Mission critical: Seminar offers chance to hear from nationally recognized groups

On March 16, the Office for Lifelong Faith Formation and Parish Support is hosting a unique seminar at the pastoral center on "Strategies for Adult Evangelization" to enhance the efforts of Disciples in Mission. Nine dynamic and highly successful discipleship programs will present their unique methods for evangelization, including Alpha, Evangelical Catholic, Light of the World, Cursillo, Christ Renews His Parish, ChristLife, Word on Fire, Formed, and Renew.

Why is the mission critical? The fastest growing religion in America is the "nones," meaning those who have no religious affiliation whatsoever. Many local adults grew up in a culturally Catholic New England. Faith was inherited from our parents and neighbors, but over time the temperature shifted and many grew increasingly indifferent. Where are all the baptized now? A good many have simply drifted away while others have purposefully left the Church for one reason or another. The climate may be warming but the faithful are sometimes cool to Christ's invitation to a personal relationship with him and his bride, the Church.

The Pew research in Sherry Weddell's "must read" book, "Forming Intentional Disciples," states that "only 48 percent of Catholics were absolutely certain that the God they believed in was a God with whom they could have a personal relationship." Despite this finding, the majority of Catholics ages 69 and above still show up to worship. Thankfully, their cultural memory is intact. Yet, the study went on to point out that the drop in Mass attendance for younger Catholics is in direct correlation to belief in whether they can have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Hence, if there is no real relationship experienced, they won't show up.

Millennials, those now 18-35 years old, report that their heroes are their parents. If this is true, then they are more likely to adopt their parents' views of the world as well as their faith practices or lack thereof. What are our children learning if we drop them off for faith formation classes but rarely show up to worship the Lord? Or never talk about Christ at home? Or demonstrate His immense and gratuitous desire to be in relationship with each one of us?

It is crucial that we shift away from a maintenance ministry model which relies on serving up "once size fits all" programming. We need an expression that respects the reality that people are at very different stages in their faith journey. Offering a prayer group or Bible/book study is certainly worthwhile but what if I am not ready for that? If I am on the fringes of the parish, those seemingly "inside" groups can be intimidating. What if I am searching for other answers to questions like -- what's the meaning of life, why should I believe in God, what's this plan He has for my life? What if I've become so distracted that I can no longer hear God's call?

The seminar on March 16 will be a great opportunity to explore how to shift the paradigm for adult evangelization, but first we have to be open to the idea that a shift is needed. In 1979, St. John Paul II challenged both the Latin Episcopate and all of us to a new evangelization, one that is "new in ardor, methods, and expression." The strategies and tools presented will help us meet that challenge.

Please consider joining the conversation either 12-3 p.m. or 6-9 p.m. complete with lunch/dinner. There will be a brief overview by each representative followed by two, 30-minute breakout sessions to dive deeper into the strategies that most interest you. This seminar is sponsored by the Secretariat for Evangelization and Discipleship. To reserve a spot, go to the Office for Lifelong Faith Formation page at www.BostonCatholic.org and look for upcoming events and click to register or just contact Liz Cotrupi at 617-746-5761 or ecotrupi@rcab.org.