Evangelization training

Training for Disciples in Mission parish collaboratives is divided into stages. Each stage is geared to a specific group within the collaborative and each group receives training in leadership and evangelization.

Evangelization training is part of the work of the Office for Lifelong Faith Formation and Parish Support (OLFFPS). Michael Lavigne, Director of the OLFFPS, describes this office as a place where each person has specific responsibilities but all work together as a team, leveraging the gifts of each person, and where each is aware of the projects that colleagues are working on. The office collaborates closely with the Pastoral Planning Office, using Disciples in Mission as the lens through which they work. They also solicit input from other offices in central ministry as they prepare to address specific topics.

In parish collaboratives, pastors, parochial vicars, deacons, parish staffs, leadership teams, parish councils, finance councils, and school boards, all participate in evangelization training. Patrick Krisak is Director of Parish Support and Training and oversees this training. He notes that in addition to their training work, the office is sometimes invited to conduct days of prayer or information sessions on the new evangelization for parishes that are not yet part of a collaborative. These gatherings provide a doorway for parishes to see the other services that the OLFFPS provides.

The goal of evangelization training is multi-faceted yet remarkably simple: bring people into a relationship with Jesus Christ, help parishes become real centers of the new evangelization, and form disciples who know how to evangelize. Disciples in Mission Phase I collaboratives were inaugurated in June 2013. Since that time Lavigne has worked with hundreds of clergy, religious, and lay people. He has seen some people struggle with the process of training for evangelization, and acknowledges that the language of evangelization and discipleship is new to some people. Others welcome the opportunity to think about evangelization and talk about it with other adults. The training provides the opportunity for participants to pause and look at what they are doing now. Then, they can look at what they want to do, personally and as a parish in a collaborative.

Evangelization training puts great emphasis on prayer, starting with the personal prayer life of each participant. From this foundation comes praying as a team -- the leadership team and councils. Parish staffs that are faithful to prayer and the sacraments produce good fruit for the entire parish. The OLFFPS models what it teaches. The staff comes together each week for eucharistic adoration, praying as a team for parishes in the collaboratives.

One of the challenges the evangelization trainers face is getting to know the parishes, learning what parishes need and how the office can serve and support them. And there are unexpected surprises. Things that seem simple, such as a new web design or bulletin format, sometimes are not so simple.

Krisak joined the OLFFPS in July, coming from the leadership team in the Beverly collaborative. He knows both sides of evangelization training: as a training participant from a collaborative team, and now as Director of Evangelization Training. He is quick to admit he is still learning, but notes that although all collaboratives are different, he sees patterns and similarities among them. He speaks easily about the signs of hope he sees during evangelization training: "People are visibly excited to talk about this [evangelization and discipleship] and excited when they see things that are working."

Lavigne agrees. He finds hope in the staffs that focus with intentionality, on discipleship and on Jesus Christ. This has a significant, positive, impact on parishes and collaboratives as a whole.

Phase I collaboratives are currently in stage five training. The Evangelization component is conducted at the collaborative. Lavigne, Krisak and trainers from the OLFFPS, Amber Ezeani, Kathryn Boyle, and Tom Lyman, are on the road weekdays, nights, and weekends, helping people grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ and develop the skills and confidence to evangelize. We pray for their safe travels and for the successful carrying out of Jesus' command, "Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations..." (Mt 28:19).

Susan Abbott is Coordinator of Parish Outreach for the Archdiocese of Boston's Office of Pastoral Planning.