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Small Groups are not the answer

Posted by on 7:13 pm in Called to be Missionary Disciples | 4 comments

Small Groups are not the answer

(but they can help).   The search for the elusive “silver bullet” that will transform our parish is very real. We tend to have a list of things we circle around over and over: New Website! Social Media! Evangelization Committee! Hospitality Ministers! One thing that is always at the top of our silver bullet list is…SMALL GROUPS!!!! Small groups sound like the perfect solution for evangelization in a parish. People gather on a regular basis to build community and share faith. In a very real way, small groups seem to fit the vision of Pope Francis who calls for the parish to be “a community of communities, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey, and a centre of constant missionary outreach.” (Evangelii Gaudium #28) But is this the reality? The very next line in Evangelli Gaudium points out a harsh truth. “We must admit, though, that the call to review and renew our parishes has not yet sufficed to bring them nearer to people, to make them environments of living communion and participation, and to make them completely mission-oriented” (#28) Why have our small groups failed to help our parish become a “community of communities?” Usually one of two things happens when a parish launches a small group ministry. They take off like wildfire. The parish recruits many volunteers, hands them excellent resources, and invites the entire parish to join a small group, often during Lent. These groups flare up very quickly but also die off very quickly. They often do not last long enough for the type of friendship, community, and spiritual transformation that we are hoping for. or They last forever. Many times small groups will form that have lasting power. These groups last for 10, 20, even 30 years. These people become very good friends and that is very good. They also tend to become very insular. Participants are very reluctant to change the dynamics of the group by inviting new people. It turns out; small groups are not the answer. If they were we could have packed up and gone home years ago.   (But they can help) Here is the thing, though; small groups can actually be very helpful for evangelization when done right. When approached in the right way small groups can be a very natural way to build a trusting community of friends in which people can encounter Jesus Christ and be transformed. While proper facilitation techniques and the right content are very important to make a small group truly evangelizing, perhaps the most important ingredient to an evangelizing small group is the Facilitator. A Spiritual Leader Not a Volunteer No publisher knows each individual in your group. In order to reach people in a small group the Facilitator has to be a Spiritual Leader, not just a volunteer. A Small Group Facilitator who sees herself as a Spiritual Leader will work to be a catalyst for the spiritual transformation and growth of each person in her group. She will take personal responsibility for creating a trusting atmosphere in which people feel comfortable being vulnerable. She will take seriously her own relationship with Jesus through the Church knowing that she cannot give what she does not have. She will bring the faces and names of...

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Are Catholic Schools Killing Parish Evangelization?

Posted by on 2:44 pm in Called to be Missionary Disciples | 2 comments

Are Catholic Schools Killing Parish Evangelization?

Matthew Kelly has a well-used example to help parishes take advantage of Christmas and Easter as evangelizing opportunities. “If I could go to the world largest companies,” he opines, “and guarantee them that I could have a room full of former customers or customers on the fence about their product for 1 hours at least twice a year I would be a billionaire!” The point he is trying to make is that Christmas and Easter for Catholic parishes are prime touch points for evangelization. A parish should put a lot of time and resources to take advantage of it. As important as Christmas and Easter are for evangelization touch points, what if I told you I could get hundreds of families, many of whom are only marginally Catholic, connected to a ministry in your Parish that engaged them every day of the week? What if I told you that I could have these adults on your campus consistently, and that many of them would become committed volunteers and actively invest their time, talent and treasure into this ministry? What if I told you this ministry would bring adults together in friendship and community? Guess what? More than likely your Catholic Parish already has a ministry just like this; it is the parochial Catholic school. Too often Parishes look on their Catholic schools as pariahs. They look longingly at the parish resources being poured in the school and ask themselves what good they could be doing for evangelization and faith formation of adults if they could divert that money into parish adult faith formation programs. Let’s abandon the idea that the children will evangelize the parents On the surface, you cannot blame parishes in having this outlook. Let’s be honest, “evangelizing up” just does not work on a consistent basis. Even if children do receive a great Catholic education, it is rare to see that filter up to the parents. The faith of the parents has the greatest impact on the faith of their children. If the parents do not have faith it becomes very challenging for the children to have faith. A Catholic School education will be no more effective than a once a week parish religious education program in that regard. The answer always comes back to evangelizing the parents, and Catholic Schools focus all of their time and resources on the children. Let’s end the Parish vs School Competition This reality often sets parishes and schools up for competition. The parish tries to find ways to pull school families from the school community into the parish community because in the parish community there are programs that can evangelize the adults. The frustration is compounded in parish workers as they look out at their faith formation programs and find them filled with older, highly engaged Catholics. The people they wanted to reach, the younger adults who were less engaged in their faith, are so involved in the school that the parish programs are not even on their radar. This kind of narrow-minded parish vs school thinking completely misses the biggest opportunity a parish has for evangelizing adults. A Challenge to the Parish Let me challenge Parish workers across the country to change your view of your Catholic School. End the competition right now! Look at your Catholic School...

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All Catechists must be Missionary Disciples

Posted by on 6:17 pm in Called to be Missionary Disciples | 0 comments

All Catechists must be Missionary Disciples

“When a teacher becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven, he is like the owner of a house who is able to take from his storeroom treasures new and old.” -Mt. 13.52 Jesus’ words show us that the knowledge of a teacher, while very important, is not what makes them an effective transmitter of God’s Word. We must be disciples – those who follow the Lord and devote our lives to him.  To bring the ‘treasures’ of our faith, both the new and the old, to those we catechize, we must be disciples!  As Pope Paul VI said, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” In the past, catechesis has seemed to some to be a strict academic exercise. Our catechetical programs have followed an academic model towards imparting the content of faith.  While this seems adequate on the surface, what it lacks is often the true heart of catechesis – an encounter with Christ. St. Isadore in his Book of Maxims shares: “Learning unsupported by grace may get into our ears but it never reaches into the heart. It makes a great noise outside, but serves no inner purpose.  But when God’s grace touches our innermost minds to bring understanding, his word which has been received sinks deep into the heart.” In order to receive this grace, the disciple must first and foremost be a person who cultivates a deep interior life of prayer. The interior life of a disciple must also be rooted in the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, which is the source and summit of the entire Christian life. The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself.” (CCC1324) Catechesis as an activity of discipleship is proposed by Saint John Paul II in Catechesi Tradendae, “Catechesis is an education in the faith of children, young people, and adults which includes especially the teaching of Christian doctrine imparted…in an organic and systematic way, with a view to initiating the hearers into the fullness of Christian life” (18). That initiated fullness is an encounter with Christ and a lived response – becoming His disciple. As catechists we rightly desire to make disciples through our catechesis, to do so we must be disciples. To be called (vocare) by God to be a catechist is a call to missionary discipleship. As Pope Francis reminds us in Evangelii Gaudium, “In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples. All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization. The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized (EG 120).”  As we seek to form students who know Christ and care for the souls of others, we assist them in developing a life of Christian witness nurtured and strengthened within the Church. Missionary disciples are formed and sustained in Christian community. Saint John Paul II wrote, “It seems timely to form ecclesial communities and groups of a size that...

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The Frozen Chosen

Posted by on 1:58 pm in Frankly Speaking | 0 comments

The Frozen Chosen

“Christians who stay still, who don’t go forward, are non-Christian Christians. We don’t know exactly what they are. They are slightly ‘paganized’ Christians: who are there, who stay still and don’t go forward in their Christian lives, who don’t make the Beatitudes bloom in their lives, who don’t do Works of mercy… they are motionless. Excuse me for saying it, but they are like an (embalmed) mummy, a spiritual mummy there. There are Christians who are ‘spiritual mummies,’ motionless, there. They don’t do evil but they don’t do good.” – Pope Francis The life of discipleship is a journey with many ups and downs. It is often marked more by failure than success. I heard a salesman say once that in sales “winning often looks like losing.” A good sales person is turned down more often than he closes the deal. What characterizes a good sales person in that he perseveres through the failures until he lands a deal. It is the same on the journey of discipleship. Often at the end of the day, I reflect back on how well I loved God and neighbor and I shake my head on how terrible I was! Struggle and failure are not bad, as long as we continue to persevere on our journey of discipleship. What is really bad is no struggle at all. God has harsh words for those who are stuck in their spiritual journey. “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth (Rev 3:15-16)” Do you feel stuck? The answer to becoming unstuck quite simple. Just start loving others. You might not feel like it, you may feel like you are faking it, you will definitely mess up, but soon you will find yourself back on that rollercoaster adventure we call the spiritual life. C.S. Lewis confirms this secret: “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” – C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity...

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Ordinary Discipleship

Posted by on 1:55 pm in Called to be Missionary Disciples | 1 comment

Ordinary Discipleship

The Easter season has been over for a few weeks now. The flowers are put away, the sprinkling rite has been phased out, and the great sense of joyfulness has been tempered. We are now full swing into the liturgical season of Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time; isn’t that just another word for “boring” time? What’s left to celebrate after Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter? Everything in between of course. Ordinary Time celebrates the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. There is nothing ordinary about that! Ordinary Time is a time, to take the time, to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. We listen to his parables, we wonder at his miracles, and we are challenged by his teachings. In short, we become like the first disciples, taking the time to learn to be like the Master. Ordinary Time is all about becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. A disciple is a student in a way that is different than our typical image of a student. A disciple is not the kind of student who sits behind a desk and passively listens to a teacher so as to become proficient is a particular subject. No, a disciple is much more like an apprentice. The image of the young Jesus learning the craft of carpentry from his step Father Joseph is a perfect image of this kind of student. Jesus apprenticed himself to Joseph, he worked alongside him, he learned to speak the language of carpentry, he learn to think and act like a carpenter. The goal; not to pass a test on carpentry but to BECOME a carpenter. It is the same for a disciple of Jesus. Our goal is not just to know about Jesus, the goal is to BECOME like Jesus. We want our words to be His words, our thoughts His thoughts, our actions His actions. What is it about the color green that makes it such an appropriate color for Ordinary Time? Green is a color of abundance. Green is the most popular decorating color. Green is the most prevalent color found in nature. Green occupies more space in the spectrum visible to the human eye than any other color. Green is everywhere – especially this time of year. Psychologists tell us that the color green elicits soothing and relaxing feelings for both the mind and body. The color green can help calm anxiety and nervousness; even depression. The color green conveys renewal, self-control, and harmony. So let us begin this long journey that Ordinary Time allows us. As we reflect upon these great stories of the life and ministry of Jesus may our lives change as well. Let us join the Church and go green, because green is all about abundance, life, hope and joy and we know that the path of discipleship will lead us to Christ who promises to lavish all of these gifts to those who follow him....

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No New Evangelization Without a New Pentecost

Posted by on 5:50 pm in Called to be Missionary Disciples | 0 comments

No New Evangelization Without a New Pentecost

BY: BRAD BURSA Indeed, St. John Paul II called for the New Evangelization to be characterized by “new ardor, methods, and expression” capable of reaching modern man and the current culture. I believe this is precisely where the trouble lies. We know from experience that human ardor wanes, and that forms of communicating and various expressions are rather mutable. The tendency in the Church seems to be one that fails to see the full reality of our situation; and that we do not merely face a challenge posed to us by the flesh and blood of modernity. We fail to see past materialism, success, strategic planning, programs, and quantifiable results. Yet the full reality reveals that we are up against the “principalities and powers,” the spirit of the age dominated by the Enemy. Merely human means will never prove to be sufficient in carrying out a new evangelization complete with new ardor, methods, and expressions. We need something more. Pope Benedict XVI, during a meditation at the Synod on the New Evangelization, made a similar observation: The Church does not begin with our “making”, but with the “making” and “speaking” of God. In the same way, the Apostles did not say, after a few meetings: now we want to make a Church, and that by means of a constituent assembly they were going to draft a constitution. No, they prayed and in prayer they waited, because they knew that only God himself can create his Church, that God is the first agent: if God does not act, our things are only ours and are insufficient; only God can testify that it is he who speaks and has spoken. Pentecost is the condition of the birth of the Church: only because God acted first, are the Apostles able to act with him and make what he does present. Precisely for this reason, the Popes, dating back to St. John XXIII have been asking for a New Pentecost. All of the talk about evangelization and New Evangelization has as its condition a New Pentecost. Indeed, the Holy Spirit must be the source of spiritual ardor. The Holy Spirit must indicate the method and provide the force necessary for the expression of the faith. A New Pentecost means the end of will power Christianity and “business as usual.” It means the end of data collection and human strategies spawned in response. As Venerable Pope Paul VI noted, “It must be said that the Holy Spirit is the principal agent of evangelization: it is He who impels each individual to proclaim the Gospel, and it is He who in the depths of consciences causes the word of salvation to be accepted and understood” (Evangelii Nuntiandi 75). Further on he also says: Techniques of evangelization are good, but even the most advanced ones could not replace the gentle action of the Spirit. The most perfect preparation of the evangelizer has no effect without the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit the most convincing dialectic has no power over the heart of man. Without Him the most highly developed schemas resting on a sociological or psychological basis are quickly seen to be quite valueless. Therefore, the first step to accomplishing a New Evangelization is not a clever strategy, a billboard, or a social media platform,...

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Easter & Mission

Posted by on 2:19 pm in Frankly Speaking | 0 comments

Easter & Mission

“If Christ were not raised, Christianity would lose its very meaning; the whole mission of the Church would lose its impulse, for this is the point from which it first set out and continues to set out ever anew.” – Pope Francis I remember the first time I visited the tomb of Jesus Christ in the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. I came out with an overwhelming joy that I felt the need to share with others. I had believed it for many years, but I still wanted to shout out – “the tomb in empty. Jesus is not there. He has risen!” Ever since the first person discovered the tomb was empty, the Church has been proclaiming this Good News. Easter is about evangelization. Easter is the Good News that we all experience and cannot help but proclaim to the world....

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Evangelization Management

Posted by on 2:21 pm in Called to be Missionary Disciples | 0 comments

Evangelization Management

We must remember that the eternal destinies of everyone we love or may encounter are hanging in the balance. The witness of our lives and the wisdom and the truth of our words may make an eternal difference for people. – Ralph Martin “The Urgency of the New Evangelization: Answering the Call” Easter changes everything. Death is conquered. New life is offered. The choice is now clear. Missionary Disciples proclaim the Resurrection. The Resurrection is the Good News; it should also give us a sense of urgency in our evangelization efforts. Our love of others will have eternal consequences. We cannot put off for tomorrow what Christ is urging us to do today. I can be a procrastinator. I have to force myself to reach the personal and professional goals I have set for myself. It should be no different in my personal apostolate of evangelization. I have found the Time Management Quadrant from Steven Covey to be very helpful. The whole idea of the Time Management Quadrant is to make sure we spend our time on the most important things. Quadrant 1 is for the urgent and important opportunities. Quadrant II is for long-term planning for your most important activities. Quadrant III is for time pressured distractions. They are not really important, but someone wants it now. Quadrant IV is for those activities that yield little value. These are activities that are often used for taking a break from time pressured and important activities. Here is what an Evangelization Management Quadrant might look like, recognizing that the best use of our time will be spent in Quadrants 1 and...

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Mary & Evangelization

Posted by on 1:59 pm in Frankly Speaking | 0 comments

Mary & Evangelization

After receiving the Good News told to her by the Archangel Gabriel, Mary, in her Magnificat, prophetically sings of the mercy whereby God chose her. The Virgin of Nazareth, betrothed to Joseph, thus becomes the perfect icon of the Church which evangelizes, for she was, and continues to be, evangelized by the Holy Spirit, who made her virginal womb fruitful. – Pope Francis Pope Francis has upheld Mary, the Mother of God as an example of both someone who is open to continually be evangelized and as an Evangelist. 3 Ways Mary Teaches Us to Be Evangelized   1. Always Say Yes. (Luke 1:38) Jesus will ask of you the impossible. When you give Jesus your “yes” he will change your life. 2. Meditate of God’s Word. (Luke 2:19) God’s Word will always change you if you take the time to meditate and “store it up” in your heart. 3. Cling to the Cross. (John 19:25) The path to new life in Christ always goes through the cross. Allow the sufferings of your life to draw you closer to Jesus. 3 Ways Mary Teaches us to Evangelize   1. In all things point to Jesus (John 2:5) Obedience to Christ is the beginning of conversion. Encourage others to listen and obey to Jesus. 2. Don’t wait around, take Jesus to others. (Luke 1:39) Look for every opportunity to introduce your best friend Jesus to others. 3. Intercede for others. Praying for others is critical for evangelization. Spend your day praying for the conversion of people in your...

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Six Essential Prayer Principals for every Missionary Disciple

Posted by on 1:49 pm in Called to be Missionary Disciples | 0 comments

Six Essential Prayer Principals for every Missionary Disciple

“Only the interior life can sustain us in the hidden, backbreaking labor of planting the seed that seems to go so long without fruit.” ― Jean-Baptiste Chautard, Soul of the Apostolate Think of some of the busiest, most energetic, most fruitful Missionary Disciples of our time (people like Bl. Mother Teresa, St John Paul II, and Pope Francis) all of these Evangelists had one thing in common – they dedicated an inordinate amount of time to personal prayer. In order to be a Missionary Disciple we must do the same. We can do nothing apart from Christ. The saints called this dedication to personal prayer the “interior life.” The foundation of the interior life is daily mental prayer. One classic spiritual manual on prayer that is a must read for those striving for Missionary Discipleship is the Soul of the Apostolate by Jean-Baptiste Chautard. In this manual Chautard gives 6 Principals to follow to grow in the interior life. 1. Pray before your act. Always seek God’s will before jumping headlong into an activity, even the most noble or heroic act of service or evangelization. 2. No activity is important enough to harm your prayer life It doesn’t matter how righteous an activity is, if it keeps you from habitual and consistent prayer then cut it out of your life. 3. Schedule your prayer time. You schedule the most important activities in your life. What does it say about the importance of your prayer life if you not schedule that time and hold yourself to that appointment with God? 4. The busier you are the more you need a consistent prayer life. The success of our own activity and good works can blind us to the need for a consistent prayer life. All of our activity is for nothing if it is not the fruit of an active life of prayer. 5. No one is perfect, but do not lose your desire to pray. We are going to have days – or days on end – when we fail at prayer. On those days it is important to take your spiritual temperature. Do you still desire a deep connection with Christ? If so, there is still hope to get back on track! 6. Keep the goal in mind. The goal is a habitual prayer life in which you are totally dependent on God’s grace for all of your activity. I know for me this will be a life-long...

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