BY: PAUL K BLANCHARD
When the Bishop asked me to be a part of an evangelization team my first reaction was “Me? Have you met me?” That’s of course not what I said out loud. What I ended up saying was something closer to, “If you feel I will add something to the team; I would be happy to join.”
The interesting part about joining any team, especially one that is already established, is that there is an existing dynamic. Everyone brings in their own experience, opinions, charisms, discernment, and emotions. Asking a group of people to be aligned to a certain vision, mission, and strategy can seem either almost impossible or absolutely essential depending on our own experience with “team” in the past. I’ve come to realize the true blessing this invitation has been in my own life and my continued conversion.
Things take time. In our modern culture with our ability to tweet or Google any random thought we have, literally in the palm of our hands, we can often forget the value of a good homecooked meal. Instead, favoring the instant gratification of the microwave or drive-thru dish. The mistake we must guard against is assuming anyone is intentionally forsaking the home cooked meal. If you have never provided someone with the experience of a home cooked meal, you can’t assume they know any different. This is really an oversimplification of what we face as a diocese with any efforts to evangelize.
For those of us who have either come back or remained in the faith, we have to be mindful of an attitude of “this worked for me, or this was good enough for me and I didn’t leave.” It is essential that we honor the past efforts that brought us where we are today: those who walked with us, those who taught us, and those who loved us. At the same time, we also must recognize the culture and the world around us are very different. The conversations we are challenged to have today are very different to the ones from twenty years ago, let alone the last ten. The Truth hasn’t changed. But is it more important for us to be heard or to listen, meet someone where they are, and accompany them toward the Truth they are open to hearing?
To that end, the Strategic Evangelization Team (a.k.a. SET) with the leadership and guidance of Bishop Kihneman has been at the forefront and cutting edge of tackling these very real issues. The book Missio Nostra was one of the first tangible fruits from the collaboration. And each person on the team has had to have a personal conversion along the way. I find it’s rarely easy to be humbled, but so fruitful when we allow it. That’s really the true blessing this team has provided to me in my own walk and my own formation. We all still very much have our own silos to handle, but instead of being on our own farms with fences built up, we have put in some new gates and cobbled pathways that allow better cooperation between our farms. I know I don’t feel as isolated as I used to feel.
The SET team comes first in order of priority. The biggest shift for me was realizing that much of my own silo represents a lot of inherited maintenance behavior. If we truly want to meet people where they are; we have got to be on mission. Mission doesn’t just mean leaving the country. It also means going across the hall.
About a year and half ago we started working with a group called ACTS XXIX out of Detroit. There was a lot of prayer and discernment that went into even this decision. I remember we interviewed at least five different apostolates trying to find the best fit for the vison of the bishop to continue the work started with Missio Nostra. ACTSXXIX have been invaluable in helping us build relationships and framework to function higher as a team.
When we did some of the first off-site trainings with ACTSXXIX, including a recent trip to Detroit to see their headquarters, I believe I can speak for most of the team when I say the last thing we felt like doing was traveling anywhere that wasn’t for a vacation. There were so many things we needed to get done on our various lists. However, when we got back, I believe we unanimously felt that we could not have gotten done what we accomplished over those days had we not made that trip. Time way from our usual day to day routine allows us to hear God more clearly and hear one another more clearly.
If we don’t make intentional time to shift into a mission mindset, we will never shift into a mission mindset. If we only stay reactionary to everything that is happening around us, we’ll never be anything but reactionary. Read that again. There comes a time when you must even decide to pause good things to make sure everything in your scope is oriented properly. It’s easy to choose between a good thing and a bad thing. That’s common sense. How do you choose between three good things when know you only have the staff, capacity, and volunteers to do one thing well? The first step is having a vision. The second step is having a team to discern that with you.
That’s why this is a journey. A journey best spent with a team. A team agreeing to disagree where needed knowing the overall direction is always forward. And that forward direction is leading our diocese closer to building intentional disciples in our parishes, schools, ministries, and families. If that’s not the direction we are moving, we may not be moving anywhere before too long.
How do you feel called to be involved? There’s no substitute for personal conversion and there’s no substitute for personal relationship. Those are two ideas we ask you to prayerfully consider right now no matter where you are on your journey whether you are a part of a team or not. May the Holy Spirit continue to pour out graces in abundance in all that we do as a diocesan family.