Vision 20/20: Evangelizing the ‘churched’

Julie Delaney and Michelle Herrington speak during Vision 20/20 at St. Ambrose University in Davenport earlier this year.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

As the number of people leaving the Catholic Church continues to rise, it is more important than ever to evangelize within church walls.

“The nature of the church is changing, the people in the pews are changing, and we realize we need to adapt and respond to our current reality,” said Michelle Herrington, director of parish life at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport. Herrington and Julie Delaney, principal of St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School, offered a presentation, “How to Evangelize the Churched,” during the Vision 20/20 Convocation at St. Ambrose University in Davenport this past June.

Delaney said it is important for parishes to look at who their “flock” is, as no two parishes are exactly the same. “Who are the typical people in our pews, how engaged are they and what are the concerns in their lives?” For example, most parishes will have “consumer Catholics” who are interested in receiving the sacraments of initiation or marriage in the church but are not interested in being active members of the parish. Parishes with schools may have people that join a parish for the sole purpose of getting reduced tuition. It is important to meet these people where they are at and find ways to evangelize them, Herrington and Delaney said.

For the past seven years, St. Paul’s has been working to evangelize people in their faith community who may not be fully engaged. In doing this, the parish worked to change existing structures and processes within the parish and school to promote evangelization, such as sacramental prep, new family registration, leadership, church and school collaboration.
During the presentation, Herrington and Delaney spoke about some of the things their parish has done to evangelize people in the pews, acknowledging that what worked for them might not work for everyone. “Hopefully we can inspire you,” Delaney said. “We’re all kind of starting with the same concerns in mind.”

This presentation on evangelizing the churched is available online via podcast at https://diocese-of-davenport.simplecast. com. A video recording can be found at https://tinyurl.com/y5xjtocw. Most of the presentations from the Vision 20/20 Convocation are available for viewing and/or listening. Topics include: sharing faith stories; reaching out to families; evangelizing youths and young adults; evangelizing in smaller parishes; evangelizing in an age of secularism, atheism and scientism; hospitality; immigrant voices; and church teaching on sexuality and sexual identity.

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