By Emmaline Jurgena
The Catholic Messenger
An effort to evangelize and increase participation in Catholic events has sprung up in the Quad Cities, in the form of the New Evangelical Network (NEN).
NEN has been active on the Illinois side of the Quad Cities since the fall of 2012. The network was created as a response to a perceived need for better distribution of information about Catholic events and speakers. The network’s mission is to inform all Quad-City area Catholic parishes about speakers and major events. NEN operates on the belief that “the faith of a Catholic is enhanced through participation in Catholic events.”
NEN members strive to make personal connections with others in their parishes and communities, extend personal invitations to events and speakers, promote speakers and sell event tickets.
“We know that hearts are moved by personal invitation,” NEN coordinator Maggie Schoonmaker said.
In the fall 2013, NEN promoted author Matthew Kelly’s appearance at St. Pius X Parish in Rock Island, Ill., and was encouraged by the positive results. More than 1,000 people bought tickets and attended the event, an outcome that some feel moved the NEN ahead.
Catholics such as Schoonmaker, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish (Bettendorf) representative Deacon John Weber and Sacred Heart Cathedral Parish (Davenport) representative Jim Tiedje are trying to bring the work of NEN to the Iowa side of the Quad Cities. Although they are optimistic about the endeavor, they see barriers to immediate success.
Deacon Weber believes that the network is challenged in two ways: the separation of the Quad Cities by the Mississippi River and dealing with the two different dioceses — Peoria (Ill.) and Davenport. He also finds it difficult to get individuals who are not already actively involved to want to participate.
“If they’re not active, it’s going to be a challenge to get them to events,” Deacon Weber said.
Despite the challenges, progress is being made in efforts to develop NEN within parishes on the Iowa side of the Quad Cities. Tiedje and Deacon Weber presented the idea to the Davenport Deanery Council (one of six regions in the Davenport Diocese) earlier this year, and received its full support. Now NEN representatives are focusing on recruiting more parish representatives and continuing to grow and expand the network.
“The more mouths there are that are spreading the word, that is what the NEN is all about,” Tiedje said.
To learn more about participating in NEN, contact Maggie Schoonmaker at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (309) 738-1104.