|Mary Star of the New Evangelization|
A few years ago, I was praying and I felt like God was asking me to start daily Eucharistic Adoration in my parish. Four (or five?) years later, it is still going strong, twelve hours a day. Certainly there are bumps in the schedule, but for the most part, it has been an incredible blessing to the parish. I did what I thought God was asking me to do and the people followed.
Along with that, I thought God was asking me really to let our parish be a place to pray for priestly vocations. We pray at almost every Mass for that intention and the adoration chapel is especially geared towards praying for vocations, seminarians, and priests. God has blessed us with numerous priestly vocations in the past few years. I did what I thought God was asking me to do and the people followed.
This came to mind the other evening when I was with a group of parishioners and mentioned a new idea that I think God may be placing in my heart. I'm not entirely yet convinced of the exact plan, but I feel like the Lord is asking me to do an all out offensive on Evangelization in both of my parishes. As I explained some of the ideas, one of my parishioners said, "Father, whatever you do, we'll follow you." Without knowing it, he brought a lot clarity to me about why we've been so successful over the past few years in our endeavors. It has to do with obedience. Obedience to God's will and obedience in following the shepherd that Christ has put in place in the parish. Even if not all of our plans turn out perfectly, those who have been actively engaged in the life of our parish for the past several years know that Jesus is doing something here in our midst. He's blessing us with some extraordinary graces. This is not meant to be a self-promoting commercial. It is just to say that when I try to be obedient and when the people try to be obedient, beautiful things happen.
Right now, I'm the pastor of one parish and school and the administrator of another parish. We are also in the process of trying to merge (either completely or in part) three parishes into one. All of these things involve countless meetings, emails, numbers, property concerns, budgets etc. Thankfully, we have solid lay people who are doing much of this work. But, it is time consuming for me. And, while it is all good, I don't want to spend my life simply planning for the future. I want to spend most of my time doing the work of the Kingdom here and now. So, what is my thought?
Well, I want both of my parishes to grow. Not just a little. I want them to grow big time. Not through gimmicks but through solid, faith-filled evangelization. Last night I was having dinner with a young man from the parish who is applying to the seminary. I told him about the idea and he said, "Father, just do it. This parish prays for vocations all of the time and here I am applying to the seminary. So, let's ask God to send hundreds of new parishioners. Maybe that is what he is waiting for--just to be asked."
Part of the reason for this blog post is my hope that maybe somebody will know something about this and get back to me. I'm thinking about a thing called Parish Evangelization Cells. Or other ways of going about Evangelization? What I like about this Evangelization Cell idea is that it engages the laity in the work of envangelization. Anyone have any experience in this--positive or negative? Basically, I know that I have to do something because God is putting this thing into my heart. I just need a solid way to go about it.
Whenever I and my people have been obedient to what I think the Lord is asking, the Lord has blessed it a hundredfold. So, I'm fairly confident that Jesus wants me to move forward on this one. I know the first place it starts is with prayer. But, we also need a strategy. So, if you know about these Evangelization Cells, I'd appreciate your thoughts. If you don't know, I'd still appreciate your prayers.
We Catholics possess the best news there ever will be. Sharing this good news is what we should be all about. The Holy Spirit ultimately is the one responsible for bringing persons to Christ. I'm tempted to give God a number . . . like a thousand new parishioners . . . but I think I better leave the numbers up to him. It begins with prayer and with obedience. So, I'm going to pray some more and I hope that my people do to. And then, if we know that God is speaking to us, then we should be obedient and "go out and make disciples."