By RENEE WEBB
ALGONA – Catholics seeking to learn how to effectively share their faith with others have a second opportunity to attend Basic Evangelization Training by the St. Paul Evangelization Institute.
About 55 people attended the same training offered in late June in Sioux City and now it will be offered from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sept. 8 at St. Cecelia Church in Algona.
“Not everyone could attend on June 30, so we thought we would try again for September before harvest comes,” said Fred Shellabarger, diocesan director of evangelization. “They are doing a great job in Algona and have an evangelization team.”
With St. Cecelia hosting the event, he said it was a way to partner with the parish, recognize the good they are doing and strengthen them for the future.
“This is the direction we need to go as a diocese,” said Shellabarger, who noted the training is open to anyone in the diocese. “We are called to evangelize. Pope Paul IV, who will be canonized this year, said the church existed to evangelize. That’s our fundamental identity.”
Father Ed Girres, pastor of the parishes that make up the V Saints Catholic Community of which St. Cecelia is a part of, wanted to host this training session because he realizes the old ways of evangelizing don’t work.
“I really want a core group of our parishioners to learn the art of evangelizing in the present day situation. It was a long way to go for the first workshop in Sioux City for our V Saints Catholic Community, so I wanted to have it handy in order to get more people to participate,” the pastor said. “Of course, I am concerned not just for ‘our’ parishes, but for all the parishes in our diocese.”
The priest cited a sobering statistic: for every one new Catholic, statistics show that the church loses 6.45.
“This is a critical issue for the church at large and our parishes. I believe we have to become evangelizing parishes to turn this trend around. Sometimes people blame us, the parish or the church, for losing people. Yes, maybe we don’t do everything the best or are not the most welcoming communities, but the real issues are the trends in our culture and society,” said Father Girres, who mentioned the individualistic culture as just one of the challenges of the times.
Sponsored by the diocese’s Office of Evangelization, the training will be led by Adam Janke, vice president of St. Paul Street Evangelization. The focus of the training is to help Catholics evangelize in everyday life.
“Sharing your faith can seem like a daunting task, yet each of us is called to be a part of this great mission of the church,” Janke said. “As lay people, we are uniquely called to share our faith in the ordinary circumstances of the world.”
The street missionary noted the apostolate has more than 300 teams of “ordinary Catholics” who go out into the public square and walk with people towards a relationship with Jesus and his church.
“We’ve learned a lot through tens of thousands of conversations, and I will bring those stories with me, to share what went well and sometimes what didn’t go so well,” Janke said.
The training facilitator said Pope Francis reminds Catholics of the story of the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in John 4. She became a missionary immediately after speaking with Jesus and then helped others come to believe in him through her testimony.
Janke also referenced the words of Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel), “Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love.”
While Shellabarger would especially like to see clergy, parish leaders, catechetical leaders and catechists attend the training, he said anyone would benefit.
“Every baptized Catholic should be there because we are all called to evangelize,” he said. “The way Adam presents, it’s not just for street evangelization; it’s basic principles of evangelization that apply in every situation in life.”
The workshop will cover topics of icebreakers, befriending, listening to people, basic etiquette associated with evangelization, making the conversation about faith a normal conversation, sharing the story of salvation and personal testimonies, praying with people and more.
Participants will learn the foundation of evangelization and simple, effective methods to share their faith with anyone. Plus, they will leave with tools and resources to start sharing the faith right away and have membership in St. Paul’s online training site that offers access to hundreds of resources.
“It’s why we evangelize, how to evangelize and good principles to apply wherever we are,” said Shellabarger.
If you sign up by Sept. 4, cost of the workshop including lunch and materials is $25. Later registrations and even those at the door will be accepted for $35; however, Shellabarger said early registration is preferable for meal count.
Register at stpaulse.com/Algona or call (657) 777-2963.