Diocese of Ogdensburg

The Roman Catholic Church in Northern New York

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Sir 27:30—28:7/Rom 14:7-9/Mt 18:21-35


Do we realize how merciful our God is? He has forgiven us what we could never have paid back ourselves.  Jesus paid for our offenses with his life.  And yet, are we holding on to grudges when our whole life is basically a gift from God.  Is there someone you need to forgive?  A grudge you need to let go of?  Love one another as I have loved you, says the Lord.  He has loved us by giving us his very life.  Should we not do the same for our brothers and sisters?

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Readings: Ez 33:7-9/Rom 13:8-10/Mt 18:15-20

Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.  We are not made to follow Christ on our own.  We are part of the body, part of community.  As such we are responsible not just for ourselves, but also responsible to watch over our brothers and sisters.  We are our brother's keeper, and he is ours.  We are all called to holiness, and that means that we must encourage one another, and at times lovingly correct one another.  It also means that we must look for those who are missing from our parish pews.  We all know people who no longer join us at Mass, who may have left the Church for whatever reason.  Many of them are just looking for an invitation to return.  Can you invite them and make them feel welcome?   

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Book Review: Everyone Leads by Chris Lowney

I dislike the title, but love the book.  In Everyone Leads, Chris Lowney first diagnoses the challenges facing the church from the low participation and church attendance, to uninterested young adults, the closing of parishes and schools, and creates a sense of urgency in the reader.  We must use new approaches.  The old ways are no longer effective and fruitful. 

Chris Lowney proposes a solution that involves creating a new culture of leadership, where everyone – all of us – are co-responsible for the mission of the Church.  He suggests a process where we allow for entrepreneurs to provide creative and innovative ideas.  Where we are all accountable as good stewards of our talents and resources, where we monitor successes and failures (and learn from both).  A Church where we focus on service of the poor and marginalized in order that we may transform hearts and souls.  Transformed hearts and souls will reach out and engage and welcome those on the peripheries.  The process Mr. Lowney proposes goes by the acronym EASTeR (Entrepreneurial, Accountable. Service oriented, Transformative and Reaching out & building Relationships.)

The positive news in the process is that we have all the resources we need. We know our mission: To lead others to faith, freedom and love of Jesus Christ and to make Jesus known and loved.  To create a culture of encounter.  We have the means: a billion faithful who are gifted by God for the mission of today.  But we need to implement new strategies, new methods, and not be afraid to try new ways of doing things.   We need to encourage and empower the faithful to try new ideas and not be afraid to run with them. Often great ideas come from outsiders who have a fresh perspective and imagination and who are not stuck in the same old thinking.  In a way, our leadership are always the usual suspects.  We tap insiders for leadership positions.  We need to nurture holy entrepreneurs who are agile in creative approaches.  

In the later chapters of the book, Chris Lowney details and tells stories of examples of each of the elements of the EASTeR acronym, and ends on the positive note that the challenges we face are also opportunities for creative solutions. The Holy Spirit has placed us at this time in history. We have the gifts needed for our time.  Let us work together and pray: Come Holy Spirit raise up saints for our time.

Note: Chris Lowney will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Celebrate Christ on October 21 in Lake Placid.  Online registration is available by clicking on the link above.

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Readings: Jer 20:7-9/Rom 12:1-2/Mt 16:21-27

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”  Jesus reminds us that to follow him leads to the cross.  We are called to imitate him.  We are called to give of ourselves. Jesus did not sugarcoat the call.  He did not say it would be easy.  As disciples, we are called to share in his passion.   But he did remind us that he would be with us always.  So we too, are to be truthful with – and accompany- those to whom we witness our faith.  No one is called to walk this pilgrimage alone.


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Readings: Is 22:19-23/Rom 11:33-36/Mt 16:13-20

“Who do you say that I am?”  This is the question that Jesus poses to the apostles and he asks it of us as well.  Jesus asks us for a response and the answer is important.  Many in today’s culture would answer that Jesus was a great teacher or perhaps even a prophet.  Many think of him just as a kind and gentle man (and so they can ignore him).  With the help of the Holy Spirit, Peter answers that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”   If we believe like Peter that Jesus is the Son of God, then we have to live our lives accordingly and follow him and tell others about him, in order that they, too, may come to know and follow him, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.



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fruitful discipleship 

Fruitful Discipleship: Living the Mission of Jesus in the Church and in the World by Sherry Weddel


“We must all be helped to embrace the spiritual gifts entrusted to us”…“Because so many of our people are not living as disciples their gifts lie dormant and unused and are therefore not bearing fruit” … 

This book is a wonderful follow-up on Forming Intentional Disciples and focusses on connecting evangelization (and especially pre-evangelization), discipleship and the discernment of charisms to spiritual fruitfulness and fulfillment.  We have been given all the gifts we need to bear abundant fruit, but we are rarely challenged to discern our gifts and see what will happen if we actually use our gifts for the building up of the kingdom.  We all have a mission.  We all are co-responsible for contributing our gifts to the building up of the Kingdom.

This book helps pastoral leaders and disciples to begin to understand what missionary discipleship looks like and how the various charisms manifest themselves and how they are expressed in the church.  After reviewing the practical theology, Sherry Weddell describes each of twenty-three most common charisms.  For each charism, she gives a description, tells a story of someone exhibiting that charism, how each charism can be used or applied, how each charism aids in evangelization and some common expressions of each charism. 

This book should be read by anyone interested in building up the church and forming intentional disciples who will transform their parish, the Church and the culture around us.  I would highly recommend this book as the catalyst for discussions about Church mission, formation of disciples and lay leaders, and the raising of the awareness of what the vocation to holiness can actually look like.   

If anyone would be interested in starting a book discussion in their parish, let me know.  I would be happy to help you start a small group discussion or help facilitate such a discussion.  I have an outline available of the book.  Also, if there is interest, I would be willing to facilitate an online small group discussion of this book using a video platform like google hangouts, zoom, or something similar.

For more information contact Marika Donders at mdonders@rcdony.org 

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Readings: Is 56:1, 6-7/Rom 11:13-15, 29-32/Mt 15:21-28

Are you amazed by the Canaanite woman in today’s gospel? Her faith, her willingness to follow behind Jesus, calling out to him, making a spectacle and nuisance of herself that the apostles want to send her away.  She continues to plead, even when Jesus tries to dissuade her (“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”). Even when Jesus seemingly insults her (it is not right to take food of the children and throw it to the dogs), she persists.  Did she see Jesus statement as a challenge?  Was there something in his eyes that made her persist?   She does not get angry, but continues to plead her daughter’s case. What great faith and what great humility!   What is it you pray for? Can we pray with the same intensity as the Canaanite women for those who have drifted away from the Church and are in need of healing and mercy? 

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July 4

The last day of the Convocation started with Morning Prayer:





Bishop Malone urged us not to rush without taking the Long View.  He reminded us that a church that goes forth is a church whose doors are open.  He asked us to slow down. And remain with someone.

We are called to Surrender our wills to him and follow him. We are imbued with Holy Spirit and need to rely on the Holy Spirit.  We are given and need to practive the theological virtues Faith, Hope, and Charity.  

Inhabitatio and Innovatio. Live in us and Innovate.  We are given gifts in order to bear fruit. God uses all of us.  If we seek out the needs of  the world, he will connect art gifts with needs.

We need to be renewed in the Lord striving for excellence. To be committed to one another. We are a community of disciples, not Lone Rangers.   We need to hold each other accountable and remember that we are  One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.  So think about striving for Excellence. We are not just checking off tasks. Rather, we are sons and daughters, extraordinary in Holiness through Grace.  Ask the Lord to renew our hearts and minds.



Keynote: Patrick Licioni from Amazing Parish spoke to us about creating excellent teams and also that people need to be reminded more than they need to be instructed. We need to do our best to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and need to be careful not to turn the Church into a business. 

So Where do we start? Is this practical and real? Patrick reminded us about the Circle of influence and circle of concern.  The circle of influence is what we can actually do and where we can have an effect.  We need to focus on this this area. When we do small things locally, our circle of influence grows. The circle of concern, on the other hand is what we wish we could change, but we  can’t have any real impact here.

So what is my circle of influence. There are three three things that all of us control which will allow us interior peace and personal holiness; Daily prayer. Sacrament. Relationship. Without these three things, nothing can happen.

Focus on team.  Team members are to be a co-responsible small group of people who are committed to teamwork.  We need to live the gospel here, in this team, first. We can tell if not working in a team. We need to be willing to suffer with those closest to us.

A good team will have five behaviors that will that separate it from just being a committee:

First, a team trusts one another.  There is a radical trust based on vulnerability.  Team members are willing to admit to things they are not good at and willing to be vulnerable with your mistakes. We need to be able to ask each other for help.

Second: A team needs to be able to engage in conflict.  There should be healthy conflict around best plan of action. Without trust, this becomes mere politics. With trust, this becomes an honest search for the best options and you can find truth.  We have to be able to disagree on ideas or we will the degrade into dissing people. Without conflict we don't grow anything and we don't commit.

Third:  A team needs to be committed.  We must hold one another accountable.  We are peers holding each other accountable.

Fourth: Eventually the leader has to be ultimate arbiter. A leader who is unable to tell people where they need to grow are selfish. Those who don't hold team members accountable are called wusses withholding excellence.

Fifth: We need to focus on results. Again this includes holding people accountable. Results. Focus on collective outcomes. Team results supersede personal objectives.  

Eventually it is about the health of organizations at large.  We are responsible – each of us. Each one in the Church needs to let people see the love of Jesus, no matter what the reason they come to us.  We must show the Love of Jesus to everybody who comes in to us.



Lucia Baez Luzondo from San Antonio gave her testimony of how God changed her life from a power seeking divorce lawyer missing the love of God in her life. Eventually, she found the Lord and used her gifts to Radio Paz.



Closing Keynote by Bishop Robert Barron.  Bishop Barron’s flight to Orlando was canceled and was able to speak to the Convocation via EWTN’s live stream.

Evangelization: there is nothing more challenging but great saints love a good fight.  Bishop Barron presented three challenges and three opportunities.


First challenge in our culture is the challenge of scientism (naturalism, materialism).  Today’s culture reduces all knowledge to the scientific form of knowledge. It ignores that man's heart is ordered to God and if we close ourselves in we do damage to the human heart, soul.  Scientism is self-refuting.  You can’t prove scientifically that science is the only value. Read Intro to Christianity Benedict XVI. Central point is the universal intelligibility of nature – everything is marked by intelligibility.  The world is intelligible because it is created in the creative intelligence. To evangelize is to speak of God and break through the buffered self and allow the human heart to fulfill its aspirations.

The second challenge is the culture of m'eh, the idea that there is no objective truth …that sense of “whatever”. Bishop Barron used the image of John Henry Newman.  Cardinal Newman said what gives a river force and energy is firm banks. If you break the banks, the river turns into a big lazy lake. Culturally, we are floating on a big lazy lake. Whereas, Evangelization is meant to send me on Mission, which requires energy and verve.  Think of scripture: Mary went in haste. Once you have encountered Jesus you have energy to go in haste. We have a mission.

The third challenge is the culture of self-invention.  Nietze and and Sartre argued existence before essence. Today people argue that my freedom comes first. We get to invent who we want to b, to invent ourselves.  My freedom determines the meaning of my life. Volunteerism leads to triumph of will over intellect.  In other words, the world is what I want it to be. (Look at Regensburg address.) This is an obstacle to evangelization because your life is not about you.  In Gallatians we hear it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. This is counters to today's culture: Truth shall set you free and there is a correlation between truth and freedom.



We have three opportunities or strategies to deal with these challenges:

First is the True.  We need to get away from dumbed-down Catholicism. Catholicism of banners and balloons.  We are a smart religion. Superficial Catholicism cannot sustain a people when struggles come.

Our great figures embrace the intellectual heritage. We need a good grasp of the proof of God. The proof of God that Bishop Barron likes is the argument from contingency. Everything is contingent on other things is science. Science assumes this and looks for causes.  At some point we need to come to reality that is the ultimate TO BE.  God is the I am Who Am: Essence and contingency. God sustains creation as a singer sustains a song. There is a need for a new apologetics using language suited to today’s audience.

The Second Opportunity is the Good. The most powerful force for evangelization is the goodness of people: “How these Christians love one another.”  They care not just for their own but for all.  This is radical.

We need to go back to basics.  Think Mother Teresa. Living the life of faith grabs attention of the herd. We need to recover the splendidly radical form of the Christian Life. Cardinal George asked where are the orders and movements? At times of crisis, orders movements arise. (God will raise up the saints we need when we need them…)

The third opportunity is the Beautiful. The true and good are met with resistance so maybe start with the beautiful. Show people the beauty of Catholicism. Show them the way of beauty.  Paul Claudel was converted by the rose window at Notre Dame.  

Dietrich Von Hildebrandt distinguished between the merely subjectively satisfying and objectively valuable. Subjectively satisfying is things we like, for example Pizza. It is a matter of take. Objectively valuable and intrinsically beautiful seizes us and stops us in our track and rearranges our subjectivity and it changes you and sends you on mission. It is like the first song that rocked your world. Not just the song you liked, but that made you different. The beautiful sends us on Mission. It reaches into your very soul and grabs you by the shoulders. There is nothing more beautiful than the dying and rising of Jesus.



The day concluded with Diocesan teams getting together to discuss and reflect on all we had heard and then concluded with a Mass sending us forth to go and make Disciples. Stay tuned. 

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170706 convocation logo final 470wJuly 3:

The third day of the Convocation started with a Eucharistic Procession: 

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Bishop Edward Burns spoke briefly before introducing the keynote.  He told us to GO OUT.  We, the baptized, are the ordinary Disciples of evangelization. We each have a voice in the conversation. We have our own story to tell.  He reminded us that GO it is mentioned about 1200 times in scriptures.  Perhaps God wasn’t kidding: go out into the fields


KEYNOTE: Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus

He began with a story about a South Korean missionary who traveled to North Korea to give medical assistance. It was dangerous and he was asked why did he go?  His answer: Where there is great suffering Jesus is already there and WE MUST BE ALSO. We need to be with each suffering person. Jesus is already out there on the periphery. Will he be there alone or will we join him?

Mr. Anderson reminded us that we are a universal Church. We must make this church visible at the peripheries. In way going out to the ends of the earth might be easier.  The most difficult challenge may be reaching out to our neighbors.  We don't just need to DO more we need to BE more. The world needs witnesses and those closest to us will know our authenticity (or hypocrisy).

Who are we today as Church? We are in a permanent state of mission, joyfully looking for missionary fruitfulness with joy.  But we are not supposed to go it alone.  We are not to be lone wolves, but labor in  fraternal communion.

At the same time, we are called to personal involvement. The closest periphery is maybe ourselves! The new evangelization is the church becoming what she is by her nature, in relationship with Jesus Christ.

The family is the model place for witnessing the faith, and the the family is essentially missionary. The family shows us how to guard and reveal or communicate the faith in love. The family is an an icon of God's love

Both the parish (a family of families) and the family must be places of encounter with Jesus Christ.  The parish is to be an icon of Jesus is Love that guards, reveals and communicates God’s love. We need to break down our boundaries in the parish: Repudiate extreme individualism, commit to community, be the heart that sees when Love is needed.  We are called to discipleship, witness, and community.

In Redemptoris Missio we were once again called to holiness. Encouragement for a new ardor for holiness.  But we cannot wait for perfection – we need to begin where we are. As Vince Lombardi said: We will chase perfection but cannot attain it, but in the process but we'll catch excellence.

We exist in time and space.  We need to remember the legacy of Catholics before us.  We should look to those leaders who are our heritage: some examples: Mother Seton, Junipero Serra, Mother Cabrini, Kateri Tekakwitha, and Fr. McGivney.

Benedict XVI spoke of creative minorities: the secret of growth of the church is countless creative minorities.



Ansel Augustine - black Catholic Ministries

Fr. Paul Check - Courage

Kim Daniels: communications consultant to the Vatican and USCCB

Sister Marie Pimentel: Catholic Charities

Dr. Christine Woo – CRS


Ansel Augustin (Black Catholic Ministries)

Be careful with language when we say periphery. Black is beautiful. Those of us in black ministry: we need to learn our own history. Black Catholics get overlooked and sometimes I feel like a motherless child (Thea Bowman).  Daniel Rudd, the founder of the National Black Catholic Congress, encouraged blacks to seek the welcoming arms of the church and for the Church to open her doors to them. We have much work to do.  Dr. Augustin recommended Archbishop Hughes (New Orleans) Pastoral Letter on Racism. (Made in the Image and Likeness of God).  We need to remind ourselved that Black Catholicism is a gift to the church

Sister Pimentel (Catholic Charities) reminded us that It is not about us -  it is about the Kingdom. Go out to the border be present.  Encounter the strangers.  Show that the immigrant matters.  Trust that God Is with us/in us and allow immigrants to see Jesus in us as we see Jesus in them.

Carolyn Woo (Catholic Relief Services) CRS is in locations hostile to Christianity. in some countries conversion is punishable by death and so we need to be careful not to endanger people.  We go to help in imitation of the Good Samaritan.  We focus on need not the Creed and serve without conditions.

CRS Works only when and where invited so we need to build relationships/friendships in other to gain access. The point is to make real God's love. For many people God's love remains abstract, but by CRS action they become the messenger for the needy.  In this case, the media – service- is the message

Father Paul Check -  Courage

Who do you say that I am?  Everyone working on that question for themselves. Jesus asks: who do you say that I am?  To fully understand myself,  I need others, we need relationship.  Poverty, chastity and obedience leads to a happy and fulfilled life.  WE need to see that the joy of the Lord is related to how he lived.  The question is, do I believe that chastity is part of the good news of Jesus?  Our Lord will not ask something impossible or that is not for our good, but in living a chaste life, we will be a sign of contradiction. Our lives become an invitation to other to live the fullness of joy.

How do we reach out to same-sex attracted people? First of all, those of us not SSA need to live our Christianity with integrity and we need we need to listen, especially to those who have lived one way and now live another way.  We need to hear the stories.

Kim Daniels, working in Vatican Communication, reminded us of those on the periphery who are persecuted Christians.  We need to give them a platform, a voice. She reminded us that Syrian Christians baptized St Paul.  What do Christians in the Middle East need to do to show they belong there?

The US government should not ignore Middle East Christians.  They are undergoing genocide. We need to provide life-sustaining aid and get there. We have to begin insisting the religious apartheid must change. One way of encounter is via social media.  We can use Social Media plattform to go to the peripheries.  We need to engage people where they are and raise awareness. Use social media or mobile devices.  We need to be interactive on Social Media build community (it isn’t called SOCIAL media for nothing!)  Also, remember that Church is the origianl social media network.  A good example for social media use is to look to Pope Francis: no jargon, great substance, and as for content, bring Jesus in the gospel


(NOTE: There does not seem to be a video for part 2 of this Plenary talk.)


Breakout Session 2

B22- Who’s on the Peripheries in our local parishes and communities



Sherry Weddell -

Bishop Timothy Freyer (Orange)

Diana Hancharenko (Youngstown – Parish ministries)

Rich Harter – Milwaukee

Tom Quinlan - Joliet

Bishop Robert Deeley Portland Maine


Bishop Deeley introduced the topic speaking of his own experience in Maine.  The state of Maine is the periphery.  Maine is mostly rural surrounded by Canada and like elsewhere parishes are the heart of the church. Maine is also peripheral because it is one of the most secular States.

Secularization isn’t new. Secularization has been happening for some time. It was noted as a concern in an essay in 1924.  But secularization creates challenges because people follow the lead of the culture. Bishop Deeley told us that recently met a 15 year old who is the only Catholic in his high school. He is on the periphery.  How does he connect with Church?

Peripheries are within our parishes. Parish is a family of families. How do we make sure that family knows itself as domestic Church?

Registration in Parish is not a canonical term. And a parish is not defined by its registered members. Parish includes everyone in the parish boundary (not just the Catholics).

Another concern is the Twinning/merging parishes. People need a sense of belonging. Smaller groups within the parish can give a sense of belonging to something bigger.  Something to remember with the changes in parish configurations, the feeling of dislocation just not just affect lay faithful. Priests also have to adjust. When parishes get bigger, it becomes more difficult to connect with parishioners.

There is nothing more beautiful than to be in a parish on Sunday.  It is there that we find the presence of Jesus.  We need to move people who are one with us to invite new people to share our experience. The Parish is still THE the place where faith is celebrated and the faithful are sent forth.


Questions to the panel: Why are we passionate about the parish

Sherry Weddell: 98% of the people are in our parishes and that is where the peripheries are.  In reaching the people and creating disciples at the local level, the Church can impact the culture.

Tom Quinlan: we are reminded to love those who are not with us.  As a former DRE he noted the importance of  loving the parents who  are often on the peripheries.

Rich Harter Jesus is risen from the dead triumphed and sent the Holy Spirit. This is where life and hope comes from. If the focus in parish is right, they lead the people and the world changes

Diana Hancharenko As as pastoral associate in a growing  inner-city Parish, the possibilities are endless


We cannot go on as business as usual. The focus has to move from inward looking to going out.  We need to ask who is in our local periphery? Periphery may vary based on location and the demographics, etc.  This session we will look at common themes/broad overview that hopefully will be applicable everywhere.

Comments from the panel:

Sherry Weddell: Worked with ~500 parishes/~140,000 parishioners and the mantra is: never accept a label in place of a story.  She suggested three peripheries:

  • Majority of people in active parishes are passive in early stages/thresholds and they they need to move on a journey to begin to become disciples
  • Middle hemorrhage: people who leave because they are spiritually hungry they don't know where to go in the church
  • Non-practicing parents of kids in religious ed. If we do not reach the parents we will lose the children. 60-90% of kids and families leave after confirmation.

Tom Quinlan:  A story about the periphery.  A new DRE told a story about a mom Lauren of special needs/autism and how she felt unwelcome at Mass because of the child’s actions. We need to look at how the parish is  experienced by those on the periphery. Any surveys we do are are answered by insiders.  It is a reminder that there's plenty of field hospital work needed in our parishes.

Rich Harter:  We need a new set of how to’s.  We need to do Parish differently.  We approach parishes as if stuff happens by osmosis ,and it is NOT HAPPENING. 

Parish should be a school of discipleship. We need to let go of what is not working and intentionally begin leading in a new way. If anyone has not met Jesus, they are on the periphery. If they have not found/discerned their charism(s)  they are on the periphery. Many of our staff are not appreciated and not equipped to deal form disciples.

All this points to learning a new evangelization. Comment on the reference to school of disciples and preaching the kerygma in a new way, the fact that disciples are made, not born and how do we equip our people to make them to be missionary disciples

Diana Hancharenko: We need to make the periphery our priority.  Diana works with young adults in a poor parish. We need to minister with our young adults, not to young adults.  With young adults, we have quality events for the usual suspects.  We need to talk one-on-one and make make connections.  We need to get to the why of things. We need to tell the young adults what is right with them.  They always hear what is wrong with them as millennials.  When we ask Young adults what they love about the church, they are shocked when they answer your questions and you actually listen to their answers.  They are not used to being listened to.

We are called to conversation and LISTENING. We must have empathy. Parish is a place of journey. No one no one comes there who is already perfect.  We also may need to slow the pace. We need to walk with them,  accompany them.

Question to the panel: what are ways to evangelize our staff and leadership

Sherry Weddell: Lots of leaders realize that they have not made the journey yet. We need to listen to their story. What is their lived relationship with God? Pray with them on the spot: Lord I want to move and be open. We need to train ordinary Catholics to be spiritual companions.

Rich Harter: Bring authentic love of Jesus with you before you open your mouth. We have to be the message. We can only give what we have.  We need to learn to speak about our own spiritual journey, and talk about the mission of the Church.  Perhaps look at a formula of Reach, Call, Form and Send

Tom Quinlan:  The DRE I spoke of earlier has a sense of empathy.  She may not have the Theology and skills but can relate and react to others. She is gifted at accompanying people.   Everyone has gifts to share.

Question to the panel: Is it time for paradigm shift in Sacramento preparation

Sherry Weddell: Can we move it away from age-based to spiritually ready,  spiritual hunger and openness? Sacramental prep needs to be evangelizing.

Tom Quinlan: Parents in religious education are most likely on the periphery. We need to raise the ask of the parents.  Quit being afraid to challenge the parents to be in formation.  Catechesis need to be evangelizing. Also, can we front load the ministry. The cement is wet at baptism this is when we can make a difference. Baptism is a natural mom's ministry. Enlist evangelized parents to assist the other parents.

Rich Harter:   It is a People to People.  It is relational.  We need to tap those who are evangelized.

Diana Hancharenko: Marriage prep!  What are we doing for young adults? When they prepare for marriage, it may be the first time they have stepped in church. Don't judge them for not having lived the faith. Rather, think of it as an opportunity. They are here now.


Question to the panel: What can we do about active Catholics.

Sherry Weddell: It needs to be person to person .  We need to listen to the lived experience of God. No one ever asks our active Catholics about their lived experience, and if they do, they don't listen.  We need to let people put how God is active in their lives into words.

Rich Harter: Never accept a label. Just because they have been active in an church activity does not necessarily mean that they have a deep spiritual life.  We need to encourage a Continual encounter with Jesus. We need to stop thinking about rules. We silo by ages or topic. We need change to evangelizing and proclaiming kerygma and talk about the journey of faith.

Tom Harter:  We need to remember that hose on the periphery may have a deep spiritual life. We have to be careful with assumptions.  Let's just talk about Jesus and our own spiritual lives.

Diane Hancharenko: Importance of listening: don't listen to respond. We need to be curious and not judge.  Trust and honor the vulnerability of those sharing their story with you.

Sherry Weddell: we need to focus more on pre-evangelization since this is where most people are. We need to strengthen trust and rouse curiosity.

Question to Panel: How can we best assure openness and missionary creativity in our parishes?

Bishop Deeley:  Parish social Ministries.  We can seek out the needs that people have and then work to meet the needs.   We become disciples by doing the mission. This is especially important for Millennials. They want to serve and make a difference.  This can be a great opportunity for pre-evangelization.

We can also look at the example of the Neocatechumenal way: a Catechumenate for those already baptized. Referring back to Tom Quinlan’s earlier point, this is an opportunity to re-wet the cement.

Sherry Weddell Energizing disciples around you is the proof your ministry is bearing fruit. Be bold. Dare to fail but trust in the Holy Spirit.  Also, don't confuse urgency for impatience.  It takes time.




Breakout Session 3

C6: sharing Christ’s Story, Sharing Our Story


Bishop Cheri, OFM – New Orleans

Bishop Noonan, Orlando

Lisa Brenninkmeyer – Walking with Purpose

Steve Dawson: Saint Paul Street Evangelization

Mark Middendorf – Lighthouse

Fr. Dave Pivonka: TOR


Bishop Cheri: Let us start with a song by Fanny Crosby -  Blessed Assurance.

One of the last true testimonies happened on Calvary. two thieves, one demanding to be released and one asking to be remembered.  The Good thief received paradise with Blessed assurance.  We are all sinners: criminals of some kind.  We have all been there and done that. Yet it does not prevent the life of Christ to shine through us. All you need to know the mercy and love of Christ.  THIS is a story we have to tell.

Telling Christ story and our story is the only way we can make it:  to form disciples. It calls us to live out our lifestyle. We have to be living Epistles. We may be the only book someone reads.

We all have a story. And we forget, and develop policies, programs, and creeds instead of telling our story.  What we need to do is to show them the life of Jesus. We have to know what God has done for us.  We have to remember our blessings.  How has Jesus made a difference in our lives. THIS is our story.

How do we tell our story in a way that is compelling and not annoying? We need to use normal words, no jargon. We need to be brief and get to the point. Etc.

Steve Dawson told us that he was passionate because he had a powerful conversion. We have a responsibility if we believe what the church teaches.

Father Dave Pivonka:  a great example for us is the Woman at the Well.  She goes out when she won't be seen and then, after encountering Jesus goes and tells everybody. She is no longer ashamed: The encounter changes their lives. We have to create opportunities of encounter. We have to show others that THIS is what he has done for me.  We have people who have not encountered the Lord or don't know how to articulate that encounter.

Mark Middendorf is also passionate because of his own story. Through personal witness he came back to the faith. It was a cassette tape by Scott Hahn. That personal witness moved his conversion. True devotion book let to total consecration. Now he desires to to give back how he received.  This desire became Lighthouse Ministries.  Then he joined with Tim Gray and now it has become Augustine Institute. His story shows the power of collaboration.

Lisa Brenninkmeyer: The longer we walk with faith we become more homogenous and become comfortable with the holy huddle. We need to break out of our comfort zones and reach out. The ones closest to us is harder. Key people can make a difference and we can be that person.


What works?

Dave Pivonka: We remember stories (think about it, everybody can tell the basic Thanksgiving day story…) Stories can break down walls. Evangelization is about being responsive to the Holy Spirit. It is about being available to the Holy Spirit.  We need to build up our relationship with the Holy Spirit. How am I available to the Holy Spirit? We need to look for divine appointments.

We need to be able to reflect on our own story and reflect on encounter with the Lord and then articulate it.  We need to do our part and but need to have all the answers. When we try things and it goes wrong,  repent for failures and then get back in the game.

Steve Dawson:  Trust your Inspiration to talk to people.  How often do we miss the opportunity to share our faith?  Also, the more we open up the more he asks us but he also equips us.  Prepare simple ways to create opportunities to evangelize. Don’t worry about what is this person going to think? We need simple ways to engage people. One way is to offer holy items – prayer cards, medals, little tangible things.

An Apostle is always on the lookout for people to evangelize. St. Maximilian Kolbe would hand out Miraculous Medals.  It is a simple thing.  Learn the story of the metal. Put yourself out there and the Holy Spirit takes over.  One thing that is very important is listening to the other. Listen and then offer to tell you what I believe about Jesus. God. (“can I tell you what I believe?”) Then encourage the next step How about the church? You are not trying to shove the catechism down their throat but you are inviting them to a relationship, an encounter. But sometimes the simplest way is to start with something easy lie a Miraculous Medal or a Lighthouse CD.

Mark Middendorf: There is a power of questions. Think about it. How many questions did Jesus ask? He knew the answers before it was asked. He asked so that we could step into his life.  One suggestion is to go door-to-door. Invite them. Before you go, do a Marian consecration.  Prayer before all else. And have  answers to 3 types of encounter prepared: one for the Catholic who is no longer interested, one for a protestants and one for a secularist who espouses Scientism.

Lisa Benninkmeyer: Each one of us has a story but we need to wrestle with the parts of the story we don't like.  Normally we present edited versions of our story, but the part we want to edit out that is often the part makes our story compelling.   People are longing for authenticity and honesty.  They want to know about the things that are  hard in life and then this is how Jesus has Impacted me.

People are loved to Christ rather than convinced.  We need to do a lot of personal sharing of story and point to the Hope Jesus brings. Tell stories of struggle. Jesus is the hero. People will hear your story and thing if Jesus showed up for you maybe he will show up for me too.   And even if the situation is different, what we share is that I don't know the exact situation but I know the feeling you are sharing.

Best practices with strangers: Joy of the Gospel  uses the word  listen over 30 times. Ask others for their story. It opens up the conversation. Relationship can develop quickly. Listen to understand, not to formulate a response!

Terry Baldwin  who is an evangelist in Cleveland suggests: prepare three talks:  in 30 seconds you can tell about who brought you to God. In a three minute exchange you can tell someone about your encounter with Jesus. If you have  30 minutes: how does the Holy Spirit impact your faith.

Digital discipleship Network and NET ministries tell us to look at people as people not projects. We need to learn what the kerygma is and how to proclaim it.  

Remember the rule: of stories: humility, brevity and clarity.


A few last thoughts from the panel:

Mark Middendorf: The last two sentences of the Joy of the Gospel: “behold I make all things new” and entrust yourself to Mary. Also, people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Father Dave Pivonka:  I want to love you just the way you are. Let people know that we love because Jesus loves us first.

Steve Dawson: Do something, anything. Try something: grab a few miraculous medals and give them out or find your own approach.  But DO SOMETHING.

Lisa Benninkmeyer: Lean into the hard places where people are struggling. Our story matters but so do theirs. Be good listeners.


Bishop Noonan, wrapping up.  Once upon a time he thought he was in control. But he realized he was not open to the Lord.  Rather he was telling telling the Lord what he wanted. Then he attended a Cursillo and learned God was in charge.   God is in charge.  Listen and then tell your story.



After Mass and Dinner, the Third day concluded with an amazing talk by Cardinal Tobin and a concert by Matt Maher and Audrey Assad

Mass, July 3: 

Cardinal Tobin's Reflection:


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