Our History

The Early Years

Fr. Alvin A. IlligThe Paulist Fathers established Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association (PNCEA) in 1977 as its apostolic arm to foster Catholic evangelization in North America. Fr. Alvin A. Illig, CSP, a dynamic and talented Paulist priest, served as the founding director until his death in 1991.

PNCEALogoBlueFr. Illig planted the seeds of evangelization in America, encouraging active Catholics to invite inactive Catholics to return to the Church and the unchurched to join the Catholic family of believers. Also serving as executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Evangelization from 1977-1982, Fr. Illig visited nearly three-quarters of U.S. dioceses, introducing evangelization to thousands of priests, religious, and laity.

In 2009, PNCEA adopted a new name and logo and became known as Paulist Evangelization Ministries (PEM). Since then PEM has continued the mission started by Fr. Illig and PNCEA to help Catholics evangelize across North America.

Equipping parishes, preparing the laity, and helping Catholics grow in faith.

Through the years, Paulist Evangelization Ministries has carried out its mission through various programs and ministries:

  • 1979-1986 – PNCEA sponsored national Lay Celebrations of Evangelization, including the Catholic Evangelization Satellite Celebration Days which connected parishes from around the country each year for a symposium on evangelization.
  • 1978 – PNCEA led an ecumenical coalition that sponsored the first major Gallup study on the Unchurched American and its follow-up study in 1988
  • 1980-2005 – Share The Word magazine offered enlivening evangelization-based reflections on the Sunday Scripture readings and the daily Mass readings.
  • 1984 – Invitation is first published, it has gone on to become one of our most popular resources with over 1 million copies in print.
  • 1984-1999 – Another Look, a national ministry to inactive Catholics, included a series of five newsletters that gently invited non-practicing Catholics to again explore their Catholic faith.
  • 1990 – PNCEA launched a major outreach to Americans with no church family – The Catholic Way of Life.
  • 1995 – PNCEA published Yes, I Can Believe, a new method of reaching out to inactive Catholics and the unchurched. This book remains a popular title today.
  • 1996 – Disciples in Mission, a three-year, parish-wide experience of evangelization, has touched the lives of 4.5 million Catholics in 3,600 parishes in 42 dioceses throughout the United States.
  • 1998-2007 – PNCEA Parish Missions, provided dynamic and effective preaching through the lens of Catholic evangelization.
  • 1999-2013 – ENVISION, Planning Our Parish Future, is a Christ-centered pastoral planning process that engages all parishioners in developing and implementing a faith-based vision for their parish. Workbooks for ENVISION remain available though program support has been discontinued.
  • 2005 – PNCEA keeps evangelization leaders informed of new opportunities and emerging trends through the Evangelization Exchange a free, monthly electronic newsletter.
  • 2006 – PNCEA began quarterly webinars, called Catholic Speakers Online, which feature live, interactive, hour-long presentations by experts in various ministries.
  • 2007 – PNCEA began the Paulist Evangelization Training Institute online which offers courses in Catholic evangelization and its many practical applications over the internet.
  • 2008 – Best Practices for Parishes, is an online self-study tool that enables parishes to assess and implement seven dimensions of parish life using best practice statements drawn from church documents, pastoral experiences and ministry experts.
  • 2009 – Awakening Faith, Reconnecting with Your Catholic Faith, equips parishes to welcome and invite inactive Catholics.
  • 2010 – PNCEA publishes “Seeking Christ” a program designed to help those who are interested  in learning more about the Catholic Church outside of the normally scheduled RCIA classes.
  • 2011 – PNCEA becomes Paulist Evangelization Ministries (PEM)
  • 2011 – PEM launches Living the Eucharist as a way to engage Catholics in discipleship and mission through the Eucharist
  • 2011-2012 – PEM produces materials to train Catholic evangelizers and form evangelization teams. “Paulist Comprehensive Training Program” and “Evangelization Team Jump Start Kit” prepare Catholics to evangelize.
  • 2012 – PEM published the “Faith Series” as a way to foster small group activities in parishes and to help inactive Catholic follow-up their return to the practice of their Faith
  • 2013 – PEM publishes the first of the “Faith Series” booklets for small group faith sharing.
  • 2013 – PEM produces “Neighbors Reaching Neighbors” as a way to help parishes reach out to their community.

Special ministries. In 1994, the late Fr. Thomas Comber, CSP, founded Paulist Evangelization Ministries Prison Ministries to help prison chaplains and volunteers provide inmates with solid Catholic literature. From serving 190 prisons that year, Prison Ministries has grown to send newsletters, Bibles, adult faith education books, and prayer cards to over 900 prisons and jails in the U.S.

Applied research. Throughout its history, Paulist Evangelization Ministries has participated in and encouraged research on the questions of church participation and affiliation. PNCEA led an ecumenical coalition that sponsored the first major Gallup study on the Unchurched American in 1978 and its follow-up study in 1988.

New resources. Paulist Evangelization Ministries continues to develop new resources and seek new ways to equip parishes and prepare the laity for evangelization, as well as to help Catholics grow in faith.