Summary of the New Evangelization Committee
In the winter of 2019, Bishop Brennan established the Committee for the New Evangelization. The committee partnered with the Catholic Leadership Institute in the summer of 2020 to begin work on the planning of the six priorities for evangelization in the Diocese of Columbus.
Those six priorities, established by Bishop Brennan, include the renewal of parishes as a place of formation for missionary disciples, the ongoing formation of schools staff and faculty as missionary disciples, the evangelization of all the higher educational centers in the diocese, the use of social and digital media for evangelization, the support and utilization of lay missionaries and apostolates, and the development of a soft-entry evangelization center for outreach to seculars and “nones.” A separate subcommittee was created for each of these priorities. Each subcommittee developed a plan to address their particular priority. They worked from September 2020 to March 2021 gathering data and insights, investigating options and models, and developing budgets and timelines. After some revisions, the plans were presented in the final form to Bishop Brennan on May 17, 2021. The plans call for three to five years of investments and implementation to transform the Diocese of Columbus into a national leader in the work of evangelization. Evangelization planning is both at the heart and spearpoint of Real Presence, Real Future initiative. As the RPRF process assesses the current diocesan and parish resources and future needs, the evangelization plans provide the framework and strategy for increasing the Church’s presence for the future.
Parish Missionary Disciple Formation
The Parish Missionary Disciple Formation subcommittee consisted of Jacci Ashbury, Liz Christy, Sister Karla Archundia, Tina Burtch, Fr. Sean Dooley, Deacon Victor Nduguba, Drew Snyder, Fr. Jonathan Wilson, and Cora Munoz. Parish evangelization begins and ends with the formation of all the baptized as missionary disciples. Their plan consists of three phases. The first phase, inspired by a genuine desire to support priests, proposes providing spiritual support and renewal for the priests of the diocese. Supported and renewed pastors and priests are a prerequisite for the renewal of our parishes in the missionary disciple culture. The second phase looks to equip pastors and parish staff with the necessary support and formation to help build a culture of missionary discipleship in the parish. Several models were identified from which pastors can choose. The third phase includes assisting pastors and parishes to develop their own particular plan on how to form missionary disciples in their parish. The parish subcommittee also recommended the creation of a diocesan Office for Evangelization and an annual evangelization conference.
Catholic Schools’ Staff and Faculty
Closely connected to the parish subcommittee is the Catholic Schools’ Staff and Faculty subcommittee. Adam Dufault, Fr. Dan Dury, Laura Corcoran, Dan DeMatte, Dan Garrick, Sr. John Paul Maher OP, and Therese Recinella worked together on the subcommittee’s plan. Inspired by a genuine desire in provide spiritual support and formation for the staff of our Catholic schools, they identified three goals. The first is to facilitate an annual “encounter” experience retreat for all Catholic schools’ staff and faculty. The second is to provide ongoing prayer formation and daily and weekly opportunities for prayer for teachers and staff. The final is to provide staff small group support that builds up the morale and spiritual life of those who sacrifice so much for our Catholic schools.
University and Higher Education Evangelization
There are twenty-five higher educational centers in the Diocese of Columbus. The college years are the crucial period in life for the retention of the faith and discernment of vocations. As such, it is the primary place of evangelization for the future of the local church. The University and Higher Education Evangelization subcommittee separated the twenty-five campuses into categories based on size and nature. Each educational center has a unique background and requires a unique approach. Among the recommendations of the subcommittee is to expand from two to seven teams of missionaries from St. Paul’s Outreach (SPO) and the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) working in the diocese. These missionary teams would serve at Ohio State University, Ohio Northern University, and clusters of other campuses. Support for staffing would also be given to local parishes responsible for the pastoral care of and outreach to local campuses. The plan calls for investing in student leadership programs in order to support those young adult Catholics at our universities to be leaders and missionary disciples amongst their peers. The University subcommittee members included Maria Tarbell, Andrew Kebe, Bruno Ferrari, Fr. William Hahn, Mary Jeffries, Dan Kurth, and Patrick Welsh.
Social and Digital Media Evangelization
The Social and Digital Media Evangelization subcommittee first proposed rebranding the Diocese of Columbus to better reflect its newly refined mission, as well as present a fresh and attractive face of the church of Columbus online. Along with that, the subcommittee recommends enhancing the current diocesan plan of creating social media content that engages, evangelizes, attracts, and forms missionary disciples and will grow the follower base and connect people to Christ and the Catholic Church. The plan is able to be accomplished because of the recent partnership of the Diocese of Columbus with Glasscanvas and their Tilma platform. Over the next few months, the diocesan website will be overhauled and parishes will be offered the opportunity to have their websites renewed and improved through Tilma. Over the next year, the diocese will be creating two new online platforms for disciple formation and evangelization content, called Behold and Proclaim. Finally, in order to rebrand and produce content, the diocese will need to establish a specialized creative team with the expertise to develop, execute, and manage the content strategy plan for increasing the diocesan presence on social and digital platforms. Dave Orsborn, Paul Baum, Alex Mieras, Andrew Mackey, Brendan O’Rourke, Aaron Christy, Fr. Michael Hartge, and Bill Messerly served on this subcommittee.
The Lay Missionaries subcommittee consisted of Megan Baum, Catherine Suprenant, Maggie Mauer, Aaron Richards, Brad Pierron, and John Packer Stevenson. The diocese is blessed with many lay apostolates and lay missionaries, including Damascus, SPO, FOCUS, Adore, the Missionary Servants of the Word. The subcommittee’s plan looks to equip the diocese with lay missionaries by creating an internal structure to support lay missionary work. This includes supporting pastors and principals who desire lay missionaries to work in their parishes and schools. It also entails developing a formal process for the recognition of new or emerging lay apostolates and for inviting new national lay apostolates into the diocese. Second, the subcommittee proposes providing support for missionaries and their work with leadership training and finances. In the final part of this plan, the subcommittee calls for promoting missionary work through diocesan campaigns and to host a conference to educate and invite a response to the missionary call.
Soft Entry Evangelization Center
The final subcommittee is the Soft Entry Evangelization Center subcommittee. This subcommittee plan addresses a demographic crisis nationally and locally. Over the last decades there has been a significant increase in the population of those who have no religious affiliation. Moreover, the majority of these “Nones” are not likely to attend an event or program at a parish and have a general skepticism towards institutional religion. Therefore, it is necessary to provide a “soft entry” point that is not overly religious to provide an opportunity for them to encounter Jesus Christ and His Church. The subcommittee first proposes that the diocese support the initiation of a ministry that embraces this vision for outreach. The apostolate or ministry would act as the leader of diocesan-wide efforts for soft entry evangelization. Eventually an actual physical location or center would be developed. This center would include space for “soft entry” programming and meeting. The location would not be overly religious and would be connected to a coffee shop and/or microbrewery. Kate Giddens, Loren Brown, Fr. David Sizemore, Kevin Oles, Joseph Zaino, Mitchell Wilson, Adora Namigadde, David Messina, and Matt Schlaeter served on this subcommittee.
Bishop Brennan closed the work the evangelization planning subcommittees with a special Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral for the subcommittee members on his birthday. He thanked the members “for their hard work and impressive plans.” Over the summer, next steps will be taken for the financial planning for and prioritization of the proposals.