Diocese announces first ‘Director of Evangelization’

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Patrick Schmadeke is the new Director of Evangelization for the Diocese of Davenport. He begins April 1.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

A desire to take evangelization to the next level led the Diocese of Davenport to choose Patrick Schmad­eke as its first Director of Evangelization. Bishop Thomas Zinkula an­nounced the appointment this week and said he anticipates a start date of April 1 for Schmadeke, 30, a Waterloo, Iowa, native who earned his undergraduate degree at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.

“Patrick has passion for the faith; he has an abundance of energy; and he is eager to grow into this position,” Bishop Zinkula said. “Due to his age and his familiarity with the digital world, he will be able to relate to youth and young adults who are struggling with faith issues. Since he is a recent graduate of the University of Notre Dame Master of Divinity graduate program, he will bring to the position current thinking in the areas of Catholic theology and spirituality.”

“For the diocese to create a new position like this reflects the kind of thinking that is responding to the needs of faith communities on the ground,” Schmad­eke said. “It makes me excited to contribute to the diocesan faith community. Exciting things are happening in the Davenport Diocese!”

Bishop Zinkula said the Director of Evangelization position “has been incubating for quite some time. We put together a Steering Committee to begin Vision 20/20 back in 2018 and got things rolling. The pandemic forced the diocese to switch gears, “focusing more inward this past year on the Emmaus Initiative, which turned out to be providential.”

“If we are going to be effective evangelizers, we need to be well-grounded disciples who know our faith and can talk comfortably about it with others. There has been a growing awareness that if we want to take this process to the next level we need a fulltime leader. Otherwise, we will just limp along.”

After evaluating “where we were financially as a diocese in light of the pandemic,” Bishop Zinkula said, the search for a Director of Evangelization resumed in earnest during the past several months. “There will be plenty for the director to do while we are making our way through the pandemic — getting acclimated to the diocese; getting to know people in the chancery, parishes and schools; learning where the diocese is at with regard to Vision 20/20 and evangelization; planning for the future.”

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The search committee sought someone who demonstrates creativity, imagination and the ability to think outside the box. Someone who is good with people, collaborative, consultative, a joyful disciple and a tireless evangelist, the bishop said. “Patrick has all of these gifts and traits. He doesn’t have to accomplish the task of moving our diocese from a maintenance mode to mission all on his own, but he will use his gifts to help lead the diocese in this effort.”

“The new Office of Evangelization will unify the diocesan effort to bring the Gospel to the center, to the margins, to every corner of the diocese,” said Miguel Moreno, diocesan Director of Multicultural Ministry. “Patrick’s enthusiasm and vision will help fuel this effort. Welcome, and let’s continue moving forward!”

Schmadeke is eager to begin. “I’m really interested in what evangelization looks like as we think about the future of parish life. At the end of Mass, we are sent beyond the four walls of the parish. We are already sharing God’s love in many ways, but we also must keep our ear to the ground to discern how the Holy Spirit is calling us anew. I think this position can help promote this kind of discernment in our faith communities.”

He sees promise in the framework and language of evangelization for his generation, which is “steadily leaving religion in general,” because “it provides direction for how to reach out and share what Christ has to offer this population. Or, put another way, to share how the church is a space where they can be more authentically themselves by discovering the person that God is calling them to be.”
New efforts in evangelization “must be organic, develop from the ground up, and respond to specific contexts. The Holy Spirit is always calling us to more. This call always occurs in the concrete and daily realities of our communal lives, and we discover this call most fully through communal conversation. I am energized by being a part of such conversations.”

At the core of evangelization is “emphasizing that our faith grows out of a personal and communal encounter with the living God. Such an encounter often leads us to unexpected places. When we experience the love of God, we are prompted to turn outward and share this love with others in new and surprising ways.”

Paradoxically, one of the challenges of evangelization in the Catholic Church is a general misunderstanding of the term, evangelization, Schmadeke said. “One study showed that something like 6% of Catholics think that evangelization is an important dimension of their faith.”

“Evangelization can mean a lot of different things. When one is teaching in the classroom, preaching from the pulpit or serving at the local food pantry, evangelization looks unique. The common thread through each of these settings is that ministry (which we all do) involves facilitating an encounter with the living God, with the person of Jesus. We then respond to this encounter with a readiness to go with God where we have not gone before, or to do what we have not done before.”

Schmadeke believes his role as a husband and father of two young children will affect the way he executes his role as Director of Evangelization. “We are all members of the family of God. This means listening to each other, to the Holy Spirit, and taking the opportunities to share God’s love in the messiness of day-to-day life in our faith communities.”

He plans to draw on Scripture, the saints, Catholic Social Teaching and the liturgy in creative ways in his new position. “Scripture challenges us to live out the love of God, the saints can serve as inspiring models of how to do that well, the social teaching of the church gives us a common vocabulary and framework for enriching our communities, and liturgy provides the space for us to come together as members of the mystical body of Christ.”


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