Column: Evangelization means planning with, not for, the people

by Father Pat Murphy 

A little over one year ago a small group of faith-filled women from Our Lady of Guadalupe in Topeka approached me about an evangelization project that they had in mind for Lent 2008.

They expressed to me a dream they had to bring to the archdiocese a famous
evangelizer and singer by the name of Ge’la from southern California to share the healing message of the risen Lord.

In our first conversation they assured me that they would have fundraisers so this project would not be a burden to the parish and so that it could be open for everyone to attend free of charge. Their enthusiasm about this project was so contagious that I immediately said, “Let’s do it, and count on my support.”

Let’s fast forward to Lent 2008. I am happy to inform you that this evangelization project was a huge success. We had the weekend with Ge’la on March 8-9 at Guadalupe with over 450 in attendance on Saturday and another 550 on Sunday.

It was great to see the enthusiasm of the crowd coming together to experience this message of the healing love of Jesus. People listened attentively to the various speakers, they prayed with fervor, and they sang with great love and devotion. In sum, it was an experience in which you felt proud to be Catholic, as you were surrounded by people who had no fear to express their love for the Lord.

As I reflect back on this weekend in which the Hispanic community came together to celebrate their faith in the risen Lord, I was left with three distinct impressions that give me great hope for the future of our church.

First, I really believe that if we want to evangelize in the Hispanic community, we must remain open to planning with the people rather than planning for the people. This project came up from the grass roots and was a success because the people were convinced that there was a need to make it happen.

Secondly, because there continues to exist in the Hispanic community a great spiritual hunger for God, we must search for creative ways, like this retreat, for people to be fed by the Lord.

Finally, I wish to emphasize how impressed I was by the spirit demonstrated by the 40 members of the organizing team who served with love and great attention to detail. I have no doubt that their spirit of hospitality helped to prepare the people for this encounter with the Lord.

Yes, the Lord was fully alive at Our Lady of Guadalupe on that weekend in March, and many lives were changed because of this evangelization project. And just imagine: It all started with a dream by a few spirit-filled women.

 

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