Crystal Crocker is wife, mother of four and a parishioner of St. Peter’s parish in Mendota. She has a passion for evangelization, has led numerous bible studies, women’s groups, blog writer for WINE: Women in the New Evangelization, worked as a lobbyist defending sacramental marriage and chaired a Catholic Celebration for 7,000 enthusiastic Catholics. She is currently the Evangelization Coordinator in the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and she kindly gave spoke to us about their evangelization efforts.
Could you tell us about the Rediscover: Initiative?
First off, let me say that our office is brand new. It was established in spring of 2014 with Jeff Cavins as the Director of Evangelization. Basically what happened, which I find very providential, is that prior to the Office of Evangelization, a strong committed group of people launched Rediscover:. They started working on it in 2012 which culminated that first year in the Rediscover: Catholic Celebration 2013. It was the first one in the Archdiocese of that magnitude with over 5000 people in attendance. There were speakers, music, Latino break-outs, and even a song written specifically for the event. At the time, the entire Archdiocese was engaged in reading Rediscover: Catholicism by Matthew Kelly.
That really launched Rediscover moving forward with a speakers series: Rediscover: Meaning – Finding God’s Purpose in Your Life; Rediscover: Belonging – Living in Communion with God; Rediscover: Strength – Overcoming Life’s Challenges Through God’s Grace; Rediscover: The Way – Keeping God at the Center of Your Life. It also led to the formation of small group, book clubs in the parishes.
I was the Chairman for the 2014 Rediscover: Catholic Celebration and we grew it to 7000 people. We had a Friday evening young adult event with music and speakers and on Saturday we had fifteen speakers, four musical groups, and breakout sessions. We did it big and it was a wonderful event. Since then, a small team of us at the Office of Evangelization have been working on some specific initiatives to complement the Rediscover: umbrella.
What is your philosophy on evangelization?
Our philosophy of evangelization is creating disciples. We have discovered that a lot of people who are working in evangelization and trying to make disciples think you should go out right away into the mission field. However, you have to be prepared for that. So creating disciples means developing the sacramental life and the interior life, encountering Jesus Christ, and daily conversion. That is where you develop discipleship first, that discipline of the daily walk. Our philosophy of evangelization is to first start with that person, then evangelize the family, and then evangelize the parish. Then, when they go out into their community, they have a structure to bring them back to.
What are some of the initiatives your office is involved with?
Right now, we are focusing specifically on women and men as well as families as that first educator of the children. The two that have been launched so far are Women in the New Evangelization (WINE) with Kelly Wahlquist and Catholic Watchmen with Jeff Cavins.
WINE has had two annual conferences and they have a wonderful website called Catholicvineyard.com. They have meetings that are simple for women to invite those women who wouldn’t usually go to a religious event. They are organized around social opportunities that are welcoming with food, wine, and fun, but also offer formation and invitation to go deeper in the faith.
The Catholic Watchmen was recently launched this February 27th at our men’s conference where we had 1700 men in attendance. Since the launch, we have put out monthly videos and handouts for monthly meetings. It is designed so that the pastor can step into the meeting, but all the work is done by the men in their parish vanguard. Each parish vanguard is working now to prepare to invite all the men in their parish to become a Catholic Watchmen and start attending monthly meetings in the fall. At that time all of the men in the parish will be able to learn the Seven Disciplines of the Catholic Watchmen, which are daily, weekly and monthly disciplines of the faith.
This is all available online. It is modeled on men, with grace building on nature, as protectors, providers, and leaders of their family. They know how to do this physically but then we are placing them into those roles in the spiritual realm as well. We know there are many attacks on the family, on marriage, and on our children, so, for example, we have a men’s initiative called Keepers of the Fire, a time when men gather around a fire and pray for their children every hour and we have prayers written specifically for their sons and daughters. If any men are single without a family, they are needed too, because they are part of the parish family as part of the Body of Christ.
The Catholic Watchmen has been wildly successful since the launch at the men’s conference. We have 40 parishes that are participating in this initiative and it is growing. It’s not a product, it’s not a program, it is principally based so any parish could say, “Hey, we want to run the ‘That Man is You’ program.” Then they can call the Catholic Watchmen to participate in that program. Once that program is done, they aren’t left with “So now what do we do?” they are left with the Catholic Watchmen!
While we’ve spent a lot of time on these initiatives, we aren’t done with Rediscover: by any means. This year we are going to update the parish Rediscover: kiosks to reflect Rediscover: Discipleship in which we are going to foster Lectio Divina and other disciplines of prayer. We are serving the parishes who want to develop evangelization teams within the parish, to help others with understanding how to be a disciple and how to even speak about the faith; how to actually witness! We also have under the Rediscover: umbrella Complementarity in which Dr. Deborah Savage, from the University of St. Thomas, speaks on the complementarity of the feminine genius and masculine genius.
We have a third part of our Rediscover: umbrella which we are calling Rediscover: Relationships. It is meant to renew relationships within the parish family, for example, a Grandparents initiative, which we are looking to launch on the Feast of St. Monica, August 27th. There are already grandparent groups from 29 different parishes in our Archdiocese so clearly there is a desire from them to do something. We recognize that and are helping to bring them together to learn about best practices. We hope to grow this so that it will be a ministry of prayer for their adult children as well as their grandchildren, to pray for them that they continue to be open to life and to be strong parents in this culture. We also want to engage them further by helping them pass on the faith; I think grandparents are one of the Church’s greatest resources and I believe we need to engage them in new and innovative ways. Another part of Rediscover: Relationships is assisting parishes if they desire to develop small groups as well as looking into ways to bring the parents back into the primary role as the first educators of the faith in the family.
This all comes from the Office of Evangelization?
Yes, however we collaborate when it fits with other Archdiocese offices. For example, the small group effort was pioneered out of the Office of Marriage Family & Life and we are looking for ways to work together to best serve the parishes. Evangelization should be a coordinated effort to partner with the pastor’s vision to best serve the parish. We are crafting things in a way that is simple, easy to understand, easy to implement, and that doesn’t lay much burden on the parish staff or the pastor. That way pastors can participate in an evangelization effort without having to figure out the committees and how to run it. Each piece is run by the laity and since every parish has a different personality, these initiatives are created so that they can adapt them to their different personality.
I think that is the difference; we don’t want to create more work for pastors and evangelization is not in the business of putting on more events. We are helping build an interior life and create easy ways for people to invite others into relationship. For example, with the Catholic Watchmen, they are really building a fraternity and building brotherhood. We want the parish to become the center in people’s lives, to be the place they look to for friendships, family support as well as spiritual growth.
How has your bishop been involved with your efforts?
Our bishop, Bishop Cozzens, has lead the way and now we have a new Archbishop, Archbishop Hebda, coming in who is very supportive. That resonates with people, especially with the men when they see the bishop behind evangelization efforts and that their pastor is praying right alongside of them. Bishop Cozzens has a video I recommend you watch here.
Any last thoughts you’d like to share?
Check out our website, Rediscover.archspm.org. It was really done well by our Office of Communication and we have an app as well. You can also listen to Jeff Cavins every Friday morning on Relevant Radio 1330AM for his Rediscover: Radio Hour.
With Rediscover: the new fledgling Office of Evangelization, has a highway of evangelization that is already built and reaches across the country. We’ve had people contact us about the Catholic Watchmen from Wisconsin, from Arizona, from Diocese of Pittsburgh, as we continue to work to build nationally. I see the potential for the Catholic Watchmen and WINE (Women in the New Evangelization) to go nationally, because it isn’t a program with a beginning and an end, but it is a set of principles, a way of life. That’s how evangelization should work, be a way of life.