Ottawa Auxiliary Bishop Christian Riesbeck will speak about his experience at a Companion of the Cross parish in Houston as part of two-week institute on the new evangelization. Register file photo

The new evangelization depends on parish renewal

  • June 13, 2015

OTTAWA - Parish renewal is the key to the new evangelization and the survival of the Church, say organizers of the Summer Institute of New Evangelization.

To that end, the institute’s summer program will feature speakers who have successfully implemented parish renewal.

The program will feature exemplars of parish renewal who will come and address the two-week institute that runs from Aug. 4-14 at Ottawa’s Saint Paul University. They include Fr. James Mallon, author of Divine Renovation: from a Maintenance to a Missional Parish, who will share his experiences in helping bring renewal to St. Benedict’s parish in Halifax; and Ottawa Auxiliary Bishop Christian Riesbeck, who will speak about his experience at the Companion of the Cross parish Our Lady Queen of Peace in Houston.

“It’s the course I am most excited about,” said Mission of the Redeemer Ministries co-founder Michael Dopp. The institute is a collaborative partnership among Saint Paul University’s theology department, Catholic Christian Outreach  and MRM.

“We talk a lot about new evangelization, but a lot of people have never seen it.”

The new course will give concrete examples of what the parish looked like before renewal, what principles were applied that brought it about and how those principles can be applied in other parishes, Dopp said.

This summer, the institute launches its second year of a three-year program to equip leaders in the new evangelization.

Last year 35 students, including diocesan staff, lay people and religious, took the program. This year, Dopp said they hope for 50.

Dopp described evangelization as a “two-stage rocket.” First, people have to be inspired to participate in the new evangelization. Secondly, people have to learn how to do it.

“It’s great to have a heart for the lost, but most Catholics do not have a clue where to begin,” Dopp said.

Once Catholics are evangelized and “set on fire” for God, they try to bring that fire to their parish, but they often become “paralyzed,” because they “don’t know where to start,” Dopp said. The purpose of the institute is to “form leaders for parish renewal.”

Parish renewal is crucial, “because the Church in North America is dying.” The methods used to pass on the faith that have been used over the past 30 years are not working. New evangelization involves the baptized, and “the plan is to see people set on fire with the love” of God and to invite others to experience it, he said. Through evangelization “we are equipped to answer our baptismal call.”

The recent referendum in Ireland in support of same-sex marriage, despite the fact 90 per cent of the voters attended Catholic schools, is an example how catechesis alone is not enough to prevent a collapse of the faith.

“Evangelization comes before catechesis,” he said. If people do not know and love God, they can have knowledge but “it’s the relationship” with God that makes people take catechesis to heart.

Michael Hall, CCO human resources director, said without the personal relationship with God, people “can have hearts of stone,” and catechesis will have no impact.

“The renewal of the Church is going to have to start with vibrant, evangelizing, missional parishes,” he said.

Hall said the institute is designed to “build up the new generation of leaders to do the next round of new evangelization.”

CCO is involved because “we see it as an opportunity to share what we’ve learned over 27 years” in evangelizing on university campuses, Hall said.

Hall said CCO’s campus experience shows the impact of presenting a basic four-point Gospel message. They have found, “It’s news to people.”

More information can be found at with an opportunity to register before the June 30 deadline.

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