By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
Evangelization “is not the fad of the month,” speaker Mike Patin told delegates of the Vision 20/20 Convocation during the June 6 opening general session at St. Ambrose University. “This is a way of looking at things. This is a prompting of the Holy Spirit.”
Patin kicked off the three-day diocesan convocation with an energetic call to action. The diocese needs “lens crafters” to take the Joy of the Gospel message of evangelization and localize it. “We have to see where our vision isn’t whole. We have to be active/proactive about trying to figure out what helps our vision … We have to craft it! We can’t just wait for someone else to do it for us.”
The motivational speaker and author from Louisiana has spoken in more than 130 dioceses in North America. “I’m what they call a faith horticulturalist,” he said. “What does that mean? It means sometimes I break hard ground. Sometimes I plant seeds. A lot of times I water the seeds others have planted, but most days I just throw manure and God somehow makes it grow.”
Just 38 percent of Americans trust organized religion, according to a 2018 Gallup poll, Patin told his audience. “People are not trusting institutions anymore. There’s a desire for the personal.” Among the challenges the Catholic Church is dealing with are the growing number of people who identify as spiritual but not religious and the sex abuse scandal. “After a while that starts to grate on us and we start to become defensive and fearful.” He asked the audience to share how they were feeling about challenges affecting the Catholic Church in America. One person who volunteered an answer said “ashamed;” others said “discouraged,” “disappointed,” “anxious.”
He asked the delegates why they choose to stay in the church. “Because Jesus is worth fighting for,” one delegate said. “It’s home; you don’t leave your family,” said another.
“I’d say we’re pretty bruised and battered now, but we’re still standing,” Patin said. “We’ve had to operate on fear for a long time, but we have to move past this (mindset). We’ve got to act out of love. We’ve got to be bold! We’ve got to go to the wall! We’ve got to take a shot to the fence!”
Growing the church and proclaiming the Good News in today’s society requires a different way of looking at things. Most parishes are primarily focused on what they are doing, not why they do what they do. “If it’s not to preach the Good News, maybe we need to take a second look.”
Patin reassured the audience that they needn’t change everything. Sometimes a change in focus or perspective is enough. “(Pope Francis) said actions should be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than the church’s preservation.”
He asked delegates to consider what their parishes and other diocesan entities are doing well and what they are doing well in their own lives. He told them to focus on how they can be more effective in the three basics of missionary discipleship: encounter, accompaniment and transformation.
When encountering others, it is important to think about the person’s humanity first, Patin said. “Everyone we meet loves, has lost, is struggling, is searching, and has a story.” This includes people you may or may not like, he said. A good mindset to have when encountering others is “I want to know your story because you matter.” Accompanying others requires an attitude of “we’re in this together; God is with us.”
Patin told the delegates, “We’re called to walk with people even if they’re walking away. We’ve got to wake up our congregations to walk with people.” And it can’t be just the “10 percent who do everything.” To be transformed, Catholics should open themselves up to the Holy Spirit and try not to be lone rangers. “This is a call to intentionality,” he said.
He challenged the delegates to trust in their God-given abilities and take chances when it comes to spreading the Good News. “We’ve got to stop being scared.”