Two years ago, on the Feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Bishop Barron and the Word on Fire team launched a new initiative. At the encouragement of Cardinal Francis George, Bishop Barron had a desire to see the ministry of Word on Fire take a bold, new step in forming an army of evangelists. Evangelists whose sole focus is inviting a secular world to know Jesus Christ through the beauty, the intellectual life, and the tradition of Catholicism.
This new initiative is the Word on Fire Institute.
In the span of two years, the Institute has grown to represent 27 countries around the world, have over 15,000 members, and receive several grants for projects spanning the next several years—and believe me, we are just getting started.
The Word on Fire Institute exists as the educational arm of Bishop Robert Barron’s ministry. Our spirit can best be understood as a descendent of St. John Paul II, the Second Vatican Council, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. We strive to form our members in the intellectual, practical, and spiritual life of a modern-day evangelist.
The modern-day evangelist is one who knows and loves the culture enough to desire its greatest fulfillment through a deep and lasting relationship with Jesus Christ in the sacraments of the Catholic Church. Through specialized courses, group discussions, print materials, prayer resources, and numerous other avenues, we want to offer anything we can to help our members evangelize in their everyday lives. Some of our courses focus on the richness of the theological and philosophical tradition, such as Bishop Barron’s courses on Hans Urs von Balthasar and St. John Henry Newman. We have other courses on the practical ways in which we can evangelize our neighbor, such as Fr. Stephen Gadberry’s course entitled The People You Will Meet, or Leah Libresco Sargeant’s course on living a Christian communal life as a way of evangelization. Still others dive into the spirituality of Thomas Merton, the necessity of reading good literature, or the best apologetic approaches using logic and imagination. We now have seventeen courses for our members to take with more coming every few weeks!
One of the initial dreams of the Institute was to launch our own journal through which we would embody the beautiful and the substantive; that journal is entitled Evangelization & Culture.
One year into the launch of the Institute, we released our first issue of the journal on the theme of creativity. Thanks to the leadership and vision of Dr. Tod Worner, Rozann Lee and our design team, and Elizabeth Scalia and our editors, we have the most stunning Catholic journal I’ve ever seen. In one year, we’ve ranged from interviews with Dave Rubin and David Greenwalt, to essays by N.T. Wright, Fr. Jacques Philippe, Gary Saul Morson, Tracey Rowland, and so many more! This journal breaks new ground in how good intellectual discussion can combine with the Catholic tradition of beauty. Our anniversary issue which was recently released is on the theme of Scripture and keeps raising the bar!
These two years seem to have flown by and I’m unable to list all of the ways our Lord continues to bless this apostolate. Thanks to the leadership of Bishop Barron and Fr. Steve Grunow, both of whom I consider my family, we have seen story after story of how the work of Word on Fire, the work of our members, and those inspired by this evangelical approach is working.
Bishop Barron started Word on Fire with a dream. He wanted the world to know the Catholic Church on its own terms and, through a shared love of culture, invite those who might never step into a church to meet Jesus. The Word on Fire Institute aims to amplify that dream by forming tens of thousands of evangelists who can bring Christ into their lives and the lives of those around them. As St. Thomas Aquinas stated, you cannot love what you do not know.
We want our members to know and love the person of Jesus Christ and his Catholic Church. We also want them to know and love the culture around them, because as Cardinal George stated echoing Aquinas, you cannot evangelize what you do not love. If you love the culture and want to introduce Christ to it in a real way, come join us at https://wordonfire.institute!