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Expert line-up of speakers primed to train parish evangelists

 103020evangelization preview 2020

Kathy Bottos (center) of St. Paul, Valparaiso, and Eli Rodriguez of Nativity of Our Savior, Portage, participate in a role-playing exercise as part of the Basic Evangelization seminar conducted by St. Paul Street Evangelization at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Valparaiso on Aug. 25, 2018. Bottos, who portrayed an active Catholic church-goer, testified to Rodriguez, offering him her "one good reason" she remains a Catholic. That event has been expanded by the Diocese of Gary’s Office of Evangelization to become a 14-week online training series that starts on Monday, Nov. 2. (NWIC file photo/Anthony D. Alonzo)



Northwest Indiana Catholic


      MERRILLVILLE – While the Evangelization Training Series hosted by the Diocese of Gary has to go virtual this year due to COVID-19 pandemic protocols, there is a silver lining, agreed Sean Martin, director of the diocesan Office of Evangelization.

      “Since all of the sessions this fall and next winter/spring are online, we’ve been able to get an all-star line-up of speakers and instructors,” said Martin. “I’m excited about every one of them.”

      That includes Bishop Robert J. McClory, who kicks off the series Monday, Nov. 2 by explaining “The Kerygma,”  a Greek word used in the New Testament for "proclamation," literally meaning "to cry or proclaim as a herald" and used in the sense of "to proclaim, announce, preach." Amongst biblical scholars, the term has come to mean the core of the early Church's oral tradition about Jesus.

      All sessions, offered from 7 to 8 p.m. Mondays, Nov. 2 to Dec. 14 this fall and resuming Feb. 8 through March 22, are geared toward “Training, equipping and commissioning parish evangelists to proclaim the Good News of salvation and making disciples of Jesus Christ,” said Martin, fulfilling the mission of the Diocese of Gary’s 2017 synod to “Go Make Disciples…”

      Martin said the goal of the evangelization training is to make every parish within the diocese an evangelizing parish, “focusing on the New Evangelization to those who are in need of re-evangelization, and evangelizing to the nations.”

      “The series provided structure, concrete information, and valuable resources to help our parish teams to evangelize,” said Judy Holicky of Sacred Heart in Whiting, who attended last year’s inaugural training series. “We may have a desire to evangelize, but we also need the proper tools and training to know how to evangelize. 

      “To evangelize we need to develop a closer relationship with Jesus. The class presenters shared many personal examples of growing in faith and encouraged us to create the story of our own witness,” she added.

       “This year’s speakers are all experts on their topic,” Martin said. “Katherine Coolidge, who is speaking on ‘Forming Intentional Disciples’ on Nov. 16, works closely at the Catherine of Siena Institute with Sherry Weddell, who wrote ‘Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus,’ and knows all about discipleship.”

      Martin also lauded Chris Padgett, who will lead the Nov. 23 program on “Mary, Star of the New Evangelization,” and holds a master’s in theology from Franciscan University. “He was a speaker at our recent men’s conference and I’m excited to have him return,” Martin noted. On his website, Padgett is quoted saying: “If our paths cross, it is my prayer that you aren’t entertained as much as drawn into a deeper intimacy with Jesus. I am entrusting this ministry to Mary’s intercession.”

      Closing out this fall’s line-up is Father Matthew Kauth, rector of St. Joseph College Seminary in the Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina and a college classmate of Martin, who will address “Encountering the Sacraments.”

       “What struck me especially from the series last year was a formula for creating a powerful testimony:  summarizing my life before I knew Jesus, how I came to know Jesus, my life in Jesus and, finally, a challenge and invitation to a closer relationship with Christ,” noted Holicky. “Living your own witness is a major component of making disciples. The classes also helped us grow closer in our own discipleship and in our relationship with Jesus.” 

      “Before my conversion to Catholicism, we would evangelize weekly at my Baptist church,” said David Garcia, a parishioner at St. Thomas More in Munster who also attended the 2019-20 evangelization series. “When I heard the Diocese of Gary was offering an evangelism class, I knew I had to sign up. As a Protestant, we went door-to-door to share the faith. I learned that Catholic evangelism uses a multi-prong approach through truth, goodness, and beauty. Opportunities to share Christ with others are all around us. We just need to keep our eyes and ears open,” Garcia said.

      “This is an event that everyone in parish ministry should attend,” Holicky added. “It’s a great way to network and connect with other parish leaders.”

      “Sean Martin does a great job teaching and also finding knowledgeable guest speakers,” Garcia said. “I would recommend this course to anybody that wants to share their faith more intentionally.”

      Upon completion of the training, said Martin, a formal commissioning will be held for the 2021 graduates as well as the 2020 class of 55, representing 25 parishes, which had to forego an in-person ceremony when the COVID-19 pandemic suspended diocesan activities last March.

      To register for this year’s training, visit or call Martin at 769-9292, ext. 230. Payment of a $50 fee permits participants to view recordings after training sessions are livestreamed.

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