Much of what is covered in ESE resonates with the Archdiocese of Boston's emphasis on evangelization that is the foundation of our pastoral plan Disciples in Mission.
Over the past few years, the Office of Pastoral Planning has met with visitors from out of the archdiocese who want to hear -- first hand -- what is happening in Boston and what Disciples in Mission is really about. In addition to (arch)dioceses in the United States, guests from other countries have spent time with the Pastoral Planning and Evangelization staff too. Recently, Jason Trepanier met with Father Paul Soper, Cabinet Secretary for Evangelization and Discipleship, Patrick Krisak, Director of Training and Support and Tom Lyman, Evangelization Trainer. M. Trepanier and his wife are the directors of the Ecole Pour Servir L'Evangelisation (School to Serve Evangelization) or ESE for the Diocese of Versailles, France. In 2010-2011 the Diocese of Versailles held a synod and among the findings of the synod was the need and desire to better understand and promote the New Evangelization.
Four years ago, when their school was just in the planning stage, M. Trepanier was in Boston and met with Bishop Arthur Kennedy, Episcopal Vicar for the New Evangelization and Michael Lavigne, currently Assistant Cabinet Secretary for Evangelization and Discipleship. ESE is now up and running, and has been in operation for three years. To date, the program has served a dozen parishes and several diocesan offices. They work in parishes with clergy, parish staffs, and council members. The diocesan website describes ESE as, "a traveling team ... which serves the parishes, diocesan services (offices), movements and groups of the diocese." This has a familiar ring to us in Boston. Their team introduces people to evangelization and new evangelization, and deepens an understanding of it in today's context. It challenges and invites participants to be creative missionaries and encourages growth in personal holiness and transformation. M. Trepanier requested the meeting with members of the Boston team, "to discuss and better understand your methods and tools as well as the fruits that you are seeing."
ESE is a two-year program, divided into three stages. The preparation stage looks at the participants' current understanding of evangelization. This is followed by a weekend retreat designed to revive faith, provide language, and build courage to witness to the faith -- developing a "boldness to preach." The weekend also aims to stimulate a missionary attitude in parishioners. The third stage goes deeper. In this final stage people are encouraged to identify the changes that they need to make in their own lives in order to be disciples and authentic messengers of the Good News. Flowing naturally from this is appropriating the skills to be missionary disciples and helping others grow in friendship and prayer with Jesus Christ. The fruit of this will be missionary programs that continue the work. They have developed a DVD program for parishes that are several years out from beginning ESE, and they have also developed a "language laboratory" to look at how people talk about faith, how the Church talks about faith, and how to communicate better with others about faith.
Much of what is covered in ESE resonates with the Archdiocese of Boston's emphasis on evangelization that is the foundation of our pastoral plan Disciples in Mission. Referring to the evangelization workshop Forming Disciples in Mission offered here regularly, M. Trepanier noticed "the training sessions and proposals that have been developed by your archdiocese, their purpose seems similar to the program we are trying to deploy."
Summing up the meeting, Patrick Krisak notes, "The New Evangelization is about conversion. They (Diocese of Versailles) are committed to the idea that the parish is the place for it to happen." Patrick appreciates that ESE is a two-year program. "It isn't about evangelization events -- it isn't two weeks, but two years of working for conversion."
Boston and Versailles are somewhat similar. The Versailles Diocese was established in 1801, and the Boston Archdioceses in 1808. Recent statistics show 287 parishes, the same number as Boston. It is flattering to be asked about our programs and plans, but, guarding against a false pride, Father Paul Soper cautions: "We're not innovators -- we're certainly ahead of the curve, but this (evangelization) is the message of the Church, and it's not new." So, now along with the Broken Bay, Australia, and Dublin, Ireland, we add Versailles, France, to the list of dioceses outside of the United States with whom we have a mutual prayer agreement.
Susan Abbott is the former Coordinator of Parish Outreach for the Archdiocese of Boston's Office of Pastoral Planning.
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