CORE Ministries Doubles Parish Population
An adult evangelization training program awakens parishioners to their calling to be modern-day apostles.
"I've seen great things from CORE Ministries. Marriages have been renewed, people have been brought back to the Church, and many of the volunteers working in CCD are associated with the program."
- Fr Michael Izen, Pastor of St Timothy's Church, Maple Lake, MN
The need it meets
Lethargic parishioners often need a kind of conversion before catechesis will really take root. CORE Ministries provides that first jump-start to awaken Catholics (and non-Catholics) to the beauty of the faith, and then follows up with solid programs to form disciples.
Where it came from
Six years ago, Mary Hagar and Deacon Mike Thoennes attended a Renewal Ministries School of Evangelization course. They felt called to renew their parish in a way that was viable, lively, fun, prayerful, and life-changing.
CORE (Catholic Outreach, Resources, and Evangelization) is a semi-independent evangelization group that partners with a whole range of apologetics and Bible studies programs.
How it works
CORE begins with the 10-week Alpha program (www.alphausa.org), an ecumenical course on the basics of Christianity. The weekly 1.5 hour meeting starts with a meal; parishioners split into small groups of 4 to 8 people to encourage conversation and bonding. Then they watch a video on the formation topic, followed by a brief (10 minute) teaching from both a Catholic and an ecumenical standpoint. Over dessert, the parishioners discuss the video in response to a set of prepared questions which also relate the material to real life.
About 3/4 of the way through the course, the parishioners attend a weekend retreat that covers topics such as the Holy Spirit, the Church, the sense of mission, etc.
The next stage opens up a wide range of adult formation programs that parishioners can choose from. There are apologetics programs such as Catholicism 201 (a video series), Christlife materials, Jeff Cavins' Bible study program, and Fr. Cantalamessa's "Drinking from the Wells of the Church" program. In total, CORE Ministries offers up to 18 different adult formation programs.
As the "critical mass" of participants grows, CORE opens up a weekly dinner to the entire parish. For five to ten weeks, parishioners gather for a meal and then separate into groups for different courses.
CORE also partners with Renewal Ministries (www.renewalministries.net) to offer courses on how to renew adult education programs, foster authentic discipleship, and help the parish evangelize its people.
Fruits of CORE Ministries include the following:
* St. Timothy's has nearly doubled in families.
* The school that was supposed to close five years ago is now up from 80 students to 120.
* Mass attendance, including daily Mass, has increased.
* Long-time fallen-away Catholics have come back to confession and the sacraments.
* Marriages have been reconciled.
* Four of the volunteers helping with CCD come from the program.
* The St Timothy's team has trained others in at least 14 neighboring parishes.
Prayer support: among the leaders; they also gathered prayer support from 15 retreat centers, monasteries, and convents across the United States.
Committed parish leaders to spearhead the ministry.
Attendance at a Renewal Ministries School of Evangelization would be very helpful.
An array of solid materials and follow-up programs for ongoing adult faith education.
How to implement it
- Pray and ask God for guidance and help in reaching parishioners.
- Discern what areas in your parish need strengthening (evangelization, catechesis, service...).
- Find gifted lay leaders.
- Set a common vision based on papal teachings, Vatican II documents, and diocesan and (if in the US) USCCB statements on evangelization and conversion.
- Implement the program with the goal of reaching the entire parish. "Evangelization is the principal reason for the existence of the Church," said Deacon Michael Thoennes. "The question is not 'Are we getting attendees?' but 'Are we getting disciples?'"
- Attend a Renewal Ministries School of Evangelization course (a five-day course in evangelization). One is being held in St Louis, MO, from Oct 6-10, 2008.
Fr Michael Izen is pastor of
St. Timothy Church.