Announcement of the new department was made by Deacon Tim Reilly, general director of the Diocesan Curia, in letter to diocesan staff Dec. 12.
According to Deacon Reilly, formation of the Department of Evangelization was a result of Bishop David Ricken’s desire to give greater attention to the new evangelization. “As a result, bishop has approved a realignment of some of the diocesan departments so that we can give more intentional support to working with the parishes and the general population regarding the new evangelization,” wrote Deacon Reilly.
Bishop Ricken asked Stanz to assume directorship of the new department, which will consist of positions for young adult discipleship and formation, adult faith formation, campus ministry at the Newman Center at UW-Oshkosh, campus ministry at UW-Green Bay and an administrative assistant.
Stanz said the new evangelization is all about bringing people closer to Christ.
“Basically the new evangelization is targeted at three things,” she said.
First, it is targeted at people of faith.
“You must have a personal conversion or a re-conversion and sometimes that happens over a series of events or moments of your life,” she said. “It may not be a one-time thing like St. Paul falling off his horse in Damascus, but it may be a series of ongoing conversions of always wanting to draw closer to Christ.”
The second target is the group known today as the “unaffiliated.”
“Those (are) people who have heard the basic proclamation of the Gospel but feel as though it has nothing to offer them in their lives,” explained Stanz. “They’ve heard what they think what the church presents and they may have disconnected from that.”
While they are disconnected, she said, they are still religious. “We know that of those people who call themselves the unaffiliated — and right now it’s running at about one in five — that one-third of them are members of formal congregations and actually 54 percent of them believe in a personal God. So that’s a group that we can look at doing some work with.”
The third target of the new evangelization is those who have never heard of Christ.
“Today, because we are such a highly secularized culture, we have a growing population that has no understanding of who Christ is and what his essential message is,” said Stanz.
Stanz will be working closely with parishes to help them with new evangelization outreach.
“We have bright, capable creative pastors and parish teams in our diocese who are doing some of the most wonderful work in the area of catechesis and evangelization,” she said. “I want to be a resource and support to them.”
Determining what their needs are will be an important first step. “Are they looking for resources, for training, for processes? I want to be able to match exactly what they feel their needs are, which are unique. It can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach,” she said.
Living out the new evangelization can be done in simple ways, said Stanz, who gave the example presented by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. “He said that every time a mother teaches her children to make the sign of the cross, that is the work of the new evangelization,” she said. “That is brilliant. It’s simple but it is one thing that communicates that love between Christ and his people, between a mother and her child. As a mother myself, that makes me look at the new evangelization in a real simple way.”
Another component of the new evangelization is sharing stories, something that comes naturally to people in Stanz’s homeland of Ireland.
“The Irish are renowned for their story telling. That’s how we often come to a deeper understanding of who Christ is — by looking at Scriptures, looking at stories and then people unpacking those stories in light of their own experience,” she said. “Everybody has a story of faith and it’s helping people to share that story of faith with others. That’s an essential element.”
Two models of faith who have guided Stanz in her understanding of the new evangelization are saints from her homeland, Patrick and Bridget.
“For me, St. Patrick is the supreme model, besides Christ, of the new evangelization because he evangelized an entire people,” she said. “He evangelized (the Druids) without bloodshed and … so there are very few early martyrs for the church in Ireland because of the way it was introduced. It was presented joyfully and lovingly.”
St. Bridget was a model of hospitality, another essential ingredient in the new evangelization, said Stanz.
“To turn somebody away was considered seriously sinful and worthy of receiving the same treatment from Christ himself,” said Stanz. “So every person you welcome into your home, you are welcoming Christ. That’s why we have such a mandate for hospitality in Ireland.”
In addition to her work in the diocese, Stanz serves as a consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, which is under the chairmanship of Bishop Ricken. She said membership on this committee gives her a “cutting-edge approach” on how other dioceses are looking at the new evangelization.
“We are now working on various projects to help dioceses and parishes work practically through what the new evangelization is and means and how do they engage that and enliven the faith in their communities,” said Stanz. “With this opportunity I will be able to take what I’m hearing and share with our diocese and develop resources with national priorities in mind but based on local needs.”
She believes Green Bay is on the leading edge of new evangelization outreach.
“There are a couple of dioceses that do have departments for evangelization. That is not widespread but dioceses are definitely moving in that direction,” she said. “I think we are going to start to see more of a realignment to focus on the new evangelization. There are so many resources being developed that we are going to be able to be at the cutting edge of utilizing some of those, too.”
She credits Bishop Ricken for his foresight and understanding of the new evangelization.
“Bishop sees what is happening in the culture and wants to ensure that our diocese can support our parishes to meet the needs of the realities that are happening around us,” she said. “There is a statistic out that says 48 percent of young adults will leave the faith by the age of 18 and 73 percent by the age of 23. The new evangelization, having that intentional focus with young adults, we’re being able to reach out to them, utilizing social media, using a mixture of print, all the ways that we can go after this.
“Bishop Ricken understands that and has created this office. It tells me that he … wants to see us really serving people’s needs and truly believes that this is a huge responsibility for us,” she added. “It’s sad for us to lose people. He wants to see us go after the lost sheep and welcome them home, but in a real, loving, kind way. He sees that there are people hurting and lost and angry and he wants to say, ‘Come home to us. We are not perfect, only Christ is, but we want to share with you his love.'”