Sunday, November 30, 2014

Inspiring a Parish Community - A Five Week Process

Inspiring a Parish Community:

One challenge faced by many evangelization teams is how do they invite those who are away from the faith to a program or process designed to reunite them with their Catholic faith? How do we reach those who are not in the pews? How do we inspire the parish community to personally invite those we love who are away?
The following is a New Evangelization idea, a five week parish process designed to be done in the context of the weekend Mass, with the support of the Pastor, to hopefully move the hearts of the faithful in a parish community to reach out to those who are away from the church.  

Week 1: Advise the faith community that you are doing an informal survey on evangelization. Ask those present at Mass to raise their hands if they know of someone who is away from the Catholic Church. Thank them for their participation.

Week 2: Let the faith community gathered know, based on last week’s survey that this week we will be praying for those who are away from the church with an intercessory prayer today. Ask that during this week, we begin to pray at home also for those away from the church.

Week 3: Ask the parish community to write on an index card provided (in the pews) the first name of anyone they know who is away from the church. Collect the index cards at offertory and display them in a glass jar or basket.  Include an intercessory prayer and do a blessing over the jar or basket.  

Week 4: Share with the parish community, in addition to recognizing the need of prayers, we need a way to welcome and invite people back to the church through personal invitation. Let the parish community know of the upcoming program or process and request their help in extending the invitation to those who they know, those whose names were put on the index card, or who have been prayed for over the past two weeks. Have flyers for the program or process in the pew or gathering area to be used as an invitation. Ask all to continue praying for those away from the church.

Week 5: Thank the parishioners for their support and prayers for those we love and for their participation in this evangelization effort and do one last reminder of the program or process to begin this coming week. Ask all to continue to keep those who are away from the faith in their prayers.

This process could be done during a parish announcement time following the Prayer after Communion or as part of the homily, or wherever it would seem most appropriate for the parish.

Love Brings People to Faith

“Love” is the simple word that comes to mind in considering what brings people to the faith.  In the work of evangelization here are five ways people come to the faith through love:
  1. Through family relationships where one or more family members love the faith so much and love a family member so much they cannot help but share it.  Such as a parent who has their child baptized as an infant.  Or a family who is joined together through marriage sharing the faith.   Or by a lifelong witness of a spouse.
  2. The love of a friend or fiancé may bring someone to join the faith.
  3. A loving parish community attracts people to the faith as well.   A person sees the loving acts and outreach of a community and is attracted to join and be a part.
  4. A person hears the loving call of God directly and finds themselves at the door of a church.
  5. And, this year for the first time we are hearing it is the loving heart of Pope Francis that is bringing people to the faith.

Jeanne Marie Miles, Director of Worship is quoted in an article for the National Catholic Register.   “Pope Francis’ history of simple living, combined with his rejection of some of the more worldly trappings of the papacy, has, for many, made conforming oneself to Christ and living as a Catholic relevant to the unchurched; indeed, to cradle-Catholics as well,” said Jeanne Marie Miles, the Director of the Cleveland Diocese’s Office of Worship. “Like his namesake, Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis is leading by example, and many are following.”
In a follow-up television piece with Currents and out of the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens in New York, I was asked to share a few words on the “Francis Effect”:

In Joy to the Gospel, Pope Francis describes “the Church which ‘goes forth’ is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice.  An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first. (cf.1 Jn4:19)…”  At the Diocese of Cleveland we are truly blessed to have an increase of 25% more people coming into the faith this year.   We have taken the first step and will hopefully be blessed by the Holy Spirit to continue to be missionary disciples, in lovingly bringing people to the faith and love of God and salvation through Jesus Christ.

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