The Archdiocese of St. Louis has made fostering missionary disciples a strong priority as part of their beONE initiative (an initiative led by Archbishop Carlson in order to unify the archdiocese’s vision and priorities). A year ago, starting with a presentation by Bishop Clark (auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles), the Archdiocese of St. Louis modified tools he gave them and asked all their parishes to complete a parish viability study. The study was designed to help parishes identify their strengths as well as areas in which they need to improve. After the completion of the study, a consulting firm was brought in to help format the data so that the archdiocese could study it and make some decisions based upon it.
Msgr. Rivituso, the Vicar General and beONE Priority lead, said that when they disseminated all the information, it came to the surface that the number one thing all of the parishes wanted to take part in was a greater evangelization effort. “The results from the parish viability study have given parishes the buy-in and it has given us a prime opportunity to help our parishes to grow in promoting the mission of evangelization” said Msgr. Rivituso.
Last month, the archdiocese did a beONE Resource Day which got the results of the study out to their parishes and encouraged them to act upon the good results. Msgr. Rivituso said they want parishes to “build upon whatever evangelization efforts they are doing” and the archdiocese will be sharing best practices and resources with parishes to make this happen.
Archbishop Carlson has been a key part of this effort especially with his pastoral letter on evangelization. Julie Bostick, the Executive Director for the Office of Laity and Family Life, said his letter, “really drove our evangelization efforts and motivated what we laid as the foundation. Even before we started with beONE…we were having evangelization conferences [and] quarterly evangelization round-tables.”
As of right now, the archdiocese is working with both Dynamic Catholic and the Catholic Leadership Institute (CLI) to provide resources to their parishes. Dynamic Catholic is already spread to all their parishes and is serving as the “fertilization and planting the seed” phase, said Julie, “so as to get the parish ready to participate in CLI’s Parish Missionary Discipleship” initiative since CLI can only work with a limited number of parishes at a time. Six parishes from the archdiocese have already gone through the twelve month Parish Missionary Discipleship initiative, and ten more are going to be trained this year. In addition, quarterly evangelization round-tables serve as a way for parishes to get together and offer each other ideas on evangelization as well as to learn about resources available from the archdiocese.
A major evangelization focus has been the quality of evangelization efforts, not the quantity. Msgr. Rivituso said, “Parishes can be easily overwhelmed by thinking they have to do so much. If they focus on quality and build upon that quality, that is a better way of moving forward. I mention this because I want to make sure parishes don’t get scared by the word evangelization, but rather see it as an opportunity to enhance the parish life through evangelization.”
As of right now, each parish has been asked to write an evangelization plan by May of 2017. One way the archdiocese will be assisting with that is through their quarterly evangelization round-tables. “We are going to invite as many leaders as can come from the parishes,” said Julie. “They are all in different places with some not having even thought about evangelization, some are working on pulling together a team, and some already have a plan. We want to get them to study their viability study and…to look at their parish with realistic eyes so they are able to make hard decisions and work on their quality.”
Since priests and the laity want to see the fruit of the labor of evangelization, the archdiocese is helping parishes to have measurable goals. “This is all mission oriented, but also has a very practical segment,” said Msgr. Rivituso. “Whatever plan is created by parishes, we want them to have some measurable goals so they can see the fruit of evangelization.”
As far as advice for other dioceses and archdiocese that want to foster evangelization, Msgr. Rivituso said, “Allow the Holy Spirit to work…The work Jesus commissioned us to do is the work of evangelization and being open to the Holy Spirit allows Him to work in a beautiful way.”
Julie pointed out that dioceses need to be intentional about evangelization. “Being intentional is essential,” she said. “In evangelization, one of the things I have seen is that people are so excited, passionate, and full of zeal, but we need to be able to direct that into a way that is going to be effective. You have to look at your resources and what your gifts are as a diocese – since every diocese is going to be different – and say, ‘How can we use these in a unified plan to cover what we are trying to do?’ We want to all have one vision and to be working together to bring Jesus Christ and the Gospel message to people of the archdiocese.”
Msgr. Rivituso concluded, “I think as we go forward and are more in tune with what is going on in the life of the Church, we will become more in tune to the Holy Spirit in us and how we are called to act in the work of evangelization. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, we are going to do the work of Jesus Christ in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.”