizers in the long run.”

Among the initiatives that have been launched in the Batesville Deanery faith communities to strengthen members’ knowledge of the faith are CDs on the faith produced by the Mary Foundation that have been available for free.

“That has had a tremendous response,” Father Nobbe said. “We didn’t order enough CDs the first time around. They all got gobbled up, and they’ve asked for more.”

Questions about the faith are asked in the weekly parish bulletins with the answers to be found there as well. The questions are often tied to what is happening in the Church at a particular time. For example, at the beginning of May, questions about Mary were asked since this month is traditionally dedicated to her.

And a parish mission focused on evangelization was held just before Holy Week.

“I’ve talked with numerous people since then, and they thought it was wonderful and had great content,” Father Nobbe said.

When Father Nobbe invited various members of the parishes to be a part of the Evangelization Team, he chose people with different experiences of the faith. Some were lifelong Catholics. Others had had been raised in the faith, fallen away for a period and then returned. Still others were converts.

Brandy Bittner falls into the last category. Raised as a Methodist, she was received into the full communion of the Church in 2012 and is now a member of St. Joseph Parish in St. Leon.

When Father Nobbe asked her to be a member of the team, she was hesitant at first because she was so new to the faith.

But her experience of the team’s monthly meetings, the formation they have participated in together and looking forward to reaching out to share the faith with others has made her excited.

“Now I’m ready to go, ready to start putting plans into place,” said Bittner, 31.

She thinks having people from a variety of faith backgrounds is a strength of the team. For example, she sees herself as being able to reach out effectively to people who have never been Catholic, while a previously inactive Catholic might be able to work well with a person with a similar experience.

“It’s really helped us to be able to potentially meet the needs of everyone,” Bittner said. “Whatever the case may be, we’re prepared to meet that.”

Mark Schmidl is another team member. A lifelong Catholic, Schmidl, 46, is a member of St. Paul Parish in New Alsace.

He said the formation that the team has participated in has helped him grow in his own life of faith, see ways to live out his faith more consciously and take the chance to talk about it when the opportunity presents itself.

“If you’re living the faith and then sharing your life, you’re sharing the faith,” Schmidl said.

While he appreciates the chance to be a part of the Evangelization Team, Schmidl recognizes the seriousness of its task and how tremendous it would be for him to help people who have left the Church return.

“It’s hard to put into words … that there are souls out there that are lost who come back,” he said. “We’re talking about eternal consequences. How do you even put it into words to be a part of that?”

Before the team can reach out to inactive Catholics, they have to gather names from parishioners of such people who might be open to having a conversation about the faith.

Father Nobbe hopes that his parishioners will be “bold enough” to share those names.

“My only hope is that we have the opportunity to dialogue with people … and see where that leads,” he said.

Father Nobbe sees parishes as logical places to center evangelization efforts instead of just working at the diocesan level, or only leaving it up to individual Catholics.

Doing it at the parish level is important for Father Nobbe because “people [at the local level] know each other. They know who are professed Catholics but not practicing their faith.”

And even if individual Catholics take their call to evangelization seriously, it should always be referred back to the parish, he said, because of the essential communal aspect of the faith.

“We do not walk to God by ourselves,” Father Nobbe said. “We walk to him together.”

Each parish, Father Nobbe said, should have organized evangelization efforts.

“In my view, this is one of the essentials of a parish,” Father Nobbe said. “If it’s not part of a parish, then we’re not recognizing our full identity as a parish community. The Eucharist calls us to be a community.”
 

(If you are interested in learning more about how to form an evangelization team in your parish, call Peg McEvoy, associate director for evangelization and family catechesis of the archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Education at 800-382-9836, ext. 1432 or 317-236-1432 or send her an e-mail at pmcevoy@archindy.org.)

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!