June 21, 2013

Workshop makes building evangelization teams ‘doable’

Julie Johnstone of St. Mary Parish in Indianapolis discusses evangelization ideas with people at her table during a parish evangelization team building workshop offered by the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education (OCE) at Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood on May 30. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Julie Johnstone of St. Mary Parish in Indianapolis discusses evangelization ideas with people at her table during a parish evangelization team building workshop offered by the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education (OCE) at Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood on May 30. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

GREENWOOD—It was 7 p.m. on May 30. The start of game five of the NBA Eastern Conference Championship between the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat was just 90 minutes away. The workshop on building parish evangelization teams would not end in time for the tip-off.

Sitting at the workshop in her Pacers jersey, Ann Berkemeier wasn’t worried.

The decision to attend the workshop over making the start of the game was “not a struggle at all,” said the member of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis. “My faith comes before sports.”

Berkemeier was not alone. The workshop, held at Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood, drew a total of 40 participants representing more than 15 parishes. It was the last of seven workshops on parish evangelization team building held throughout the archdiocese by the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education (OCE).

Berkemeier was one of several members from St. Mark the Evangelist Parish to attend the event.

“I went to the workshop because I wanted to get more ideas. I want to do as much as I can to help bring people [along] in the faith. And also as an affirmation that we’re doing the right thing, to see what others are doing that is working for them.”

While sharing existing evangelization ideas was part of the evening, the majority of the event involved the presentation of tips, suggestions and encouragement from Peg McEvoy, associate director for evangelization and family catechesis in OCE.

She drew information form "Disciples Called to Witness," a document produced in 2012 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

As McEvoy outlined from the document, evangelization starts with Catholics participating in an ongoing conversion, a continually deepening relationship with Christ through the sacraments, catechesis and prayer.

The fruit of this conversion calls Catholics to live fuller, more authentic Christian lives. This focus leads to evangelization—the spreading of the Good News, particularly to people who have not been baptized or have stepped away from their faith.

For an example of this process, McEvoy recommended the book Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus by Sherry A. Weddell.

Julie Johnstone, a member of St. Mary Parish in Indianapolis, is reading the book along with other leaders of the parish’s young adult group.

“What I’ve found recently is that building relationships with people is just awesome. … I think we’re too involved in getting people involved—getting them to come, instead of being focused on improving their relationship with Christ,” she said. “They have to be formed first before they’re going to be able to be served—that’s one thing I really took away [from the workshop].”

As for building evangelization teams, McEvoy outlined three steps, each of which should be founded on the cornerstone of prayer.

First, leaders should identify their end goal. Next, this goal must be communicated and input sought from pastors and/or parish life coordinators and other parish leaders. Finally, a team should be developed to implement plans to achieve the end goal.

“I thought it was a very good program,” said Deacon Wayne Davis, who ministers at St. Michael Parish in Greenfield. “It was helpful in helping us crystalize our thinking, and also just to kind of share and know that everyone is in the same boat.

“I think the thing Peg brings to the process is she makes it more concrete, more intentional. A lot of these things, parishes were doing but not doing as well as we could because we were not being as intentional as we could be.”

Father John Hall is of the same opinion.

“We don’t want to reinvent the wheel, but to do what we’re doing better, maybe become more conscious of it,” said Father Hall, pastor of St. Martin of Tours Parish in Martinsville and administrator of Our Lady of the Springs Parish in French Lick and Our Lord Jesus Christ the King Parish in Paoli.

The workshop came at the right time, added Deacon Davis.

“I think what the archdiocese is doing now to get us to think about [evangelization] will really pay dividends because I really think there’s a lot of excitement in the Church,” he said. “There’s a new pope, a new archbishop. I think there’s a lot of excitement that Catholics are willing to share. It taps in at a good time in our archdiocese to do this.”

The workshop was first offered in the Terre Haute deanery at St. Joseph University Parish in Terre Haute on May 13.

Donna McKenzie, pastoral associate for adult faith formation at St. Joseph University Parish, walked away from the workshop with a sense of “the importance of communication within the staff and [with] parishioners, the fact that teams take various shapes because there is not a one-type-fits-all way to do evangelization, and [that] the components of evangelization are doable by the committee and the parish.

“It opened my eyes to the huge amount of work to be done through evangelizing. Being responsible for the faith of all those within our parish boundaries impacted me the most.

“Even though it is a big job, it does not need to be overwhelming.” †

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