By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published April 26, 2012
In a continuing effort to strengthen relationships with parishes, the archdiocesan Office of Formation and Discipleship hosted a New Evangelization seminar at the Chancery March 29 for parish leaders.
“We have to proclaim the Gospels in new ways. … We are missionaries in a mission field,” said Amy Daniels, director of the OFD, to the group of about 100 parish leaders.
“Today is also about support,” she said, as the OFD is there to support the parishes. “We want to get to know you personally.”
The keynote speaker was Dr. Paul Voss, an associate professor at Georgia State University and president of Ethikos, a consulting firm that focuses on leadership and ethical decision-making. Voss called for a reevaluation of the current methods used in ministries on the parish level and an exploration of new ways of ministering, especially to the younger generation.
“When our kids have everything they need, there is complacency. How do you tap into that?” Voss asked. “When they are going, ‘Hey, my life’s pretty cool. I’ve got a cell phone, I’ve got an iPad. I got my movies. … I don’t need church.’ How do you overcome that?”
“You are the people on the front lines,” Voss told the crowd. “If our Church is to survive and flourish in her mission … it will happen with the people at these tables.”
“Together we can change the archdiocese,” he continued. “We can be a force for good.”
In order to do this, people working in the parishes need to be open to changing the way they operate and explore their options to make their ministries more effective and accessible.
“We need to harness the technology,” said Voss. “We are not in competition with each other. We are working together.”
Voss encouraged those present to view their work as a vocation rather than an occupation. What the OFD is trying to do is help church leaders create a network of parishes working together that redefines how these ministries are done, said Voss.
“A lot of people can do what you do. … A lot of people can do what I do,” said Voss, adding that the more important thing is how you do it. “How I do it is the way I add value.”
“How you do what you do is going to be the difference maker,” he said. “We have to make sure we are not just another church, another ministry. … The Catholic Church is running into the dangerous zone of becoming a ‘generic.’”
Invoking the teachings of Aristotle, Voss then presented three modes as guidance to help leaders reflect on how they are doing their jobs and how they can be more effective. These included “ethos,” “logos” and “pathos.”
In the context of parish leadership and the work environment, Voss described ethos as being one’s reputation and performance as a Catholic, or one’s characteristic attitudes and habits. Logos refers to one’s knowledge and natural skill set. Finally, pathos was described as “audience awareness,” or an awareness of the needs and disposition of one’s audience.
After providing some time for self-reflection, Voss encouraged attendees to explore these in their own lives and ministries. Through this reflection, participants produced concrete things they could address and discuss with their colleagues.
Specific challenges were then addressed, as parish leaders voiced their concerns regarding staffing, resources and materials related to various ministries. In addition to discussing challenges, Voss encouraged those who had successful ideas to share with the group so the communication among parishes can begin.
This communication among parishes, as well as a sharing of resources, is key to creating successful and sustainable ministries, said Voss.
The OFD is focused on inspiring and uniting parish leaders, supporting archdiocesan pastors, parishes and schools, and helping to promote spiritual growth in the archdiocese by working through and with the parishes.
With renewed resolve, the OFD is reaching out to parish leaders to make sure the communication lines are open and helping them find the support and resources they need to participate in the New Evangelization.
“As leaders in a mission field, preparing to go to the front lines, if you will, we come together today to pray, to encourage one another to grow in our grasp of the faith, to articulate it, and most of all, we gather to grow in our love for Christ, our love for his Church, and our love for one another,” said Daniels.
“We seek to support you as leaders in the New Evangelization. We want to support your parish efforts in the mission of catechesis and evangelization,” said Daniels.
Time was given at the end of the day for parish leaders to network, allowing them to find those people who are working in the same ministries. Ideas were shared and contact information exchanged.
Auxiliary Bishop Luis R. Zarama echoed the sentiments of Daniels and Voss as he briefly addressed the crowd before blessing the lunch meal. He encouraged the leaders to be open in requesting the assistance and support of both the OFD and the archdiocese so more effective means of ministry may be employed.
“We are trying to make a difference in the way we approach you and the way we serve you,” Bishop Zarama said. “The New Evangelization is a challenge for all of us. … You have in your hands the treasure of the Church.”