By Eileen Connelly, OSU
Through a variety of programming and formation opportunities, the Center for New Evangelization (CNE) is engaged in ongoing efforts to keep us energized by the beauty, truth, and goodness of our faith and to equip us to share it with others.
Christen Aquino, managing director, youth evangelization and discipleship, said a primary focus of her ministry has been helping parish ministers build and strengthen the teams in their faith communities. As such, the CNE has been holding Missio Days, quarterly regional gatherings that offer opportunities for shared life and prayer, with an emphasis on specific training for the common mission of evangelization. All evangelists – those serving youth, families, adults/young adults – are welcome to participate.
“The idea is that we, as a Church, are a community, sent on a mission to form more communities,” Aquino explained. “The days are meant to be prayerful, and at each one, we break open evangelization and discipleship and how to move people through that. We focus on where people are on their journey, what kind of programming we can do to move them along the pathway of discipleship, and evaluate the programming we are doing.”
“A lot of what we’ve been doing is unlocking Beacons of Light and focusing on how we can be can become missionary parishes, instead of maintenance parishes,” she added.
Aquino said a member of her team has spoken at each of the Missio Days and shared their personal faith journey, then invited participants to consider their own journeys and how they fit into their ministries and outreach to others. The sharing is significant, she noted, because it reminds those gathered “to return our first love. We need to recall what Jesus has called us to before, to think back on our own stories, experiences, and encounters in order to teach future generations. There’s nothing like getting together with those who share your heart and being lifted up by one another. Sharing life and prayer forms us for greater mission and encourages us for the work we are doing.”
Wayne Topp, managing director, young adult evangelization, speaks with great enthusiasm about Behold, the semi-annual event he’s been involved with organizing. Held in the spring and fall, Behold features Adoration, confession, praise, and worship, followed by fellowship. Topp estimates that approximately 250 young adults attended the most recent Behold, held April 1 at St. Monica-St. George Parish Newman Center.
“The beauty of these events is that we find how Jesus works on the hearts of those in attendance,” Topp said. “Afterwards, there’s usually a social that lasts the rest of the evening and a reflection from a seminarian, deacon, or priest. The event has done a great job of bringing young adults together and created a larger sense of community. The nice thing about Behold is that you know it’s going to happen again in six months. It’s not just another event, something young adults will talk about for a few weeks, then forget about it. It’s easy for people to ask their friends to come and invite them into the community. At the end of the night, I know we’ve been successful because we’ve given young adults an encounter with Jesus Christ, an opportunity to meet Him face to face. And every young adult has had the chance to make a deeper connection within the young adult community.”
Feedback from Behold participants has been inspiring, Topp said. “I think the biggest thing I’ve heard from the young adults is being caught up in the beauty. I’ve heard from many people that it’s the best prayer experience they’ve had in a long time. There’s also the social aspect of it and just the palpable sense of joy found in friendship, fellowship, and community.”
Topp credits the support of CMA donors with keeping CNE efforts meaningful and relevant. “Putting on the events that we do takes finances and a lot of prayers,” he said. “Often, the results aren’t measurable, but to have donors who are not only willing to fund the events but also to pray for their success and the souls of the people we are trying to touch, means so much. They contribute both spiritually and financially to what we do.”