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Parish leaders gather to promote evangelization

Sister Pat Boyle, CSJ, associate director of the archdiocesan Office of Pastoral Planning, addresses the Co-Workers conference. Pilot photo/George Martell, BCDS

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NEWTON -- The buzz-phrase "new evangelization" can be a difficult concept to put into parish practice. At this year's Co-Workers in the Vineyard Conference, parish leaders received helpful tips on how to reach out to the unchurched in their midst.

Over 150 priests, deacons and lay leaders attended the 8th annual conference, held April 10 at Our Lady Help of Christians Parish in Newton. The conference is sponsored by the Masters of Arts in Ministry Program (MAM), part of St. John's Seminary's Theological Institute of the New Evangelization in Brighton.

Aldona Lingertat, director of MAM, said she was delighted to see parish leaders from all over the Archdiocese of Boston participate.

Keynote speaker Ralph Martin, representative of Renewal Ministries and faculty member of Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, spoke about the call of all Catholics to be part of the new evangelization. Reaching out to others certainly includes non-believers, but it also means inviting back non-practicing Christians, particularly those who have been baptized but are not actively engaged in their faith. The faithful who are evangelizing need to have a personal relationship with Christ, a commitment to discipleship and ongoing personal conversion. They also need to be fortified because they are surrounded by a culture that does not support faith life, Martin said according to Lingertat.

Martin told The Pilot that speaking to members of the Archdiocese of Boston was "delightful." He commended the faithful here for their devotion in seeking to evangelize.

"I'm inspired by what I see happening in Boston," he added.

Sister Pat Boyle, CSJ, associate director of the archdiocesan Office of Pastoral Planning, also addressed the conference and said that she has witnessed parishes in collaborative doing innovative work together. Parish leaders are ministering in new and bold ways. She has even witnessed collaboratives working with nearby collaboratives. In one town, two collaboratives have established a single residence for all four priests serving both collaboratives.

"This builds community among the priests, giving them time for meals together, times for common prayer and greater opportunities for sharing ideas," said Sister Pat.

In the afternoon, a panel addressed the conference and gave participants more examples of innovative initiatives for new evangelization in parishes. Speakers included director of the Office for Lifelong Faith Formation and Parish Support Michael Lavigne, CatholicTV host and collaborative pastor Father Chip Hines, pastoral associate of the Lexington Catholic Community Beverly Good, catechetical youth leader at St. Thomas Parish in Jamaica Plain Marcos Enrique and newly appointed assistant vocation director Father Eric Cadin.

Lingertat said that the panel received much praise. On one evaluation, an attendee commented, "The panel gave me hope for life in the Body of Christ."

Lingertat expressed her gratitude to Our Sunday Visitor Institute that provided a grant to make the day possible, pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians Father John Sassani, along with the parish staff and all of the participants.

Ellen T. Oesterle, MAM administrative assistant, said that everyone who gathered at the conference was energized and engaged. The day met its goal of bringing together parish leaders in a faith-filled learning environment.

"The Co-Workers Conference is a day of unity in mission, worship and education," she said.

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