Shining a light on evangelization
Two parishes in the Diocese of Wichita have begun taking action on Bishop Carl A. Kemme’s pastoral priority: “Formation in Evangelization in order to Preach the Gospel to all People.”
Jackie Arnold is helping Sacred Heart Parish in Arkansas City and St. Patrick Parish in Kingman move forward on Bishop Kemme’s vision of helping the faithful “become fully alive as missionary disciples.”
Arnold, a member of St. Pat’s, Kingman, is assisting both parishes to become more fully alive through the L’Alto Catholic Institute of Denver which partners with parishes “to implement a strategic process for changing the culture of your parish by forming disciples.”
She became interested in L’Alto because of its mission to put evangelization into the hands of parishes, she said. “And the parishes really are the first and most frequent encounter people have with the faith.”
Everyone deserves a life-changing relationship with Jesus, Arnold said, adding that parishes often need to be a bit more equipped about how to do that in our technology-oriented world. “I just kind of fell in love with that mission, which is what parishes do at a very basic level, to help make people holy and help call them on to the mission of evangelization in the church.”
Her work with the parish starts with the pastor to help him assess the parish’s strengths and needs. “And if he’s excited about evangelization in his parish, then it’s going to catch on,” she said.
The next step is to build an evangelization team – six to eight people. “We try to build a vision for the parish, a workable vision that invites people to…encounter the Lord in a meaningful and transformative way…to learn the habits of being a disciple and what that means in the life of the church, and to respond to that encounter.”
Father Patrick Reilley, the former pastor of Sacred Heart, Arkansas City, began working with Arnold before he was assigned additional studies in Rome. Fr. Samuel Brand succeeded him and is continuing the evangelization process there. She is working with Fr. Andrew Walsh at St. Pat’s in Kingman.
Arnold said her work includes leadership training to help participants share testimony about their faith, teach them how to lead a small group, how to discern spiritual gifts, to pray, and what is necessary to put a parish on the path to evangelize.
It takes about nine months to get the team organized and ready to implement the plans they have formulated, she said. “My goal is to really empower them to take this mission and this vision and put it into practical steps the parish needs so that they can continue onward.”
The first couple of months involves behind-the-scenes work, she said, including preparation and training for the team. The vision is presented to the parish during a rollout weekend. The pastor promotes the vision and follow-up weekends are designed to increase participation.
“It allows parishioners some time to pray about and discern where they are at in the encounter-follow-respond path. Then, hopefully, it invites them to make a commitment to one of those,” Arnold said.
They are being called to respond to the call of their baptism in their parish, she said.
A reciprocal relationship will result, Arnold added. The parish will serve its parishioners and parishioners will discern how to serve the parish with their Catholic faith.