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Archives Summit discusses evangelization during crisis

May 13, 2020

By Jessica Hargrave
Contributing Writer

In times of uncertainty, fear and loss, spirituality is often brought to the forefront. Many people facing financial and health issues, fear of the unknown future and isolation during the COVID-19 crisis, are opening their hearts and minds to Jesus Christ during this global crisis.

So how do we not lose hope in the face of uncertainty? What is the most important skill we need to develop as Catholics right now? How do we as Catholics evangelize when we’re stuck at home? Like other events here and around the world, missionary disciple group U Evangelize had to cancel their New Evangelization Summit scheduled for April 25th in Ottawa, and instead offered a free virtual summit on their website. The summit featured world-class speakers who discussed the topic “Can Catholics Evangelize at a Time Like This?”

During this pandemic, as people are suffering and dying, this is the time for disciples to know it really matters that people know Jesus, and to be bold in their convictions and confident in their proclamations. Pete Burak, Director of Intentional Disciples for Renewal Ministries, spoke about the “six Ps” in remaining faithful to the mission of spreading the compelling words of the Gospel especially when the world is shaken. Burak said first, and simply, we need more Prayer. Use it as a time to grow more in love with Christ. Be Perceptive of the opportunities Jesus is presenting to us. Those who weep, weep with them. Through Pathos or empathy, have a heart for those who are suffering. Remember, the words of the Gospel give us Perspective so we have the passion to deliver it, to break through the fear. We need to be Powerless until we are powerful, meaning full of the Holy Spirit. Finally, Proclaim in any way the Lord inspires us. Whether it’s through phone calls, hand-written notes, social media or yelling across the street, people need to know the power Jesus won for us is still present.

“Jesus even talks about the narrow gate and the wide gate. That those who are on the narrow path are many right now,” said Burak. “He’s sending us out to say those who are on the narrow path need to find the wide path so that they can enter into salvation."

Burak’s message to those turning to Jesus now is to remember in the darkness, the light of Christ shines the brightest.

Mary Skillian of St. John the Baptist in Plattsburgh watched Saturday’s summit and believes Burak’s “six Ps” are important.

“It can help to keep us in tune to our own needs as well of the needs of the people of our parishes,” said Skillian.

She attests that for those seeking out Jesus for comfort, praying helps.

“I personally have found spending more time with Jesus is helping me to stay hopeful,” she said. “Mostly letting go and letting God. He has been taking care of myself and my family.”

The Catholic Church has lived through several tragedies throughout history. Author Sherry Weddell spoke on the Church’s response during devastating times in the past and leading up to today's crisis, COVID-19, and what it’s learned from those experiences. Weddell said some of the greatest revivals in Catholic history have risen from times of war, plague and famines.

“I think really what stands out during moments like this, honestly, in a way that doesn’t happen often, is the role of lay apostles. Lay people really enter into their own in situations like this,” said Weddell.

She said this is the time when people are searching, pointing to the millions of people who watched online as Pope Francis delivered his blessing “To the City and to the World.” From the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica on March 27, Pope Francis called Catholics worldwide to join him in praying for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this time of searching, Weddell asks “will we be available to walk with those people who are curious about God?” Weddell said this is a great time to be discerning Charisms, gifts given to us at baptism such as prophecy, teaching and leadership to name a few.

“They are very important in developing a community of apostles, a people who know that God is sending them," said Weddell.

Weddell uses the time she spends walking outside to pray, as does Brenda Trivilino, a parishioner of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Ogdensburg who also watched the summit.

“It is hard not to be hopeful when I am constantly reminded of the goodness of God,” said Trivilino.

She agreed with the speakers who stressed there’s no better time to pray than now.

“I will use this time to deepen my prayer life, to deepen my relationship to God. Everything else stems from that.”

Other speakers at the virtual summit were Father Justin Huang from the Diocese of Vancouver who spoke about his response to the cancelling of Mass, and Nicky Gumble provided information on the program, Alpha, an 11-week course that welcomes conversations of faith, life and God.

U Evangelize team members, Josh and Lisa Canning, and Michael Dopp hosted the summit.

U Evangelize is a free online membership site that provides video resources which includes evangelization expert interviews and trainings for people who want to be more effective in evangelizing. The organization’s Facebook group also provides a space where people can pray for one another and offer support.

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