In Sherry Weddell’s seminal work, Forming Intentional Disciples she outlines five thresholds of conversion that are profoundly important in the work of evangelization and the mission of Christ to call all peoples to Himself. The first threshold is that of building an atmosphere of trust. A trust that extends to positive associations with Jesus, the Church, or anything indentifiably Christian and if that bridge does not exist, then we as evangelists must be willing and able to create moments where these bridges can be built. Around the coutnry we see a growth of such events and today, Jared Zimmerer discusses one such event occuring in Chicago this weekend with one of the organizers, Fr. Peter Wojcik.
(re)Encounter appears to be taking an important approach of evangelization, that is, inviting Catholics and non-Catholics alike to a relaxed, open environment, meant to create conversation and build relationships among each other. How do you hope to see that approach coming to fruition in the life of those evangelizing and their outreach?
When Jesus called his disciples, he did not ask them to maintain a building or even a community—he invited them on a journey and entrusted them with a powerful, life changing mission. The participation in that mission not only changed the lives of those Jesus called 2,000 years but it also has the power to change the lives of those he calls and then sends on his mission today. The fruit of evangelization is, what Pope Francis calls, missionary discipleship- a willingness to take on the mission of Christ by serving others.
In the wake of the “rise of the unaffiliated” how do you hope to see this event encourage and inspire young Catholics to reach out to those who’ve either drifted away or who’ve never met Christ?
Believe- behave- belong were the 3 steps of a faith behavior for many generations of Catholics in our country. Originated in the European experience many immigrant Catholics were equipped with the gift of faith and faithful to their heritage they practiced it through Sunday masses, devotions and novenas. However, the studies would tell us that this formula does not work for both the Generation X and the millennials. For those two groups the starting point of engagement is not believe but belonging. Therefore, events and programs like Theology on Tap, movie and conversation evening with Cardinal Cupich, and (re)Encounter are designed to meet people where they are. Create intentional places of belonging and then allow the Holy Spirt to work so belonging will transition to believing and staying active in faith.
In preparing for this event, and in seeing it become successful, in what particular ways have you and your team relied on the Holy Spirit to send His grace to all of those involved?
We relied the Holy Spirit quite a bit! But the Spirit is always at work, encouraging and challenging us to be active and to stay creative. We know that the Holy Spirit works through others so, here, in the Archdiocese of Chicago we have a special Youth and Young Adult Steering Committee of local experts and ministers who help us to think creatively about the needs of young people in Chicago.
There are times when the idea of becoming holy is seen as something vague or isolated, how do you hope to see the call to holiness expressed to a generation who are struggling with faith?
I hear that statement from time to time and I would say let’s look at Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Maximillian Kolbe, Archbishop Oscar Romero, Pier Giorgio Frassati – there is nothing boring or nothing ordinary about those people. They allow God to make a difference in their lives and consequently desired to make a different in the lives of others. That’s what call to holiness is; our willingness for the Spirit of God to change us so then in turn we can help to embrace and serve others.
One of the guest speakers will be renowned actor, producer, father, husband, and businessman, who will join Cardinal Cupich on stage for a discussion on the importance of repentance and rebirth, how Mr. Wahlberg discovered truth through his own reconciliation in the Catholic faith, and the role the Bible and Jesus Christ play in his everyday life.
Where can people go to sign up and find more information?
For more information and to register for tickets, please visit www.reencounterchicago.org