SASKATOON — “All evangelization begins with the ache, the hunger, the longing for something . . . for God,” well-known author and speaker Christopher West remarked at the New Evangelization Summit (NES) held April 15 - 16 in Ottawa.
NES was live-streamed to 32 satellite sites across North America, including St. Anne’s Parish in Saskatoon, where some 100 participants from across the diocese gathered as part of the international event held “to inspire, to form, and to connect.”
Through the use of technology, thousands of leaders in parish renewal heard about practical ways to share the Gospel message. World-class speakers for NES included West, who is known for his presentations on John Paul II’s theology of the body; author and philosopher Dr. Peter Kreeft; Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the papal household; Sherry Weddel, director of the Catherine of Siena Institute; and Angele Regnier, co-founder of Catholic Christian Outreach.
Each talk focused on a specific aspect of evangelization, with speakers sharing what had worked in their own churches and communities. Many talked about the Alpha program, which invites people of all backgrounds to come together to hear about Jesus Christ and have conversations about the Christian faith.
One key message of the weekend was that reaching out to already baptized Catholics is just as crucial as connecting with those who lack any connection to faith. “Too many Catholics of our day have not had that personal encounter with Christ,” pointed out Bishop Christian Riesbeck, auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Ottawa. He added that Alpha “had a huge transforming effect on (his) parish.”
Held for the first time in 2015, the New Evangelization Summit was started by Michael Dopp, founder of Mission of the Redeemer Ministries, as a way to inspire Catholics to make their churches places of constant growth. Recent popes have called the church to renew efforts at proclaiming the Gospel message, Dopp noted.
The summit was centred around a theme of having prayer as a fundamental component of ministerial efforts. Saskatoon NES participant Luke Hergott of St. Anne’s Parish in Saskatoon observed that he was “inspired about the primacy of prayer; everything begins with, is sustained by, and results from prayer.”
In his conclusion, however, Dopp said that prayer must be accompanied by action, cautioning that it is not enough to say that we are going to pray while others go out and actually do the work. “As lay people we are not called to be contemplative or active. We are called to be both.”