New Evangelization Symposium held in Manitowoc

By Benjamin Wideman | For The Compass | April 30, 2015

LeJeune describes five thresholds of conversion

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]MANITOWOC — Julianne Stanz cut right to the chase when describing Marcel LeJeune, the featured speaker for “New Evangelization Symposium 2015: Journeying with Christ as a Way of Life.”

Marcel LeJeune, featured speaker at the New Evangelization Symposium held April 23 at Silver Lake College, told attendees that thresholds of conversion “really help us to see where somebody is at” in becoming disciples of Jesus. (Benjamin Wideman | For The Compass)
Marcel LeJeune, featured speaker at the New Evangelization Symposium held April 23 at Silver Lake College, told attendees that thresholds of conversion “really help us to see where somebody is at” in becoming disciples of Jesus. (Benjamin Wideman | For The Compass)

“He is on fire,” said Stanz, director of the Department of New Evangelization for the Diocese of Green Bay. “He’s passionate for the Lord. He is dynamic. He is a truth teller. He is direct. He is funny. He is big Texas, in all of his personality.”

LeJeune showcased his knowledge and dynamic speaking abilities while presenting three conferences to about 140 people (every diocese in the state was represented) at the New Evangelization symposium, which was held April 23 at Silver Lake College.

His first presentation, titled “Where Are You?,” focused on the five thresholds of conversion, which are described in Sherry Weddell’s book, “Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path of Knowing and Following Jesus.”

Those five thresholds include: initial trust, spiritual curiosity, spiritual openness, spiritual seeking and intentional discipleship. Each person takes a different route in their journey with God. In order to be a good follower, people must understand where they stand with God. Then, in order to help others, they must understand where others stand with God.

“These thresholds of conversion really help us to see where somebody is at,” said LeJeune, the assistant director of Campus Ministry at St. Mary’s Catholic Center at Texas A&M University, the nation’s largest campus ministry.

Initial Trust

When encountering someone, pause and ponder, “What kind of relationship do I have with this person? Does this person have trust of me, trust of the church, trust of God?”

“I’m not talking trust in the sense of, ‘I’m ready to commit,’ but trust of ‘I’m ready to listen to what you have to say,’” LeJeune said. “That’s initial trust. That’s the first threshold. And if somebody isn’t there, we need to help move them along these thresholds.”

LeJeune said many people in the Catholic Church self-identify as Catholic, but they’re essentially still at the first threshold, or perhaps not even there yet.

Imitating a conversation with someone, LeJeune said, “Why do you go to church? ‘Because I’ve always done it.’ What do you believe about Jesus Christ? ‘I don’t know.’ What do you believe about the Catholic Church? What are your associations with the church? ‘I’m not really into the Catholic Church.’

“Honestly, this is where a lot of folks who are going to our churches are at. So what do we need to do to move them into other places?”

The traditional Catholic response to that question, he said, it to form people and educate them better.

“What’s wrong with that answer?” LeJeune asked the audience, before echoing an audience member’s reply, saying, “They aren’t seeking education. What are they seeking? They’re seeking Jesus. They don’t even know him yet.

“We are supposed to evangelize then catechize. But what do we do in our parishes? Catechize, catechize, catechize, catechize, catechize. (And then we think) oh, hopefully they’ll be good Catholics when they come out of this system. And when they don’t, we go, ‘What happened? It went in one ear and out the other because they never believed, because they never chose Jesus. Let’s be honest. That’s what happens.

“So why do we evangelize and then catechize? Because that’s the way it’s supposed to happen.

Spiritual Curiosity

“This is really when there’s an intrigue or desire to learn about Jesus,” LeJeune said. “What is He all about? What is the church all about? What is this?”

The mistake in this threshold, he quickly added, is that people then overwhelm people with information.

“Oh, you’re interested in Jesus? Here, let me give you this book on apostolic succession and here’s one on Marian apparitions,” LeJeune said. “Look, I’ve got nothing against apostolic succession, but … (when they’re) at the point of ‘I’m curious and I’m thinking about life’s big questions and I’m thinking about who I am …’ and you tell (them) all these other things that are kind of off route, that doesn’t help. … You shouldn’t start to pound them with information. You need to know more about them.”

And that includes atheists and agnostics. “If they say, ‘I don’t believe in God’ or ‘I don’t believe you can really know for certain that there is a God,’ then you say something like, ‘Tell me about this God you don’t believe in,’ ” LeJeune said. “So when I affirm that I don’t believe in that God either … talk about intrigue. Talk about opening a door to spiritual curiosity and building bridges of trust.”

Spiritual Openness

During this threshold, a person’s heart is open and they’re beyond merely being curious. But they aren’t actively making decisions yet.

“That behavioral change hasn’t taken place,” LeJeune said. “Outwardly, their life may not necessarily look different. But even with the fear that they might have, they start to actively seek out more with their questions. They might even be open to trying out praying.”

Many people who self-identify as Catholics fall within this threshold, he said. “They’re open to it, but they’re not really actively going after it,” LeJeune said. “They might even start to test God with a prayer — ‘Oh, God, if you’re really there you’re going to do this.’ Or they might recognize that Jesus is real and they could have a relationship with him, but they’ve never done anything to seek that out.”

Spiritual Seeking

This is the first stage of active discipleship — of trying to live a life of a disciple.

“In here, we see that someone can start to see their shortcomings, but they also see there are some gifts that God has provided,” LeJeune said. “They also see that there is a calling behind all of this stuff. And in their spiritual life, there is probably a desire to change something.”

Intentional Discipleship

This threshold uses the word intentional, LeJeune said, because people have chosen it.

“I have said yes to Jesus Christ,” he said. “A lot of people will say, ‘Don’t we say yes to Jesus Christ every week when we say the creed?’ Yes, we do. ‘What about at Easter when we renew our baptismal promises, didn’t we do that?’ Yes, we did.

“But I’m going to ask you the question, how many people who went to Easter Masses and renewed their baptismal promises really did it with a great love and desire and they chose it like it was a life-changing decision? We’ve got into roped memorization culture and things we do because … everybody else is doing it,” he added.

“Intentional discipleship is not just a profession in the sense of I’m going to say it. It’s also doing. … So this last (threshold) doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a saint, doesn’t mean you’re sinless, doesn’t mean any of those things,” added Le Jeune. “This final stage says, ‘I sense God’s love in my daily life, I have this relationship with him and I have intentionally chosen to follow him.’”

Other breakout session presenters at the symposium included Fr. David Beaudry, Paula Roth, Fr. Denis Ryan, Dr. Colleen Sargent-Day and Joseph Tremblay.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_message color=”alert-info” style=”rounded”]Evangelization studies course announced

MANITOWOC — Silver Lake College, in collaboration with the Diocese of Green Bay and its Department of New Evangelization, will be offering a Catholic Evangelization Studies course Aug. 4-6 at Silver Lake College, 2406 S. Alverno Road.

The goal of the course is to address each of the components outlined in Bishop David Ricken’s plan for the diocese (implementation is in three phases: Formation in Prayer and Holiness, Formation in Discipleship and Formation in Mission). The course is designed for either those involved in parish ministry or the “person in the pew.”

It will enable those who currently minister in roles of parish leadership to effectively implement the church’s vision for new evangelization within their parish.

Catholic Evangelization Studies will be taught by Sr. Marie Kolbe Zamora, chair of the Department of Theology and Ministry at Silver Lake College; Fr. Maximos Davies, hieromonk of Holy Resurrection Monastery in St. Nazianz; and Julianne Stanz, director of the diocese’s Department of New Evangelization.

The one-credit course (non-credit options are also available) is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day for commuters. Residential students’ sessions will end at 8 p.m.

The cost is $200, which includes meals. Participants may stay at Silver Lake College’s Clare Hall for an additional $65 per night ($55 if they provide their own linens). The course has been funded in part by the Catholic Foundation and made possible by the generosity of the Bishop’s Appeal.

To register, please visit www.gbdioc.org/newevangelization /expanded-resource-library/further-education.html.

For more information, contact Sr. Marie Kolbe Zamora at (920) 686-6228 or [email protected].[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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