The John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization is an integral part of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. They serve Archbishop Jerome Listecki and are charged with the task of promoting and implementing the New Evangelization in the archdiocese. Archbishop Listecki himself is often present at the major public events and conferences put on by the John Paul II Center, usually providing either a keynote or leading prayer.
Offices that fall underneath the banner of the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization are: Marriage and Family Faith Formation; College Campus Ministry; Life and Justice; Young Adult Evangelization; and Parish-based Mission Training and Implementation. In all these offices, their primary driving force is the mission of the Church to reach, call, form, and send disciples to “go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” (cf. Matt 28:19)
Catholic ID, which is the parish-based evangelization effort of the Archdiocese, works with parish leaders to help them change the culture of their parishes towards mission, discipleship, and evangelization. Rich Harter, the Director of the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization, said, “It begins with forming a core group of people who are already disciples. We form them deeper in discipleship and equip them to be disciple- makers.”
By supporting and apprenticing leaders in a small group and one-on-one, they are able to transform the parish culture from one of maintenance to one of mission. Rich said, “It is Jesus’ method. He took twelve, apprenticed them, and then, through the power of the Holy Spirit, sent them out to make new disciples…It is the best thing that we know to really create the change.” While this process is guided by a small group resource, the most important piece is investing in relationships with Christ, the Church, and each other. “You can plug in a video and you can read a book (which are both good things), but that doesn’t make disciples. It doesn’t form people into disciples and it doesn’t equip them with an enduring ability to advance the mission.” Rich said. “Discipleship is an integrated lifestyle centered on Jesus Christ and an encounter with Him in the Church along with other disciples.”
“What we know is that many of the people in our parishes have not had a life transforming encounter with Jesus Christ,” said Rich. “There hasn’t been a personal appropriation of the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ” which leads a person to joyfully embrace a life of discipleship and disciple-making in the Church.
The John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization is currently working with seven parishes. Each parish’s leaders go through twelve to fourteen weeks of intense training that includes a two hour small group meeting each week as well as one-on-one sessions every other week. “You really have to shepherd the leaders in a very personal way,” said Rich. “So we do one parish at a time.”
After this training, the John Paul II Center continues to mentor the parish contact person and often meets with the whole team. They have a number of events that give the parishes additional formation and team training. Along with conferences and retreats Rich said, “We have built into our system, two times a year, an event for all the small group leaders from all the parishes to come together for prayer, formation, fellowship, and problem-solving.”
“Next year,” said Rich, “we are launching the ‘Missionary Discipleship Institute’ which is designed to take disciples and disciple-makers deeper. It will equip them with even more skills to be Catholic evangelists in their everyday lives and in the parish.” This will help augment the annual Discipleship Training Camp offered every August.
You can learn more about Catholic ID from their brochure, or by exploring the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization’s website. The John Paul II Center also has a wonderful brochure describing their mission.