Project Finding #1: Family Based Evangelization


Brian Limas


It has been quite some time in reflecting on what it is that I have actually experienced in the past three years of Project Illuminate. Now, for some of you just joining the conversation, Fully Alive is just one breath of voice in our overall mission in Illuminate. That mission is to Heal the Family.

I mean, you can look at our quick description to see that we identify as a Research and Development initiative in the New Evangelization for the Family. But we are not your average blog. We have Evangelical roots in developing a model founded in Family Based Evangelization. (FBE)

Now it is time to pull back the curtains from the years of our work pertaining to our findings in our first topic:

Family Based Evangelization: Answering The Call Beyond The Comfort Within Your Parish

What were we researching? What methods were employed? What did we find? Well, this is the first of many post that are “sneak peaks” into a book in the works to be released in February 2018. I wish we could say that we have all the answers when it comes to healing the family; actually no I don’t. But what I will say, is that in hopes of finding many solutions to the needs of the family, we now have more questions.

So what is Family Based Evangelization?

We found that when it comes to the pastoral care of the family, now is the time for the Church to hear the call of our past three Holy Fathers St. John Paul II the Great, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis. We'll start with Pope Francis in his call to proclaim the Gospel in the streets, getting dirty, tired, bruised, and beaten for the sake of the Gospel.

The Church will have to initiate everyone – priests, religious and laity – into this “art of accompaniment” which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (cf. Ex 3:5). The pace of this accompaniment must be steady and reassuring, reflecting our closeness and our compassionate gaze which also heals, liberates and encourages growth in the Christian life.
— Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel, 169

There is one problem though, we have become comfortable, even complacent with the status quo when it comes to sharing our faith. I would go as far as saying that when one hears "accompaniment," the first thing that comes to mind is the grieving committee at our parish usually in charge of helping a family with logistics at the time of funerals. Close...but not quite what Papa Francesco is talking about.

Simply put, we can no longer hide within the walls of our Parish, and say that the most important next step is to “Evangelize my Parish.” Gosh, if I hear that one more time, I might just go crazy. Our question quickly to everyone became so…“What does is exactly mean to Evangelize the Parish?”

Did I just catch an eye roll? “C’mon Brian, you know what we mean!” But do we?  I am all for renovating a building, but last time I checked, every Parish consist of one main affinity in need of Evangelizing; the Family.

This seems to be blatantly obvious for some working in pastoral ministry, however, if it is so obvious, why do most talks on strategies for the New Evangelization fail to mention the family?

I once heard a talk from Fr. Sean Kilkawley out of the Lincoln Diocese say that, “if you talk about the New Evangelization and don’t mention the Family; you don’t understand the New Evangelization.”

So once again, I re-affirm that we are still left with more questions than answers. If we strive for Parish Based Evangelization and do not speak of the Family that comprises the Parish, Do we really know the mission in the New Evangelization? or Are we just shooting in the dark?

Yet alone, if we can’t find the family explicitly included in our evangelization strategies, how can we effectively "accompany" our Parish community to become missionary disciples of Jesus Christ?

We host social events at our Parish and it is always the same people that come to pat our backs and say what a great job we are doing for the Parish. Ah, once again, the illusive works in serving “the parish.”

Does anyone ever ask, “Who are we serving?” Alright, alright, enough of the punching bag session, let’s get to the nitty gritty of FBE.

I argue that the beginnings of this model were forged from our experiences in Youth Ministry. It was very apparent that youth are the entry point into family. Want to see a parent come alive? Easy. Pay attention to the their child’s next candy bar sale at school; you’d think the number of them sold correlated to a kidnap ransom. All jokes aside, anything pertaining to the growth and success of their children; parents pay attention.

The more the youth at the parishes we served fell in love with Jesus, the parents, and even sometimes older siblings, started to peek their heads in the same direction. By the time we knew it, we were invited to baseball games, orchestra concerts, but most importantly, for dinner in the family’s home. There is nothing more beautiful than, to not just be invited into a home for family dinner, but what we would experience next, was becoming a part of their family.

From washing dishes to cleaning house, the dynamism of human love and experience made it clear that the greatest formation time we had with the youth was in the context of their families in the home. Heart to hearts over a beer with Dad talking about the realities of being a husband and a father, coffee dates with Mom speaking to the heart of being a wife and mother, and playing pool eating free hot dogs with the older brother at a late night dive bar:

This is NOT a theory. This is Family Based Evangelization.

I can look back at these warm memories and remember like it was yesterday. Laughing till your belly's ached and the tears shed as if your world had ended too. From this experience, a model to reach, alongside Religious Orders, youth, young adults, and married couples was forged.

Our next finding will break down this in more detail. Mainly how from a formal casting of vision for Evangelization ONCE, over 270 inner city youth came to the Parish, in 30 days. The leaders were 15 and 16 years old. Total game changer.

As for now, this model (FBE) was created by a courageous select few of young people who served with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) and Benedictine College Alumni. Each of us saw our work on the college campus was in a direct correlation to the wounds of the family. You'll get to hear their personal accounts as well in the future.

Lastly, this is the basis of a call from the Lord to “Heal the Family” that has already made ripples in humanity and time that we eagerly await to see the fruits of our labor.

Want to know the crazy thing? This is just the beginning.

Like I said in the beginning, we don’t have all the answers and have more questions that need answering.

Will you help us find them?
We hope you say yes!

Join the Project in Our Final Year to Launch this Model of Evangelization in Fall 2018.