Presenters urge the faithful to bring real lives to Mass
Evangelization conference draws on the beatitudes
Parishioners from throughout the Diocese of Pittsburgh gathered June 8-9 to learn new ways to draw people to what they have: a Catholic faith that is alive and growing.
"The Evangelizing Parish: Vision, Passion, Practice" was presented at St. Paul Seminary in Crafton by two members of the North American Forum on the Catechumenate, an international network of pastoral ministers, liturgists, catechists and theologians dedicated to the Christian initiation process, emphasizing evangelization, conversion, liturgy, catechesis, discipleship, justice and mission.
Jim Schellman, the organization's executive director, asked the participants if their parishes encourage the faithful to bring their real lives to Sunday Mass. Or are they taught that they can only bring their best selves to the liturgy?
"You know the difference? People check pieces of their lives at the door of the church when they come, psychologically, emotionally, personally. We leave things out. We don't think they're welcome there," he said.
"Whereas, if we really hunger for the Lord and we understand the Lord first hungered for us, then whoever we are, all of that belongs there, for healing, for affirmation, for growth, for absolute joyful confirmation of who this Lord is," Schellman said.
"It's just like in our work with catechumens. If they don't find a safe place where they know their life's journey is really honored, then how is that going to be a moment of conversion to the Lord?"
Schellman's co-presenter was Kathy Kuczka, director of music and liturgy at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Alpharetta, Ga., and formerly of St. Vitus Parish in New Castle.
Deacon Alex Wroblicky, secretary for evangelization and social concerns, planned and facilitated the conference.
Debbie Sprung, a member of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Pleasant Hills, said the conference exceeded her expectations. She credited the "dynamic and knowledgeable" instructors, "who held my attention, making the 10 or so hours seem more like two or three."
In particular, Sprung said the topic of evangelization "has always interested me, and John Paul II brought its importance to our attention with his teaching about the 'new evangelization.' I thought this conference would help me to understand and apply his teaching in my work on pastoral council, RCIA and my daily life."
The conference taught her to look "at the beatitudes as a practical list for evangelization, along with taking to heart that the mission is right where we are -- in our families, our communities, our places of work and our places of play. We need to meet people where they are," she said.
The conference included an opening session and social on Friday, sessions starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, concluding with a 4 p.m. vigil Mass with Bishop David Zubik.
Sprung added, "I feel like I have a much better understanding of my role in advancing the kingdom."