November 30, 2018

Evangelization Supplement

Workshop identifies evangelization as ‘Church’s identity,’ explains process

At an archdiocesan evangelization workshop at St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus on Oct. 27, L’Alto Catholic Institute president Tim Glemkowski uses an image of a baseball diamond to explain the steps of forming missionary disciples. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

At an archdiocesan evangelization workshop at St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus on Oct. 27, L’Alto Catholic Institute president Tim Glemkowski uses an image of a baseball diamond to explain the steps of forming missionary disciples. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

At a recent workshop sponsored by the archdiocesan Office of Evangelization, Diane Sutton made a confession.

“Being a cradle Catholic, evangelization was never anything I really thought about,” said the member of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis. “I always equated evangelization to the Jehovah’s Witness or Baptist faith.”

After the workshop, she now sees things differently.

“I feel like I can now see the big picture of evangelization and how important it is in our individual faith life, and how that carries over into our parish life.”

Such a change in understanding was one of the goals of the workshop led by L’Alto Catholic Institute president Tim Glemkowski on Oct. 27 at St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus. Roughly 75 people from 26 parishes attended. They represented 15 cities and towns throughout central and southern Indiana, from Terre Haute to Milan, Fortville to Scottsburg and many places in between.

“We wanted attendees to get clarity on evangelization, what it is and is not,” said archdiocesan director of catechesis Ken Ogorek. “We wanted them to get practical tips for things they could start doing if they want to focus more intently on evangelization, and wanted them to leave feeling very motivated, especially about starting a parish evangelization team.”

This article reviews some of the highlights of the workshop.

Evangelization is the Church’s identity

To emphasize the importance of evangelization in the Catholic Church, Glemkowski turned to “Evangelii nuntiandi” (“Evangelization in the Modern World”), an apostolic exhortation issued by St. Pope Paul VI in 1975: “Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God … ” (#14).

In other words, Glemkowski said, “If you take evangelization out of the Church, the Church is no longer the Church.”

He did note the increased challenge of evangelizing in the midst of the current crises in the Church. But he noted that “God chose the time when you would live. God chose you for this moment in time.”

Glemkowski also defined evangelization as a process and a moment. The process is anything done “to seek conversion, either initial or ongoing. It’s how the Church helps people to be what God called them to be.”

The moment is the instant within the process that someone is led from being a non-believer or disengaged believer to being a believer in the essential truth that “in Jesus Christ … salvation is offered as a gift of God’s grace,” he explained.

That message is the proclamation of all evangelization efforts, he said, “the Good News that “God is hopelessly in love with all of us.”

A Church of the ‘frozen chosen’?

But in the Catholic Church, Glemkowski said, “We have baptized people who don’t believe that core proclamation that salvation is offered to all. … They have no personal attachment to Jesus Christ. They have no connection to his presence in the sacraments.”

Glemkowski said this situation creates a Church of the “frozen chosen.”

So for many parishes, evangelization must first be directed at the people in the pews, he explained.

Once parishioners come to their own “moment” in the evangelization process, then they have the essential element needed to evangelize their community and bring others to Christ, he said.

Even then, some hesitate to evangelize because they think they’re not holy or smart enough—neither of which matters because “God can work with brokenness” and “most people want a conversation, not a debate,” Glemkowski said.

“At the end of the day,” he continued, “the reason we don’t evangelize is we don’t love [others] enough … to bring up religion. We’re more concerned about being polite and not offending anyone. … We don’t take Jesus seriously enough to believe he is the way, the truth and the life, and the source of all joy.”

‘The end of Mass is just the beginning’

Whether geared toward the unchurched or Christians, evangelization is something each of us is called to do, said Glemkowski. He points to Christ’s words as proof.

“When Christ gave his great commission, he didn’t say, ‘Somebody go and make disciples.’ You have to take the great commission personally: ‘Bill, go and make disciples. Ann, go and make disciples.’ … The great commission is the prism through which we see our purpose as Christians.”

And these weren’t just any words of Christ, but his last words, and “last words have weight,” Glemkowski said. Likewise, the last words of the Mass have weight, and they mirror the last words of Christ.

“At the end of Mass, the dispersal is so important to the Church,” he noted, “After being reminded of the love of God through the love of Jesus, we are sent to take that love into the world. The end of Mass is just the beginning.”

‘Baby giraffes with wobbly legs’

But how do we go about evangelizing, spreading the Good News memorialized in the Mass? Glemkowski answered the question on two fronts: parish evangelization, and personal evangelization.

At the parish level, evangelization should not be “silo-ed” into one commission because “it won’t bear fruit,” Glemkowski said. “When a parish’s real goal is to evangelize in all they do, that’s when they become successful. … It shouldn’t be one of the things we do, but all we do. … All programs and ministries should have some strategic part in that mission.”

In practical terms, he likened the evangelization process to a baseball diamond that starts at home base, creates believers at first base, then catechizes and offers opportunities to reinforce a personal relationship with Christ, which leads to becoming a disciple at second base. From there, people are equipped with more knowledge to help them reach third base—being a missionary disciple.

“We think someone is on fire after being baptized at the Easter Vigil or after a retreat, so now they’ll become involved in the parish and we’re done,” Glemkowski said. “But they’re like baby giraffes with wobbly legs. We need to help them grow spiritually.”

To do that, he said, parishes need to encourage newly evangelized or re-evangelized Catholics to frequent the sacraments and to develop a personal prayer life to continue growing in their relationship with Christ. And they need to provide opportunities to accomplish this.

“Every parish should have perpetual adoration if they want their evangelization to be a success, and more opportunities for confession,” Glemkowski advised.

And the evangelized “need to have it explained to them that their discipleship must bear fruit, that their relationship with Christ isn’t just about them,” he added.

‘Be relatable’

Once disciples have been fully evangelized and catechized at the parish level, they are ready to become evangelizers themselves.

To accomplish this, said Glemkowski, Catholics need to learn the “art of accompaniment.”

He offered an example he called “growth by multiplication.”

“Say you have three people meet for one year to help each other grow spiritually,” he said. “Then after a year, each person goes out and starts a new group of three, and so on. It becomes exponential.”

What is Glemkowski’s advice to personal evangelizers to begin this process? It’s simpler than one might think.

“Pray daily,” he said. “Frequent the sacraments. If people recognize the Holy Spirit in you, you’ll have an impact. Holiness is attractive.”

This is not to say evangelizers must be perfect.

“The best way to build trust with someone is to be relatable,” Glemkowski said. “Remain close to Christ and he will make you who you were meant to be.”

He also cautioned evangelizers to be aware of others’ spiritual wounds.

“Not all trust that the Church is a good thing,” he noted. “Sometimes you won’t be the best person to bring someone back, but keep praying.”

The surest way to evangelize, Glemkowski said, is to “share your story. Share with them a time in your life when you felt like the sinful woman [who was about to be stoned], that you knew you needed a savior, and that you found there was one, and he is Christ, and he loves each of us more than we can possibly know.”

‘Just an invitation’

Father Todd Riebe, pastor of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, gave a reflection during the workshop. His personal story drove home the importance of the simplest of evangelization: inviting someone to Mass.

He spoke of how, when growing up, his family would “pile into the car” and head off to Mass every Sunday morning. And every Sunday morning a neighbor was there on her porch. She would wave to them, and they would wave to her.

Decades later, Father Riebe visited her in the hospital shortly before she died. She shared the memory of waving to his family every Sunday morning, and how she had longed each time that they would stop and invite her to Mass.

She was welcomed into full communion of the Church before she died.

“But how sad that she spent her whole life longing for Christ, when all she needed was for us to invite her,” Father Riebe reflected. “Just an invitation.”

That message stuck with Deacon Russell Woodard, parish life coordinator of Holy Trinity Parish in Edinburgh.

“It really made people aware of saying to a co-worker or other people around them that, ‘If you want to go to church with me, you’re more than welcome,’ ” he said.

“It’s in the little things we do in our daily lives. We need to be open to the Holy Spirit, and when an opportunity presents itself, speak to that neighbor or co-worker. Find out if they go to a church, and if not tell them that they’re always welcome to join you, and that Jesus came for us all.” †

 

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