Missionary Discipleship workshop to be held in Norfolk

Everyone is called to evangelize, to share the saving message of Jesus Christ.
But how do we that?
At least one way to start is readily available – a Missionary Discipleship 101 workshop March 24 at St. Mary Church and nearby Sacred Heart Parish Center in Norfolk. 
A similar session Jan. 27 drew more than 120 people to St. James Church in Omaha, and appeared to be a hit. The workshop included training and giving people time to practice what they learned by teaching others.
“I really liked it. … We had a great time,” said Adam Stephenson, youth ministry coordinator at St. Patrick Parish in Elkhorn, who went with 10 members of his parish, including five other young adults.
They brought back to their parish tips for evangelization, including praying with others and sharing the faith by coupling personal accounts with Gospel stories that reflect the same timeless truths about sin, conversion and Christ’s love and sacrifice, Stephenson said.
“God loves you, sin is bad for you, Jesus lived and died for you, repent and believe,” Stephenson said. “Those are the bare bones of the Gospel message. You can put flesh on those bones with your own story.”
Mark Nelson, who is leading evangelization efforts at St. Mary Parish in Bellevue, came with 17 other people – and still another group from St. Mary plans to go to Norfolk.
“The biggest thing was the way they trained us to use the information,” Nelson said. “People with little or no experience teaching concepts such as leading small groups, prayer, giving testimony, managed to effectively teach the rest of the group.”
People from St. Mary plan to hold monthly meetings to discern how to bring others to the faith and fulfill the archdiocese’s vision of building “One church: encountering Jesus, equipping disciples and living mercy,” Nelson said.
That’s the kind of feedback James Jansen, director of the archdiocese’s Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, was hoping for. He and others in his office – including Jen Moser, coordinator of leadership formation, and Andrew Dejka, coordinator of parish evangelization and adult discipleship – conduct the daylong training sessions, which include giving people time to practice what they have learned.
 “This is an opportunity for people who feel the call to evangelize but aren’t quite sure where to get started,” Jansen said. “This is world-class training in the concrete skills to get started.”
That might sound like hyperbole, Jansen said. But the tools being used were developed by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) and adapted to the needs of parishes, he said. Similar training was offered by FOCUS to people in the archdiocese and around the country in Chicago the first week in January. 
The tools include step-by-step instruction for effectively leading small groups, sharing faith stories and praying with others through Lectio Divina, which encourages people to place themselves in Scripture stories and discern their reactions to the word of God found in those stories.
Father Jeffrey Lorig, director of pastoral services for the archdiocese, gave a keynote talk and introduced the team and topics in Omaha, and he plans to do the same in Norfolk. 
Stephenson said his group has been reviewing the sessions at St. James. He plans to use the techniques in a couple of weeks with youth from his parish currently involved with Teen Alpha, a multi-week program designed to explore the basics of the faith and build community. One goal is to have people pray with others and tell their faith stories, as taught in Missionary Discipleship, as they encourage newcomers to participate in Teen Alpha next fall, he said.
Jansen said he, Moser and Dejka recently trained parish leaders at St. Bonaventure Parish in Columbus in the same techniques. 
“It was a little taste of it, tailored to their parish – and to generate enthusiasm to (participate) in Norfolk,” he said.
WHAT: Missionary Discipleship 101
WHEN: 8:30 a.m. Mass, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. workshop, March 24
WHERE: St. Mary Church and Sacred Heart Parish Center, Norfolk
COST: $13, includes lunch
CONTACT: Register at; call Beth at 402-557-5610


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