Transform conference launches diocesan Evangelization and Mission initiative

An opening Mass Nov. 21 and an evening of Eucharistic Adoration and testimony were the main parts of an in-person Transform conference held Nov. 21 in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

A new Evangelization and Mission initiative in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon was launched during a day of prayer and testimony Nov. 21 at Holy Spirit Parish in Saskatoon.

The in-person Transform conference was offered in the midst of the COVID-19 and therefore had restricted attendance, but the event was nevertheless held and envisioned as the start of a movement led by Catholic parishioners with a passion for evangelization, said John Hickey, diocesan Evangelization and Mission Leader, speaking at the start of the day.

John Hickey, Evangelization and Mission Leader in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, spoke at the opening of the diocesan Transform conference. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

“We need to work with the intentional disciples in the diocese of Saskatoon,” answering the call to be a “missionary diocese,” said Hickey, pointing to the diocesan Pastoral Plan’s call to Proclaim Christ and God’s Kingdom Today.

“There are many people in our diocese who love the Lord and want to see renewal in the Church,” said Hickey.

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Assisting those intentional disciples and interested parishes across the diocese in finding new and effective ways to proclaim Christ is the goal of the new Evangelization and Mission initiative. To that end, the Transform conference included Hickey providing practical information about two “platforms for evangelization” — Alpha and the Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) Discovery program.

However, before looking at particular platforms and programs, the Transform conference concentrated on worship and on prayer as the starting point for evangelization, beginning with an opening Saturday morning Mass celebrated by Bishop Mark Hagemoen, along with Fr. Denis Phaneuf and Holy Spirit pastor Fr. Darryl Millette.

Transform’s prayerful evening session included Eucharistic Adoration and worship led by FacetoFace Ministries, an inspirational talk by Fr. Denis Phaneuf, and testimony about evangelization and its impact on one family inspired to reach out to others with a faith study.

During the evening session, Paul and Rebecca Hilton shared a mission testimony of how they reached out to three couples in their insurance office and led them through faith studies. The Saskatoon couple shared what inspired them to reach out, some of the fears and reservations they felt, and the fruit of these bible studies. For instance, the participating couples all now attend Mass regularly and one couple now leads marriage preparation. The Hiltons also described how the experience blessed their own family’s faith life.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen celebrated Mass Nov. 21 at Holy Spirit Catholic Church to launch the diocesan Transform conference. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

In his homily at the opening Mass, Bishop Mark Hagemoen stressed that proclaiming Christ is the most important thing that the Church does, with all else flowing from that call to mission and to evangelization.

The bishop shared his exploration of the concept of the New Evangelization from statements of three popes: St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis, as well as through the documents of Vatican II.

All three popes have said with “great passion” that evangelization must be Christ-centred, focused on a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, related Bishop Hagemoen. In addition, the three faith leaders have stressed that evangelization is the task of all the baptized, involves a variety of vocations, and must be sensitive to enculturation. Above all, evangelization must reflect the universal call to holiness, he summarized.

Bishop Hagemoen also affirmed that evangelization is not simply about striving for effectiveness, for the right program, or for measurable success. “What I need to remember is that this is not my work, it is God’s work,” Hagemoen said.

What is needed is a heart open to ongoing conversion, open to God’s plan, and to an intimate relationship with the Lord, he said, urging his listeners to be “open to a missionary spirit that features docility to the Lord.”

Patience is also required, he added. The diocesan Pastoral Plan is a three-year plan, set with a time frame in order to facilitate implementation and evaluation. “But the Lord may start something that doesn’t bear fruit for 20 years,” noted the bishop. “This is the Lord’s work, and he will take us on paths we expect, and on some we don’t.”

Finally, Hagemoen emphasized Pope Francis’ focus on the joy of the Gospel, and how missionary disciples must proclaim that joy and absolute hope in their lives.

“Our call is to everlasting life and living for eternity,” said the bishop.  “How do you come to terms with that? Only in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

For more information about the Evangelization and Misison initiative, contact John Hickey at the Catholic Pastoral Centre, or (306) 659-5847.