Diocesan leadership team hopes to spread Gospel values in communities and society


SEABROOK ISLAND — Diocesan leadership team members for the Disciples in Mission effort gathered for a weekend of formation, training and personal renewal at the St. Christopher Conference Center in mid-December to help bring to fulfillment new directions and programs for the Year of Evangelization in the Diocese of Charleston in 2002.

Presenters came from the Disciples in Mission training team in Washington, D.C. They were Paulist Father Robert Rivers, director of diocesan and parish services; Michael Scarpato, director of ministry programs; and trainer Gloria Scoyola, who worked at implementing the evangelization program in the Diocese of Galveston-Houston, Texas, when she lived there as a parishioner.

Father Rivers began by discussing ways to build an evangelizing culture. The Paulist priest said that the events of Sept. 11 brought to the fore a new sense of evil and that a number of elements, including materialism, individualism, relativism, and pluralism, were all creating a culture of choice today. He also cited the statistic that 47 percent of the U.S. adult population is unchurched.

However, Father Rivers said that “Go and Make Disciples,” the U.S. bishops’ national plan for Catholic evangelization in the United States, offers practical ways to implement evangelization in contemporary society.

“Proclaiming the Gospel brings about the conversion of individuals and society,” said Father Rivers. “Evangelization is a way of life, a way of being church, that involves all the baptized in the priestly, prophetic, and royal mission of Jesus Christ.”

The goals of “Go and Make Disciples,” to live the faith fully, to invite others, and to transform the society in Christ, are achievable through the five-year Disciples in Mission program, said the cleric. This year, 2002, is a period of preparation. Year one will begin in parishes next year, in 2003, with years two and three following in 2004 and 2005. A transition year will be observed in 2006.

For 2002, Scoyola talked about the tasks that the leadership team needs to complete during the year of preparation. In addition to recruiting parishes and training leaders, she said special attention must be paid to key stakeholders in the success of the program. This included the bishop, diocesan staff and agencies, pastors and administrators, parish pastoral councils, parish leadership teams, and inactive or unchurched Catholics.

In recruiting churches for Disciples in Mission, Scoyola emphasized the importance of intercessory prayer, the leadership role of the bishop, information sessions, personal visits, information in the diocesan newspaper and Web site, and corresponding with the pastor and parish leadership team.

To gain some experience for these types of meetings, Scoyola conducted a role-play exercise in which diocesan leadership team members met with a parish leadership team coordinator who posed a variety of questions about Disciples in Mission.

Scarpato then led a session on tasks awaiting the diocesan leadership team after the completion of year one of the evangelization program, which included compiling a report and acting on its recommendations.

He discussed the need to stimulate thinking around the diocese’s future needs and touched upon ongoing training for parish leadership team members. Parishes will also hold reflection days, and evaluations from that event and from small group participants will be sent to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington. The organization will crunch the numbers and generate diocesan-specific summary reports.

These reports will be sent to the Paulists’ national office in Washington as well as to the diocesan team. The group will then meet to see what is working and where the challenges lie. After these annual reports are examined, the leadership team will begin to plan the agenda for year two of Disciples in Mission.

Following Scarpato’s presentation, Paul Schroeder, diocesan director for the Office of Evangelization, Cathechesis and Christian Initiation, bought out his calendar to set up a series of meetings with the diocesan leadership team and parish visitations (the schedule of which was published in last week’s issue of The Miscellany) to be held before the start of summer.

Afterward, to conclude the weekend, a commissioning rite was held by Father Rivers and Scarpato in which diocesan team members were presented candles and thanked for their efforts to assist the people of South Carolina become a better evangelizing church.