Roman Catholic 
Diocese of Ogdensburg


The Office of New Evangelization exists
To support parishes in forming
Joy-Filled, Intentional,
Missionary Disciples of Jesus Christ
So that On Fire with the Holy Spirit
They will be witnesses that
transform the culture around them.


When I was an architecture student at Georgia Tech, one of the murals in our design lab announced that every problem is an opportunity for a creative solution.  The Covid19 Pandemic has forced everyone to adjust and be creative in new and unexpected ways.

The problem:

For most of us, we cannot meet for workshops in our parish halls and classrooms, and even when we can, not everyone is comfortable with the idea of gathering around a table for small group discussions. These small groups are really the heart of many workshops.  For those who are comfortable with the small groups, discussions while sitting 6 feet apart or masked make it difficult to share more personal and intimate reflections which is the power of small group work.

The creative solution:

Virtual Workshops via Zoom is one solution.  Is it the same as in-person workshops? No. Meeting in-person would always be preferable. Being physically present is different and meeting via Zoom is a pale imitation of meeting face-to-face.  We miss the body language and the ability to easily move in and out of multiple conversations when speaking through a screen.  But there are some benefits to the virtual option as well.

Meeting from the comfort of your own home:

All you need is access to the internet, a laptop or a smart phone with a camera and a microphone to participate.   But you do not need to drive anywhere, weather is not a problem (hello, winter!), and there is no need to get dressed up.   For evangelization, this is a game changer.  People who may not have been comfortable walking into a church or church hall, can now participate in faith discussions, or at least sit back and listen from the comfort of their own home.  We have had participants in virtual Alpha programs who had been invited to in-person Alpha programs many times, but just were not ready or able to come to a parish hall to participate.  When the option for a virtual on-line Alpha came along the threshold was low enough for them to be able and comfortable to try it out.  After all, if they did not like it, all they had to do is click a button to “leave the meeting”. 

Distance is not a deterrent:

We live in a huge Diocese.  It is not unusual for a workshop facilitator to drive two hours or more to a location, present a two-hour workshop, and drive another two hours or more to go home.  Considering that many workshops are on weekday evenings, this makes for some very late nights. Facilitating a series of workshops over many weeks, such as Alpha or The 99, or The Search would become very impractical and often impossible in the winter.  Presenting these workshops virtually, participants can receive the benefit of the workshop as well use the virtual workshop as a training for becoming a facilitator themselves in their own parish when it is  possible to meet in person once again. It is always easier to run a program if you have participated in it yourself.

It is possible to meet with multiple parishes at once:

Since distance is not a problem, and the technology allows for creating breakout groups, it is possible to offer a workshop or masterclass to multiple parishes at once.  Recently, our office offered a Virtual 99 Masterclass to four parishes as well as a group of participants from the Diocese of Syracuse. We all watched the presentations together, and then broke into our small parish groups for discussions. Again, it is not a perfect solution, but it is possible.

Available Workshops:

alpha graphic

Currently, the office of the New Evangelization is running a pilot online-Alpha.  It is anticipated that we will run a new Online Alpha course starting in February of 2021.  Alpha is a process for sharing the initial proclamation of the Gospel and so is geared primarily to those outside the church or marginally connected.  It is an easy, no-pressure opportunity for participants to explore the basics of Christianity. 



We have just completed our first 99 Masterclass with four parishes and one small group from the Diocese of Syracuse.  We plan to run the 99 Experience open to anyone in January of 2021.  The 99 is a three-part process of evangelization training.  The 99 Masterclass is aimed at parish leaders to explore various facets of evangelization.  The 99 Experience is for the person in the pew and can be likened to a parish mission. The third part is the 99 Handbook which would be great for small group discussion to go deeper into the content. The idea is that the three parts can be run repeatedly so that some who have participated in the Experience or book discussion would return to do the Masterclass and then help facilitate the Experience for a new cohort.  In addition, the 99 Experience would be a possible follow-up to the Alpha process.



We will run The Search discussion group, which is a discipleship program available on for a small group this October.  The program is aimed at people both inside and outside the church who want to explore questions about the meaning and purpose of life and how our faith in Jesus Christ makes sense of our experience. If you have a small group that would be interested, we can run another session of this discussion. The Search is a wonderful resource for discussion groups that also can serve well as a follow-up to Alpha or simply for participants to think about and share their own experience of faith.

Vespers from the Liturgy of the Hours: every weekday as schedules permit, a small group of participants come together to pray vespers from the Liturgy of the Hours using Zoom and iBreviary. 


To learn more:

If you are interested in learning more about how to get involved with any of the available virtual workshops or would like to talk about other possible workshops to be presented either virtually or in person, please contact Marika Donders at the Office of the New Evangelization at or 315-393-2920 or see  The Office of Evangelization is sponsored through the Bishop’s Fund and provides these workshops free of charge to parishes and parish groups.


signature marika


BOOK REVIEW: The Contagious Catholic: The Art of Practical Evangelization




The church exists to evangelize, and we, our generation of Catholics, are responsible for evangelizing this generation. Why should we concern ourselves with evangelizing the people we know and care about? Because everyone who has ever lived still lives somewhere, and we want those we care about to live forever in heaven, in the city of God, in union with God.

Many of us see the need to evangelize but do not know where to start. Marcel LeJeune's book The Contagious Catholic: The Art of Practical Evangelization gives us a starting point. It is a practical guide, a how-to book, to the art of evangelization.

I started reading this book when we were still in lockdown and dealing with the coronavirus.  For that reason, one line in the introduction struck home in a particular way: 

"We treat our faith like a virus and quarantine ourselves from others. Yet this one we want to spread. Spread the love of Jesus. Evangelize.”

Three things that are required for evangelization: That we listen, that we practice and that we pray.

God created us out of love and wants us to return to him. We are to live out of His love, give it to others and offer it and those we evangelize back to God. He gives us grace to do all this. He gives us the Holy Spirit to be channels of Grace for others and to go and make disciples. This is what we are commanded to do and the reason the church exists. We are made to to love God and love people like He does. We need to bring others to heaven along with us. God's desire for salvation of souls needs to become our desire.

Only disciples can make disciples, but only if we use the strategy that Jesus gave us, and if we love. So what is that strategy? We know the mission: go make disciples. We know why: because we want to be faithful and because it is what everyone needs. The HOW is the question. What is the strategy Jesus gave? Cooperate with the Holy Spirit (it is not our work). Know Jesus ourselves (it is all about relationship). Be not afraid (with God we can do all things). Be ourselves (we are sons and daughters of God and loved by Him). Be interested (people are not projects; listen to them, listen to their questions and needs). Everyone is loved by God and has an innate dignity (God loves them more than we ever could.)

We need to encounter people so that they can encounter Christ in us (and we in them)! Be a friend and bring that friend to Christ, and believe that the Holy Spirit will work though us.

Evangelization is not a formula. Doctrine is not about having all the right answers. It is relationships that transform lives. We need to form relationships with those outside the Church. Most Catholics have only friends who are Catholic or Christian. We remain comfortably in our common surroundings and customs, but to evangelize, we need to get out of our comfort zones.

The disciples did not stay in the upper room. They were scattered throughout the world. We need to do the same. We need to get outside of our parishes and go into the world and live our faith out loud. We need to stop hiding in our pews and do things that are a bit uncomfortable. There is no growth, and we produce no fruit unless we get out of our comfort zones.

The mission is to go and make disciples. The vision is to establish the kingdom. The strategy is to invest deeply in a handful of disciples and form them to do the same, thus multiplying the Church exponentially.

To see how that can work, read the book! It is a wonderful read, full of practical insights. It includes amazing stories as examples of what to do and what not to do. Each chapter comes with questions that are great for personal reflection or, better yet, as prompts to share your stories with a small group. After all, we need to practice talking about Jesus, about our relationship with Him and how He has transformed our hearts so that we can go out and do the same with those who have not yet encountered His love.


signature marika


Podcasts: What are you listening to?

I don’t know about you, but I find myself on long drives around the North Country … whether it is a 20-minute drive each way to get groceries or to commute to the office, or a two-hour drive to visit a parish for a workshop (which sadly hasn’t happened in a while with the Covid19 situation). Sometimes I use the time in the car for silent prayer or a rosary, and sometimes I use the time just to let my mind wander and mull over some project I am working on while I enjoy the scenery of the North Country.

At other times, however, I use the time to learn something new or be entertained by podcasts, serial audio programs that you can subscribe to and download to your phone. There are podcasts for almost every interest, from science to finance to games, productivity, minimalism and art and music. And yes, there are podcasts about faith, Catholicism, evangelization and the intersection of faith and culture. Some of these I have reviewed before (see links at the end of the post).

Here are three more that I have been listening to recently:

thiscatholiclife This Catholic Life Podcast: This is an Australian podcast in which the hosts have easy-going conversations with guests about all sort of topics and issues viewed through the Catholic Lens. Recent episodes have discussed such things as Eastern Catholicism, Parenting, the Meaning of Freedom, Ecology, Theology of the Body, and of course, the Coronovirus. One thing I like about this podcast is the relaxed conversations (and hey, the Aussie accent is fun to listen to). They are also dealing with a similarly secularized culture, and so the intersection of faith and culture are very similar to what we encounter here, yet there is a distinctly easygoing Australian attitude in how to engage the culture rather than simply oppose and react against the culture.
americancatholichistory600 300x300

American Catholic History Podcast: each episode of this podcast tells the story of Catholics who have contributed to the history of America. Some of these are famous but many (if not most) are individuals I have never heard of. Some are canonized saints, and some are just ordinary Catholics who simply lived faithfully and so changed the world and changed the history of our nation. The stories are fascinating and make you realize that you, too, can have effect and do small things with great love and faith and have an impact on our neighborhood and influence the culture around us. 

This podcast is part of the SQPN (Star Quest Production Network) that produces Catholic Podcasts. In addition to the American Catholic History Podcast, check out such podcasts as Jimmy Akin’s Mysterious World, Raising the Betts, and the Secrets of Technology.  

cordial catholic

The Cordial Catholic is a podcast by a former non-denominational evangelical protestant who converted to Catholicism.  He has conversations with theologians, Catholic authors and scholars, bishops, and other converts about topics that help explain Catholic teachings. This is a great podcasts for new Catholics and non-Catholics interested in the faith, but also for those of us whose mission it is to explain the faith to others, because many of the topics covered answer questions that people have about the faith. Some recent discussions have dealt with topics such as Purgatory, Catholic Scriptures and how they differ from Protestant bibles, Apostolic Succession, Redemptive Suffering, Relics and Infant Baptism.



Previous Podcast Reviews: 


Archive of Past Reviews



Resource: Prayer Apps and Other Resources for Your Smart Phone

With the current situation of not being able to use missalettes and hymnal’s in our pews, I thought I would share some apps and other resources that you can download on your smart phone to help you pray the Mass, reflect on the readings and enter more deeply into prayer.

(Note that most of these apps are free, but they also rely on donations to pay for the server, the updating and the creative work behind the scenes.  If you like and/or frequently make use of these apps, consider sending a donation through the app or on their website.)


I will share other apps and electronic resources in future posts.  



iBreviary: (IOS and Android) - FREE

This is probably my favorite app for the readings of the Mass as well as the Liturgy of the Hours. You can download each day or a whole week for use offline. In addition to being able to replace the four volumes of the Liturgy of the Hours, the Weekday Missal and the Sunday Missal, it also offers Catholic prayers and rituals and such as Stations of the Cross, Divine Mercy Chaplet, litanies and prayers, as well as text for ritual masses and rites.

You can also switch languages in the app.

For those of you who manage parish websites, code is available to put the iBreviary on your website as as widget.



Laudate (IOS and Android) – no website – Search for Laudate in your app store - FREE

laudateThis app probably has the largest collection of prayers of any Catholic app and is available in many languages. It also includes the readings for Mass, Saint of the Day, Catechism, Bible NAB and Douay-Rheims, Vatican Documents, chaplets, rosary meditations, podcasts…etc. 

Because it is so extensive, you can create a folder of your own favorite prayers for easy access.

The thing I don’t like about this app is that it tries to include everything and, in so doing, some of the material is not designed for phones making it harder to use or even requiring internet access in order to access (for example, the bible is not available off-line).



Universalis - (IOS and Android) – Free trial, after which you can purchase the app or get a subscription



Like iBreviary and Laudate, this app provides readings for the Mass as well as the Liturgy of the Hours, although it uses the Jerusalem Bible/Grail translations, so the texts will not perfectly match what we use in the US.

The web version (not the app) is free, so if you have access to either wifi or a unlimited data plan, you could access Universalis on your phone browser.





My Catholic Life  - (IOS, Android and Kindle) - FREE

my catholic life


This app has the daily readings and a daily reflection on the readings, a Saint of the Day, Reflections and Prayers related to the Divine Mercy devotion, inspiring quotes, and daily news compiled from various Catholic News Feeds. I really like this app for the reflections on the reading.






Pray as you Go  - (IOS and Android) - FREE

pray as you go


This is an app that started out as a podcast for commuters to pray the Gospel of the day “as they go” to work or home. This app plays a short hymn, followed by the reading of the Gospel. The app then guides you through a reflection to help you enter into the Gospel.  There is a re-reading of the Gospel.   

The entire prayer time lasts about 15 minutes and is a form of Lectio Divina to help you listen and reflect on the scripture of the day, connect with God through prayer and become more aware of his presence in your life.






signature marika



Archive of Past Reviews


Book Review: Salvation, What Every Catholic Should Know



Salvation, What Every Catholic Should Know

"Are you saved?" When I was in college, some random student came up to me and asked me this question out of the blue. At the time, I wasn't a practicing Catholic. I wasn't practicing anything. I had no clue what the question even meant.

If you've ever wondered how to answer that question or what the question even means, the book  Salvation, What Every Catholic Should Know, by Michael Patrick Barber, is for you. Most practicing Catholics probably understand that Salvation is important. After all, every Sunday, in the Creed, we pray that Jesus came down from heaven "for our salvation." We know that Christ is the Savior, but what are we being saved from and what are we being saved for?

What I love about this book is that it takes common objections or oversimplifications and begins to tell us what Salvation is by explaining what it is not. Each chapter covers what salvation is not: it's not self help, not just fire insurance, not without cost, not just personal, not just a legal transaction, not a spectator sport, not simply a moment, not inevitable, not just for other people and it is not just about the future. In each chapter, in clear and concise language, Michael Patrick Barber unpacks each of those distortions and strips away the misunderstandings and confusion. Then using from Sacred Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Tradition of our faith, he draws us into the deeper meaning of salvation that calls us to a relationship with Jesus. This relatively easy to read book  will not only help you do answer the question "Are You Saved" but more importantly it will help you pray for the graces needed to truly become a new creation in Christ.

signature marika


Archive of Reviews