Monday, April 17, 2017

Pope Paul VI - Enlightening a Joyful Spirit in One Another

In the continuing series on evangelization and the Church, we turn to the writing of Pope Paul VI.  He is known one of the most significant writers on evangelization and author of Evangelization in the Modern World .  In this writing he states, “Evangelizing is the grace and vocation proper to the Church…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, and to perpetuate Christ’s sacrifice in the Mass…” 

We are the church, the people of God.  We are called to live our call to holiness within our vocation.  Pope Paul VI called a Holy Year beginning in 1975 in which he asked the church to “proclaim the Gospel to all people.”  Beginning that year, it was his hope to bring a renewal to humanity; to bring the Good News to all through utilizing all methods we have, our witness of life, sharing scripture, catechizing, mass media, personal contact, engaging in Sacraments and devotions.  Still today, we have all of these for our use in bringing others to faith.   Just think of the many different social media outlets and other communication mechanisms available to us today over 1975. We have so many ways we can evangelize in 2017. 

Yet the basics of our faith sharing remain the same, since the time Jesus’ first apostles walked the earth.  There is still a need to explicitly proclaim the Good News and witness to the Father’s love, with the salvation of Jesus Christ at the center of the message as a sign of hope.   We are each called to do this in our everyday life in looking for those around us, wherever we find ourselves in the world for those in need of love, hope and joy.  

We each at our core are spiritual beings.  Evangelization is being able to look beyond who a person appears to be, to look into their eyes and discover through conversations what spiritual food they are in need of this day.  We each can do at least one thing each day to enlighten a joyful spirit in those we meet. In this way, the recipients of evangelization could be anyone, and if we all do this together as an evangelizing church intentionally the recipients could be everyone.  

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Saint Pope John XXIII - Seize the Moment and Share Your Faith

Take a moment and look back on your life of faith.  Who was the first person to tell you about God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit? For many, it was a parent, grandparent or close relative.  It may have been a close friend or spouse.  From generation to generation this has been the tradition of the church, originating from the final words of Jesus to his disciples, to “go and make more disciples.”

Continuing this series on the vision of evangelization from our most recent Popes, we turn to Saint Pope John XXIII and the Decree on Mission Activity for the Church (Ad Gentes) written shortly after the close of the Second Vatican Council for inspiration.  “The Mystical Body of Christ unceasingly gathers and directs its forces toward its own growth (cf. Eph. 4:11-16). The members of the Church are impelled to carry on such missionary activity by reason of the love with which they love God and by which they desire to share with all persons the spiritual goods of both its life and the life to come.”  It is because of God’s great love, as Christians we are compelled to share this unconditional love with others. 

But some might ask how do we do this?  It is easy to share faith with others.  However, it takes a little preparation; time in prayer and contemplation. Think about a time in your life when you truly felt the presence of God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit with you.  Perhaps it was a joyful moment, such as a wedding or the birth of a child; or a sad one such as the funeral of a friend or loved one.  Take time to contemplate that moment and once again feel the loving warmth of God, Jesus with you or the Holy Spirit in the room.   Then, consider a way to share this story, including the faith connection and the sacred presence you felt.

Think of a way to tell the story using different time intervals.  Consider increments of 30 seconds, 3 minutes and 30 minutes.  This method helps to be prepared for any encounter. Sometimes there is only the time it takes for an elevator ride, a chat at the water cooler or a cup of coffee for our conversation.    So always be prepared to share. 

Another simple practice for faith sharing may come when someone asks about a sacramental we wear, have placed in our car or is somewhere in our home.  People may compliment us on one of these items, such as a cross necklace, a rosary in the car, or a picture of Jesus in our home.  When this happens it is not only a time to say thank you but a time to share faith.  Take a moment and look at these items in a story telling way.  Let others know in the conversation how this piece came into your life and why it is important in your faith life.  Don’t be surprised if the person you encounter shares a faith story in return.   

From the final lines of the Decree, companionship and encouragement can be found for all of us who share our faith. “The council Fathers together with the Roman Pontiff, feeling deeply their duty to spread everywhere the Kingdom of God, lovingly salute all heralds of the Gospel...”

This article appeared in the March/April issue of Northeast Ohio Catholic Magazine, published by the Diocese of Cleveland in Cleveland Ohio, USA

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Vatican II - We All Are Called To Be Evangelists

Evangelization takes love and courage.  It takes the work of all of us, Jesus’ many disciples to evangelize.  As Jesus told his first disciples to “Go and make disciples”, who went and did, and so we are here today, by virtue of our baptism, chosen and called to do the same.   However, for many people the idea of evangelizing seems frightening.  Some feel they are ill-equipped.  

Some would say, “Evangelize?  How am I supposed to do that?”  Please be assured discipleship is for everyone.  The first disciples were chosen from all walks of life.  We have been chosen by God too and every one of us can evangelize. We are loved, we are chosen and we are equipped.  We just need to try, to start somewhere, do something. 

First, reflect in your heart and remember God loves you; feel this deeply.  With prayer and contemplation remember always the love you are able to share and your faith comes from this immense and constant source of love.  Consider this question from Pope Francis, “For if we have received this love, how can we fail to share it with others?”

Sharing faith and God’s love is simple when starting with those nearest to us; those we love.  Our vocational choices call us to a life in relationship with others.  An opportunity to share our faith with the adults who we know closely and to apprentice children, particularly if they are our own, as Mary and Joseph modeled with Jesus.  Mary taught Jesus about the faith and Joseph taught him the trade.  Together, they loved him into faith and sent him forth into the world to do God’s work.  The work of evangelization is the same today.  It is about sharing our love and faith joyfully, making disciples right where we are in our homes. 

Once we practice and model evangelization in our homes it is easy to go out and do the same.  We are equipped for evangelization by belonging, believing and practicing in a faith community, keeping our faith within the church alive so that in strength we can together “Go and make disciples” within our wider community and throughout the world. 

Many people know nothing about Jesus Christ right in our own communities.  Look around.  Evangelizing with them is first about building a trusting relationship, then answering their questions while joyfully sharing your love of God and your reasons for hope in Jesus Christ.  Please have courage.  God has given you all you need. 

Everyone can evangelize if we remember God’s love within us, the Holy Spirit alive among us and Jesus’ promise, “I am with you always.”

Over the next year, through this publication, we will be looking at the contributions made since Vatican II from Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.  Through what they offered in their writings on evangelization, together we hopefully will learn what the church is calling us to and put it into action.

This article was co-authored by Bishop Richard Lennon and Terrie Baldwin.  It appeared in the January/February, 2017 issue of Northeast Ohio Catholic Magazine published by the Diocese of Cleveland in Cleveland Ohio.

Friday, July 8, 2016

How To Guide for Festival Evangelizing

It’s summertime and from the inner city, to the suburban parishes and all the way into the countryside, it’s FESTIVAL TIME!  This includes community square events, parish carnivals, county fairs and more…  You don’t want to miss this opportunity to evangelize with those in the community; to build trusting relationships, answer questions of the curious about faith in Jesus Christ and deepen the faith of those who stop by.  To aid in building relationships, here are some effective practices shared by some parish communities around the Diocese of Cleveland:

The Space

Whether it’s out in the open, under an overhang or in a tent, create an inviting presence as your Church welcoming area. 

The Volunteers

Find compassionate  volunteers who understand their role is to build trusting relationships and are willing to create positive relationships with those who stop by who belong to the church and especially to those who do not.   Volunteers who are willing to listen first and then share either their own personal story about how faith in Jesus Christ has influenced their life or are willing to answer a question for someone who is either just curious or seeking faith.  

Please note:  Volunteers don’t need to know all the answers someone might ask, so having at least one person who has a greater knowledge or education in the faith, such as a lay ecclesial minister, Deacon or Priest on board or nearby always helps.  If that isn’t possible, have a piece of paper available to write down their name, number or e-mail and passing it on to someone who knows the answer and let them know someone will get back to them.

The Tangibles

Here are some of the tangibles that could be used to enhance the possibility of people entering the area and interacting with the volunteers.  (In parenthesis, included are the websites used to find some of these materials.)

Life Sized Pope Francis cut-out inviting people to “Take a Pic with the Pope” (

Create a “Free Enter to Win” Card to win an Outdoor Garden Statue (Ask your local religious goods store and in return put their name next to the stature. And be sure to include phone or e-mails on the free entry form so that you can add them to your database(s) to invite to future events.) 

Create an “I would like to pray for…” cards to put in a Prayer Bucket or Fishbowl to place on the altar to have the community pray for after the event. 

Votive Candles placed on a stand creates a prayer offering space; add a religious picture such as Our Lady of Lourdes or Our Lady of Guadalupe above or next to area. (

Rosaries as well as small booklets on how to pray the rosary both in adult and children versions are excellent giveaways for faith sharing. (Ask for donations from parishioners before the event or

Offer a variety of brochures on church related questions and information on annulments.  ( and the diocesan Tribunal)

Faith related CD’s, DVD’s, Books or Booklets are also good ways to provide information to those who are seeking faith. (

Children’s religious items such as pens, stuffed crosses, cross key chains, colorful beaded faith necklaces keep children happy and provide an early interest in faith. (

Church decals, medals of saints and prayer cards are also good giveaway items. (

Parish Information Sheets and Bulletins are good items to have as giveaways for people who may be interested in joining the faith or learning about the parish community.

Church Tours of about 15 minutes or less in length can be offered if the event is on parish grounds.

Be sure to include information about the parish’s upcoming events such as VBS, PSR or Parish, School or Adult Faith opportunities.

Use a standard Avery 5160 or 5161 label and create pages of labels.  Be sure to put a label with your church name, address, phone number, e-mail and website address on each of the items you give away.

Bulletin article requesting donations 3 - 6 months before the event

This summer we are doing an evangelizing campaign to positive relationships with those in our surrounding community at our [name location].  We are presently seeking the following new or like new donations to give away to those who come to use in this space:  rosaries, medals, prayer cards, votive candles, faith books, CD’s, DVD’s or children’s religious items.   We are also welcoming sponsorship gifts of cash to use in purchasing items as well.  If you can assist, please drop off your donation at [name space].  If you need more information contact: [Name, e-mail, phone number]. 
(Include picture of location in bulletin article if possible)

Concluding Thoughts
With just a small amount of space, requesting small donations from the parish community and finding some faith-filled volunteers, a welcoming presence can be created and used to help others come to faith and believe in Jesus Christ through the Catholic Church.

If you have additional effective evangelizing ideas for summer festival time, please comment below or  let me know so they can be shared with others at

Monday, June 20, 2016

Joyfully Witnessing in Cleveland

If you are living in Cleveland today, it’s hard not to be a joyful witness.  I never thought I’d see the day of a championship in this town.  No matter what your favorite team sport, 52 years is a long time to wait. 

After watching the Cav's win the NBA Finals championship game, I watched and cried along with the team and hundreds of thousands of others, listened to neighborhood fireworks, and, although it was late at night, I picked up my binging and ringing phone every time I got a new alert sharing the exciting news with those I love.  From my son’s “Wooooooo” text all the way from Alabama to my nephew’s phone call from New Jersey, sharing with me, his conviction that his dad (who passed away last year) had to have something to do with this special Father’s Day victory, one couldn’t help but share in this happiness and connect the love a joyful moment can bring to connect heaven and earth.

Continuing to watch the coverage on TV into the wee hours of the morning, I watched as the news stations had every reporter out there in multitude of locations asking so many questions trying to get every angle of the game; finding personal witness stories for the cause of this joy and how it all happened in their eyes.  The Cav’s coach, Tyronn Lue wished aloud his grandfather could have been there.  What an intergenerational moment it was watching LeBron James give his interview with his little girl in his arms and family by his side.  I watched player after player thanking friends and family for the gift of their support and love.  How beautiful it was to be an observer of so much familial love.
Apparently, this was the truth for many; turning to social media, Cav’s posts flooded everyone’s pages.  I saw a post from a friend who claimed to have “liked and shared” every Cav’s post on Facebook.  Joyful moments are meant to be liked and shared.  Turning to the religious side, Fr. Damian Ference, diocesan priest in the Diocese of Cleveland tweeted, “I think we should call this moment #TheResurrection.”  I paused there to note some similarities.
I considered the events of a story from long ago, where Mary Magdalene found an empty tomb and discovered Jesus in the garden instructing her to “Go and tell the others”.  Once she realized the joyous event she was witnessing in that moment, how could she not do so?  And, once that flicker of joy was fanned by sharing the Good News with the disciples--and carried on by disciples of every generation thereafter--how could we not in two thousand plus years have a full fire of hearts burning within us, a church guided by the Holy Spirit continuing to “go and tell the others”.   We are all called to be joyful witnesses.  As disciples, we are able to share the joy-filled event from every angle, from generation to generation, using every media we have, our lived experience of connections between heaven and earth.
As we experience the spreading of joyous news in our midst this week, let’s stop and notice how it feels, what we notice, and the infectious spread of joy; in these moments we will also learn how to joyfully witness to the Good News of the resurrection, the Good News of the Gospel.  These days offer us an extraordinary opportunity to learn more about HOW to be Joyfully Gifted disciples.

So today and throughout this week, fellow Clevelanders, in our spotlight moment, let us continue to be joyful witnesses to the Good News by connecting our faith experiences with this event of a championship win.  Let us continue to observe, listen, and learn techniques from one another on how to be joyful witnesses to one of the happiest moments this town has seen in 52 years.  Remembering, we are all called to be witnesses as we live our faith in Jesus Christ.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Linking You Up

It is my pleasure to serve the Diocese of Cleveland in being an instructor for the Catechesis and Evangelization course for the Diaconate Formation program.

At our last class, each person brought in a few of their favorite websites that could be used for Evangelization and Catechesis.  Impressed by the list, I thought I'd link you up too:

Official site of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
-          Includes daily readings, saints and an all and all good source for solid material about the Catholic Faith. 

USCCB Evangelization and Catechesis page:

Pope Francis’ Twitter account:
-          Official news and words from Pope Francis
-          Good source for youth and young adults
-          Get the truth from the Pope directly

St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology
-          Deep thoughts and insights
-          Class lessons on Matthew, Mary, Book of Romans, Genesis to Jesus, etc.
-          Archbishop Charles J Chaput O.F.M. Cap

Fr. John Riccardo’s site:
-          Homilies, Theology of the Body, Podcasts from the Pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Plymouth MI

Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Plymouth MI – related to above site

Word on Fire:
-          Bishop Robert Barron’s site + more
-          Good Catholic Content
-          Easy to understand especially for difficult concepts

Dynamic Catholic:
-          Simple catechesis and evangelization tools
-          CD’s and books to share
-          Series activities for Advent and Lent
-          Decision point – free videos on many topics

Lighthouse Catholic Video:
-          Subscription to get 4 CD’s per month
-          Shareable CD’s and MP3’s e-mailable

Busted Halo – Content from the Paulist Fathers for Evangelization:
-          Catholic teachings on current topics such as “You don’t know Jack” with Fr. Jack Collins C.S.P.
-          Subscription available to push information out to you

Sacred Space:
-          Jesuit Irish Prayer Site
-          Daily prayer reflections

Catholics Come Home:
-          Evangelization site for those who have been away from the faith
-          Witness stories
-          Promotional ads for the Catholic faith

Diocese of Cleveland Facebook Page:
-          Bishop Lennon’s Easter message - Joni Johnson’s Blog:
- is a Catholic-focused article and information portal from Catholic writers and bloggers who write about things Catholics are interested in, with 3 main categories - Faith, Life and What's Going On, from a perspective consistent with the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

Catholics Returning Home:
-          Resources for Catholics Returning Home program developed by Sally Mews

Process for engaging a parish community in returning Catholics to the faith:

Paulist Evangelization Ministries:
-          Resources for reaching the unreached in faith
-          Good Catholic resources, books and programs for evangelization

-          Resources on how to reach out to those who do not know Jesus Christ

RENEW International:
-          Catholic resources for small groups or small Christian communities

Office of Evangelization – Diocese of Cleveland:
-          Office of Evangelization website for the diocese of Cleveland
-          Includes diocesan vision, goals and resources for evangelization
-          Facebook page for Diocese of Cleveland Office of Evangelization
-          Spiritual Gift reflections by Sunday readings of the liturgical year
-          Evangelization ideas from the Director

Continue the chain by adding your favorite catechesis or evangelization website and a short note about why you chose it in the comments below.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Evangelizing Churches Ask: What About Christmas?

Evangelizing Churches Ask “What about Christmas?”

As we begin the season of Advent in our churches, our hearts turn to a season of preparation, as do our churches make preparation for Christmas. This change of liturgical seasons, may bring forth questions for evangelizing churches:

  • What can we do now to prepare our church to be welcoming this Christmas?
  • How can we encourage people to come to hear the Good News?
  • How can we bring the presence of Christ from our parish community to the hearts of everyone both on Christmas and after?

Here are some ideas from evangelization teams across the Diocese of Cleveland to help in answering these questions:


During Advent, use one of the weekend’s homilies to include a segment on how we can be a welcoming presence during the holidays.  Keith Strohm, speaker from the Catherine of Siena Institute, suggested in a talk in the Diocese of Cleveland on November 18th that a parish community leave the first 1/3 of the church pews open.  Have those who are regular attendees walk those who come less frequently to the open section, and then take their seats in the back.  While this may sound a little extreme for some, consider what welcoming gesture could be reasonably expected and shared this Advent with the parish community.

Create a pamphlet or door hanger highlighting this year’s Advent programs and activities, as well as Confession times, Communal Reconciliation Services, Mass Times for Christmas, Parish Office Hours, ways that people could assist those in need, as well as how someone in need can get assistance.  Ask volunteers to distribute door hangers in their neighborhoods (be sure to follow ordinances), or share a pamphlet with a friend or neighbor with a personal invitation.

Cluster partner, Area-wide, County-wide Ideas:

Join together to write a promotional ad of invitation to put in your local paper or online.
Check into and be present at local Christmas activities. 

Gift Giving: 

Have greeters or volunteers pass out a small gift at the end of Mass as people are leaving with the statement, “See you next week!” or “See you soon!” 

Items that could be used include a candy cane, prayer card or an inexpensive inspirational book, DVD, or CD (with a scriptural or pastor message stapled to it). 

Prepare for Christmas Masses:

Create a welcoming Christmas pew card including a place for contact information including names, addresses, e-mail address and phone.  Ask the question, “How can we help you…develop a relationship with Jesus Christ, pray for you, teach you, assist in getting connected or re-connected to the parish community etc.?”  Have prominent labeled boxes or baskets in all exit areas for these to be turned in to.

Promote Future Spiritual Growth Opportunities:

Be sure to include in announcements upcoming parish events and programs that people will want to look forward to in the coming months (or year).

Create a one page printed piece on upcoming and ongoing programs for people of all ages (0-99) to get involved in to enrich their spiritual lives, such as adult faith formation programs, children’s programs, mission or prayer opportunities, and other spiritually enriching opportunities.

If you have a program such as Catholics Returning Home, Awakening Faith, or ALPHA, designed to reach out to those who are not always here, be sure to promote it at Christmas.  This could be done through the homily, intercession, announcement or a brief after Communion witness.

Parish Website:

Post a Catholics Come Home commercial on your parish website with an invitation to those who may be away from the faith to feel welcome.

Be sure to post Mass Times and Confession schedules at an easy to see location on the front page.
Include a message from the pastor inviting all, and reminding parishioners that all are welcome and to invite a friend.

If you have any additional ideas, feel free to post below so that we may all enjoy a Joyful Christmas!

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