This plan of introducing and implementing Catholic evangelization in the parish has three phases: Education, Transformation, and Outreach. The core team undergirding this is called the “E-Team” – E for evangelization.
The Education Year utilizes every means to educate the whole parish about the mission of the Church and what Catholic evangelization means, including pulpit talks, evening seminars, newsletter and website articles.
The Transformation Year enhances every parish ministry’s already existing evangelization mission while developing an attitude of evangelization in parishioners through faith formation courses and seminars.
The Outreach Year takes this ministry beyond church-going parishioners to inactive Catholics, while education and transformation for active parishioners continues unceasingly.
COMMUNICATING THE GOOD NEWS
The success of this plan relies on working closely with a Communications Ministry. The Parish Communications Director should oversee a periodical newsletter, frequently-updated website, materials that are given to newcomers, press releases sent to local newspapers, email announcements sent to parishioners who subscribe to a parish mailing list, bulletin inserts that describe upcoming special events using good advertising skills, and all other means of communicating.
This Communications Director should see her/himself first as an evangelizer who uses a variety of communications tools to invite people to the special events that the parish holds, targeting active Catholics, inactive members who have registered but don’t attend Mass, inactive Catholics who can only be reached via the secular media, and non-Catholics who attend Mass with Catholic family members and are potential candidates for RCIA.
The Communications Director should also see her/himself as a coordinator of all methods of getting the word out, collaborating with all other parish ministries to obtain faith-based material and information about upcoming events for the newsletter and the website and assigning it to those who work in these media, and relaying this information to target audiences by using the full range of communication tools.
Year 1 – EDUCATION
Utilize every means to educate the whole parish about what Catholic evangelization means.
- Form an Evangelization Team, nicknamed “the E-Team”, of parishioners who:
- are interested in being trained in Catholic evangelization
- are able to connect with other parish organizations when collaboration is needed
- will examine their personal gifts and talents and how they might be used in the mission of evangelization after Year 1
- in some cases will become trainers after Year 1
- will serve as spokespersons for the Evangelization Ministry
- will be actively involved in the Evangelization Ministry’s parish events
- Educate the parish at-large about:
- what Catholic evangelization is
- the goals of the bishops’ plan, “Go and Make Disciples”
- the pope’s call for a “new evangelization”
- Educate all parish ministries and organizations about:
- what they are already doing that is evangelistic
- how to understand their ministries in view of the Church’s mission to evangelize
- the value of collaborating with other parish ministries to better accomplish their own goals
Year 2 – TRANSFORMATION
Enhance every parish ministry’s evangelization mission and develop parishioners into evangelizers.
- Evangelization Team members get involved in other parish ministries to:
- assist them in their own evangelization mission
- serve as liaisons between the other ministries and the Evangelization Ministry
- provide resources and continued formation/education in the mission of outreach
- Provide formation in evangelization to the parish at-large through seminars, retreats, and courses on:
- Church documents about evangelization
- the Sermon on the Mount and other scriptures pertaining to outreach and ministry
- faith-sharing and giving personal witnesses
- Increase involvement in Small Christian Communities:
- promote faith sharing as part of evangelization, during each event of #2
- provide sign-up opportunities at each event
- include small group faith sharing opportunities in each event
- Evangelization Team members get involved in other parish ministries to:
Year 3 – OUTREACH
Take this ministry beyond church-going parishioners to inactive Catholics, while education and transformation for active parishioners continues; this phase never ends.
- Evangelization Team members train and assist an Outreach Team to:
- make home visits to newly registered parishioners
- make home visits to inactive, registered parishioners
- personally invite others to join SCCs
- send cards from the parish to those who are ill, homebound, bereaved, newly married, or have babies being baptized
- be good welcomers and greeters at Mass and other parish functions
- match the talents and skills of parishioners to ministries and parish organizations that need volunteers, and personally invite them to get involved
- reach out to parents of children enrolled in Religious Education classes
- Evangelization Team members continue to work with other ministries:
- assisting the Liturgy Commission in finding appropriate ways to evangelize within the Mass
- being involved in and promoting SCCs
- communicating what the Evangelization Ministry is doing and why
- educating the volunteers/members of other organizations on how they are called and gifted for the mission of evangelization within their own ministries
- providing evangelization resources according to the needs of each ministry
- Spiritual formation continues for the parish at-large to:
- increase awareness of everyone’s role in evangelization
- invite more people to conversion and growth
- develop new members for the Evangelization and Outreach Teams
- increase involvement in Small Christian Communities
How to Develop an Outreach Program
Outreach Ministry: the parish’s door-to-door evangelization program
Home Visitor: a parishioner who visits inactive Catholics
Caring Friend: a Home Visitor who continues to reach out after the initial visit
Inactive Catholic: anyone registered in the parish, who–at most–attends Mass irregularly and/or does little more than drop their children off for Religious Education.
The Evangelized: the inactive Catholics who have been visited
Evangelization Teams: Small Christian Communities that are focused on evangelization, which every Home Visitor is asked to join
Preparing the Home Visitors
Before parishioners can effectively invite inactive Catholics to church, they themselves must first be evangelized to grow beyond whatever level of spirituality they have already achieved. They need to be invited to:
- Increase their understanding of the Catholic faith
- Grow in their love for the people whom they will be visiting
- Be inspired to serve in door-to-door ministry, and later be re-inspired, so that the number of those involved in this outreach will climb instead of drop.
Preparing the Parish
The parish should be a community that appeals to inactive Catholics. This can be accomplished by:
- Giving inactive Catholics a packet of information that includes a list of parish services, organizations, activities, etc., with descriptions that reveal how the parish addresses the needs that inactive Catholics perceive themselves to have, eg., how the parish helps people who are hurting or searching for acceptance.
- Preparing parish organizations to follow-up the home visits. They will be taught how to utilize their particular gifts and ministries to invite the Evangelized to avail themselves of whatever their organizations offer.
- Planning social-spiritual activities that make newcomers feel valued and welcomed, such as monthly receptions with free refreshments after Masses.
- Educating regular parishioners about their role in evangelization, teaching them to genuinely care about their pew-neighbors and the people they meet in coffee-donut fellowship time and other social events.
- Training liturgy greeters to welcome people with warmth.
- Utilizing or establishing a Welcoming Committee that is given the task of finding new ways to make a parish feel like a family.
Three-step Plan to Activate the Home Visitation Ministry
There are three stages of effective evangelization. Before the Home Visitors and the parish as a whole can lead inactive Catholics through these stages, the parish itself must go through them.
1. Pre-evangelization (do a needs assessment)
Members of the Parish Evangelization Ministry should meet with parish organizations, asking: “What needs for evangelization are you aware of and how do you think the parish can meet those needs?” A group discussion will follow with the evangelization team explaining what evangelization really is and what the goals are for the parish. These meetings will inspire more people to become interested in visiting inactive Catholics and they will start preparing the organizations to get involved in the follow-ups.
2. Direct Evangelization
The parish will sponsor and promote various faith formation events such as Parish Missions that have evangelization as their theme. During these, participants will be invited to become involved in evangelization outreach, including the home visitation ministry.
3. On-going Catechesis
Parishioners who sign up for Outreach Ministry should be given the following types of education.
- Use Go and Make Disciples by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and other resources. This training should include listening skills, how to communicate love and caring, faith sharing, practice sessions, an overview of situations the Home Visitors might encounter, and an outline of how the parish’s organizations will follow-up the visits.
- Evangelization Team Meetings, held weekly, should serve as support groups (Small Christian Communities) in which members share insights gained from outreach experiences. The Holy Living Bible Study on the Sermon on the Mount or Breaking Open the Word of Faith, published for Good News Ministries by Catholic Digital Resources can be used for discussion starters. These meetings may include parishioners who are not involved in the Outreach Ministry, as long as they are interested in evangelization in some form.
- One-evening seminars on the Catholic faith using a variety of Church documents for study materials. These should be advertised to the whole parish, to continually add new members to the Evangelization Teams.
- Occasional retreats to renew the enthusiasm and commitment of the Home Visitors and to inspire other parishioners to get involved in evangelization.
Three-step Plan to Activate the Inactive Catholics
The Home Visitors should be trained to inspire inactive Catholics to enter into the journey of the three stages of evangelization. The whole parish can be involved.
1. Pre-evangelization (inspiring inactive Catholics)
The first inactive Catholics to be contacted are those with children undergoing sacramental preparation in Religious Education classes. Later, the Home Visitors will contact the parents of other Religious Education students. Lastly, they will contact all others who have registered in the parish but only attend Mass irregularly at best. Also, parishioners may submit the names of people they know who are not attending church or who are curious about the Catholic faith and who live within the parish boundaries.
- The Home Visitors place phone calls to inactive Catholics, asking permission to stop by with materials from the church and to answer questions they might have about the parish.
- The homes will be visited, at the rate of one or two families per week per Home Visitor. The Visitor will primarily let the families know that the parish cares and is committed to serving them. He/she will listen to and observe the people, looking for needs that exist to which the parish can minister. He/she will ask permission for the church to help with those needs.
- The Home Visitors will serve as liaisons between the parish and inactive Catholics they visited, contacting the organizations, priests or personnel best suited for handling the needs that were observed during the visits.
- The Home Visitors will become Caring Friends, calling the Evangelized to thank them for the time they shared and to inform them of the progress of the parish’s follow-up. When possible, the Home Visitors will cultivate friendships with the Evangelized.
2. Direct Evangelization
Parish organizations and personnel will continue what the Home Visitors began by responding to the needs of the Evangelized and their families.
- Compile a mailing list of the Evangelized. The Welcoming Committee or other organization will send them birthday cards, sympathy cards, holiday cards, etc., on behalf of the priests and parishioners.
- Send invitations to retreats, parish missions, special Masses, social events, etc. to the Evangelized for at least two years after the first home visit.
- Whenever the Home Visitors see a positive response to the visits, they will call the Evangelized as Caring Friends, to personally invite them to attend social and spiritual events at the parish, and they will be ready to share their own spiritual journeys if encouraged to do so.
3. On-going Catechesis
The parish will provide seminars, courses, retreats, parish missions, etc., to continually feed the spiritual appetites of those who have returned to the Church.
We also have free resources for developing Small Christian Communities, which are designed to be part of a comprehensive Catholic parish evangelization process
To inquire about bringing the author, Terry Modica, to your parish to give a retreat for your evangelization team or a parish mission, contact her on our events inquiry page.