By RENEE WEBB
Living in a world that is deeply wounded, the facilitator of the Basic Evangelization Training offered June 30 in Sioux City told participants the answer to brokenness comes through Jesus.
A self-proclaimed revert, Adam Janke of St. Paul Evangelization Ministries explained he was baptized in the Catholic Church, grew up in the Lutheran Church and became an anti-Catholic Baptist in high school before being reintroduced to Catholicism as a young adult.
“There is such a fullness and joy of living as a Catholic,” said Janke, who presented the training at Mater Dei Parish – Immaculate Conception Church. “It is indescribable, the peace of the soul that you can have, as (Bishop) Fulton Sheen would describe, if they were to receive the sacraments. There is not one person on earth that God does not want to receive the Eucharist.”
The street evangelizer stressed the importance of all people going out into the world – in your families, at work, restaurants and other places in everyday life – to announce the Gospel because priests and parish staff cannot do it alone.
The training was sponsored by the Office of Evangelization, Discipleship and Family Life of the Diocese of Sioux City. Fred Shellabarger, director of that office, welcomed the 55 participants to the training.
Given the diocese has been going through restructuring due to Ministry 2025 pastoral planning, he stressed the next step in the process is evangelization.
“That’s why it is so important you be here so that we can all be on the same page and build going forward,” Shellabarger said. “We have to become a culture of evangelization. We have to become a culture of mission and have to become a culture of discipleship.”
Janke noted it was Pope Paul VI who said the church existed to evangelize. The late pope also stressed there is no true evangelization if Jesus is not proclaimed.
St. Paul Street Evangelization, the training facilitator noted, is dedicated to preaching the Gospel to all nations, taking the message of the Catholic faith to the streets and sharing it with others – family, friends or co-workers – in common places such as in their homes, at work, in restaurants or on the streets.
Pope Francis, Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have all said, stressed Janke, there is “an urgency for the new evangelization. This is where all of our energies need to be focused.”
The training provided tools and resources for Catholics to engage the culture in a simple, non-confrontational method of evangelization which involves making themselves available to the public to answer questions about the faith and to pray for those who request it.
While some of the attendees were parish staff, others were individuals who wanted to learn how to better share their faith with others. Some participants even came from other dioceses.
Jane Ingram of Danbury said she believes in the importance of evangelizing.
“I understand the priests can’t do it all and if everyone does their part, it’s easier that way,” said the St. Mary parishioner, who has a desire to help spread the sense of peace that comes with the faith. “I want to work on praying with people. I will go home and pray the rosary for someone, but it means more if you can pray with them at the time. I want to become more comfortable in sharing my faith with other people.”
Mary Lehr, director of faith formation at Mater Dei Parish – Nativity Church in Sioux City, attended because she believes evangelization is the heart of the church.
“I see our church moving in that direction and I want to be a part of that,” she said. “We are getting out there and meeting people where they are at – instead of having faith in a specific place like the church – we are reaching out.”
Deacon Mike McKeown of Sleepy Eye, Minn., works for the Diocese of New Ulm as the director of adult faith formation and in the healing ministry. He wanted to attend because they plan to host this training in the fall.
“What I really like about the presentation is that they make evangelization practical and something people can relate to – not one of those far out things that you would never have the courage to do,” he said.
After his first talk, Janke asked the participants to break down into small groups of four to six people so that they could practice sharing their own stories and personal testimonies with others. Throughout the day, he interspersed his talks, with small group exercises and sharing.
In one of Janke’s talks, he spoke of the importance of reaching out to others to get to know them, forming virtuous friendships, to earn the right to be heard. He offered several ideas for conversation starters such as handing out sacramentals like the Miraculous Medal, listening to their story and offering to pray with them.
Janke gave them tips on sharing the story of salvation, sharing their personal testimony and how to pray with others. Within the small groups, participants put these principles into action by telling their own faith stories and finding out about others. The day concluded with practicing praying with others.
“Prayer has a powerful effect, it brings people in communion with Jesus, introduces them to Jesus,” said Janke, who urged them not to be afraid to pray with others right on the spot rather than merely saying you will pray for them.