Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 19, 1999
Parish seeks out the inactive
Annunciation wants to evangelize and renew parish life
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Annunciation Parish is in the midst of an evangelization campaign aimed at bringing stray Catholics back to the Church and at renewing parish life.
More than 100 volunteers have formed a missionary team to reach out to both active and non-active Catholics and invite them to be members of the parish on Edmonton's west side.
Since mid-March they have been knocking on doors inviting anyone who at one time has been associated with the Catholic Church to participate in the parish mission to be held April 25 to May 9.
Carolyn Pougnet, along with another parishioner, has visited 23 homes twice and said people have been receptive. "We have had very good experiences," she said. "Everybody is friendly. We haven't had any negative experiences."
Pougnet said through the visitations she has met people whom she otherwise would have never met.
Michelle Gunning has had only positive experiences in the 35 homes she visited."I know God is touching hearts," she said.
The mission will be animated by the Oblate missionary team, a group of about 15 priests, sisters and lay people, that has led 13 missions in the past two years.
This is the first mission the Oblates have held in Edmonton and the second largest they have undertaken in Alberta. Late last year they led one at Our Lady of Angels Parish in Fort Saskatchewan and next year they will do one in Camrose. Other city parishes on their list include St. Charles and St. Joseph's Basilica.
The mission is in response to Pope John Paul's call for a new evangelization, said mission director Father Jacques Johnson.
"There is a need for a renewal of our faith at the level of the parish to give us a new energy, a new fire," Johnson said.
Mission coordinator Debbie Doornbos agreed spiritual renewal is at the heart of the mission. "One intent of the mission is to really get people on fire for their faith."
Another goal is to build community, which Doornbos said is being accomplished through home visits and the establishment of listening centres in people's homes.
"We are trying to reach out not just to the regular churchgoers but to all our Catholic brothers and sisters wherever they are."
Doornbos said the majority of those reached through the home visitations have reacted positively and many have agreed to consider becoming more involved in the Church.
Some people confuse the visitors with Jehovah's Witnesses but as soon as they are told the visitors are Catholic they open their doors.
Doornbos visited a few homes and found people to be "very, very supportive. Few people, maybe one per cent, have said, 'No, don't come back.'"
As well as bringing parishioners together, the home visits have helped the parish identify some needs of the community, including those of the sick and the poor. "There are all kinds of things we learn," Doornbos said. "It helps us to respond to some of these issues."
To facilitate the home visits to nearly 1,400 people on the parish registry, the parish was divided into 27 zones, each including 40 to 50 identified Catholic families. Four members of the local missionary team were assigned to each zone. They visit each home in pairs.
Two home visitations took place prior to the mission. During the first visit, March 14-21, the missionaries met the families and invited them to be part of the mission.
During the second round, April 11-18, the missionaries gave further details about the mission's program.
The travelling Oblates will make a third round of visits beginning April 25 to families who have expressed a desire to meet with them or to host a listening centre.
The listening centres are small groups that meet in people's homes to reflect on Scripture and discuss people's concerns.
So far 27 listening centres, one in each zone, have been set up. The groups will meet between April 26 and May 1, each lead by one of the travelling Oblates.
Father Bernie McCosham, pastor of Annunciation, is excited about the mission and hopes the listening centres remain active long after the mission ends.
"This is a huge parish and we need these small Christian communities," the priest said. "As well as coming to celebrate the Eucharist on Sunday, there should be other opportunities too for people to meet in smaller groups."
Johnson said he hopes small Christian communities will develop out of the listening centres, adding he would like the centres to meet monthly with the local team acting as facilitators.
The mission will also feature youth ministry in the parish's Catholic schools through the Behold the Lamb team from Radway's John Paul II Bible School.