The New Evangelization contemplates New Ardour, New Method and New Expression. In the Parish setting, the task is always to determine what that might look like. St Joseph’s Parish at Vanderhoof.B.C., a small rural community in the central interior of the Province of British Columbia, is tackling that very question as the community moves into the New Year. The Community, at its most recent annual general meeting, resolved to move from a maintenance orientation to mission. The New Evangelization requires that we reach out to the “churched” of the faith community as well as to the “unchurched” of the wider community. The major tool in facilitating evangelization is spiritual transformation. This means that we must seek to view our parish activities through the lens of discipleship. All of our endeavors must either flow from this new reality or flow into it. The “how” of creating “intentional discipleship” is, therefore, at the very heart of the process.
Change, of course, in parish life can be a delicate issue to manage. As Sherry Weddell records in her edited book “Becoming a Parish of Intentional Disciples”, “Navigating the waters of change takes prayerful attention to God’s presence in the community, knowledge of the fruit already present in the community, a visionary leader, and a willingness to involve many in the process”. We are blessed with a new Pastor in Fr. Pier Pandolfo, an experienced priest of the Diocese now ordained for 25 years, and a well balanced and active evangelization team.
We are also fortunate in the Diocese of Prince George to have had access to an evangelizing program called “Hearts Transformed” first offered during the period September 2016 to May 2017. Eleven members of our faith community enrolled in and completed the course, many of whom are on our Evangelization Team. This group of disciples, with others in our community, will be the vanguard, we hope, of still other members of our community who will experience the spiritual transformation requisite to discipleship. In a very real sense therefore, mindful of the graces visited on us by the Holy Spirit, we have already witnessed the beginning of our move to become a parish of intentional disciples and are on our way to mission.
The uncomfortable dilemma many of our community members face is reflecting on the question “Are you satisfied with an average life?” or to put it another way “How is God calling you to be the best version of yourself?” Facing that question is a pivotal step in moving towards discipleship. The challenge we face in leadership therefore is to determine how we communicate an event or experience we are planning in a way that parish outsiders or insiders will understand, will be challenged by and will welcome.
Our community leadership has fashioned its response in terms of outreach as follows:
- For the Churched:
- To design paths to discipleship that are owned, supported and sustained by members of our parish community;
- To form individuals to discern their charisms or vocations;
- To assist individuals to commit their entire life to Jesus.
- For the Unchurched:
- To facilitate the transmission of the faith;
- To encourage the Churched to proclaim the Kerygma- “Jesus loves you, He died for you and He wants to be in relationship with you;
- To provide Catechesis in a systematic way.
In 2018, St Joseph’s will be offering the following outreach programs, among others;
- “Alpha”, commencing the 19th of September, 2018 targeting the unchurched and specifically the millennial generation;
- “Awakening Faith”, commencing the 8th of April 2018 targeting inactive Catholics and others by way of invitation to either rediscover their faith or grow in it;
- “Hearts Transformed”, to be scheduled in consultation with participants, as a vehicle to assist members of the faith community to deepen their faith commitment.
This whole process requires our communities attention to prayer and the active assistance of the Holy Spirit. Please assist us by praying for us.