Fr. Alvin Illig, the Paulist who founded our ministry, dreamed of every parish hiring a Director of Primary Evangelization—that is, someone who helped a parish reach those who weren’t being reached by the parish’s present ministry. Although Church leaders have called for evangelization teams in every parish, this has not come about.
There are attitudinal reasons for this—and organizational ones:
- Near the top is their isolation. Evangelization teams are often filled with very sincere people who feel a yearning to accomplish something important—and they feel like they are the only ones. They feel alone and isolated in their quest.
- This is because critical channels of communication are being blocked in the parish. It is absolutely essential that all evangelization teams have interchange with the pastoral leadership of the parish or else they risk being out of the loop and marginalized within the parish life.
- There are various ways this can be organized: the pastor can visit the team when it is meeting every once in a while; a pastoral associate can work with a team, and report to the staff and pastoral council; or the pastoral council can have a delegate at the meeting, keeping the pastoral council apprised of what is happening.
- Teams must pace themselves. They have to focus in on a specific objective and set of programs. And, most importantly, they cannot think that doing one program, all by itself, will accomplish all that needs to be accomplished.
One of the biggest fallacies the Catholic clergy labor under is this: “We are so busy taking care of our parishioners, we don’t have time to reach out.” Father, let’s face the facts here: 1) you are missing most of your Catholics just be attending to the ones who come; and 2) by not developing a sense of mission and outreach, you are depriving your parishioners of an essential dimension of parish life. You have shrunk their vision and deprived them of the mission call that belongs to the whole parish.