By Jodi Marlin and Stephanie A. Patka
Atop of the list of goals for the third annual New Evangelization Summit was that of reinforcing believers’ motivation to share the gift that is the Catholic faith. That goal was checked off early on the weekend of May 12-13, when those seeking inspiration and tools for sharing that faith gathered at two sites in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and dozens of others throughout the U.S., Canada and Guatemala to, — as TV and radio host and author Peter Herbeck put it — “radically surrender to the Holy Spirit.”
Not only is evangelization “not just a hobby,” NES found Michael Dopp said, “it is the mission of the baptized.” After underscoring the urgency of evangelization in light of the world’s current tribulations, Herbeck reminded those in attendance that “God wants to elevate our faith: He will give us what we need to speak during the crucial time” if we would but attempt to share the Lord’s great love and mercy with others.
Participants heard from Sister Miriam James Heidland, SOLT, that the biggest obstacle to evangelization is “our own darkness” — our own sadness and guilt. They also learned techniques to overcome both active and passive rejection by others of the need for God’s presence and His mercy in their lives. Speakers during the motivational retreat/training conference also included Bishop Robert Barron, Father Michael White, catechist Meghann Baker, Evango Catholic Ministries found Patrick Sullivan and author Tom Corcoran
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades had encouraged attendance at the Friday evening and Saturday event, which was livestreamed from Ottawa, Canada, “as an impetus to our ongoing efforts to spread the Gospel with renewed energy and vigor, and especially through outreach to inactive Catholics and the unchurched.” Pope Francis has called the summit a “significant pastoral event” that provides inspiration and direction to those who wish to “proclaim ‘the joy of the Gospel’ in a spirit of missionary discipleship’.
Father White and Corcoran gave a joint presentation, and challenged participants to rethink their understanding of Jesus’ command to “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Corcoran said: “Jesus didn’t say, ‘Go out and play bingo,’ or ‘Go out and do middle school lock-ins’… He said, ‘Go make disciples.’ Disciples are students who are learning to love God, love others.” Father White followed up by saying, “when we lose our why, we lose our way.” Ask of yourself and your parish: is the event or work that I’m doing for the church actively helping to make new disciples? And if it’s not, consider why you are doing it in the first place.”
The duo also encouraged parishes around the world to describe and name the unchurched person in the community. “The work of evangelization can begin when you develop your church around the unchurched in your geographical area. Your zip code is your mission field, and your parish responsibilities extend to way more than just the people in the pews,” Father White said.
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