TWO RIVERS — In his apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium,” Pope Francis encouraged parishioners around the world to think outside the box as they embrace the new evangelization.
“Invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities,” he stated.
Dan Gesch received that message loud and clear.
Inspired by his participation in last year’s New Evangelization Summit, Gesch took the initiative to make sure this year’s summit — which will be held May 12 and 13 in Ottawa, Canada — would be livestreamed on a big screen at St. Peter the Fisherman Church in Two Rivers, making it easily accessible for not only his fellow parishioners but people throughout the Diocese of Green Bay.
Organizers expect the event to draw 5,000 participants in person and via livestream at the 39 host cities spanning 12 U.S. states, six Canadian provinces and Guatemala. St. Peter the Fisherman is one of five host sites in Wisconsin and is the only one within the diocese.
“Rather than get people from the parish to go elsewhere, I thought we could host it here,” said Gesch, 58, who serves as the event director for St. Peter the Fisherman.
“After going to the summit last year (which was livestreamed in Appleton at St. Bernard Church, the only host site in Wisconsin), I thought it was very useful and maybe other people would be interested if we held it here. I wanted to help gain traction and trigger even more interest in the new evangelization. I thought this livestream was a good way to do that.”
People from all parishes are invited to attend the livestream presentations in the church’s Marian Hall, located at 3201 Mishicot Road in Two Rivers. There is a $35 fee that goes toward offsetting the costs of the speakers and technology set-ups; to register, visit www.newevangelization.ca.
Check-in starts at 5:15 p.m. on Friday, May 12, with presentations starting at 6 p.m. The program continues Saturday, May 13, from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The parish will provide a continental breakfast and lunch on May 13, as well as beverages and snacks both days.
Michael Dopp, founder of the New Evangelization Summit, encouraged people to participate, saying the program “will set your heart on fire, just as it already has for thousands of Catholics.”
Gesch is a perfect example of that.
As a lifelong member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod up until just a few years ago, Gesch said his experience at last year’s summit profoundly impacted his outlook.
He specifically remembers discussing paragraph 1072 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states: “The sacred liturgy does not exhaust the entire activity of the church: it must be preceded by evangelization, faith and conversion. It can then produce its fruits in the lives of the faithful: new life in the Spirit, involvement in the mission of the church, and service to her unity.”
Added Gesch: “The Holy Spirit works through our efforts to evangelize to bring forth faith and conversion. It’s the starting point for everything we do in the church.” Gesch worked with leaders at his parish and the diocese to livestream this year’s event.
“There are many people who think they’re the only one not familiar enough with their faith to share it with others,” Gesch said. “But, you know what, it’s not just you. You’re not the only one. Don’t be afraid. This will be a non-threatening environment where we can all learn together and hear a lot of good information and stories from very talented speakers.”
The presenters on May 12 include:
- Peter Herbeck, TV and radio host, and author.
- Sr. Miriam Heidland, missionary with the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, and author of “Loved As I Am.”
The presenters on May 13 include:
- Fr. Michael White, priest in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and co-author of “Rebuilt and Tools for Rebuilding.”
- Tom Corcoran, associate to the pastor of Church of the Nativity in Maryland, and co-author of “Rebuilt and Tools for Rebuilding.”
- Patrick Sullivan, founder of Evango Catholic Ministries.
- Meghann Baker, mother, catechist and parishioner.
- Bishop Robert Barron, founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
- Michael Dopp.
Participants in the livestream event at St. Peter the Fisherman will discuss topics among themselves in addition to viewing the speakers’ presentations as they occur live in Ottawa.
“Each host site also serves as its own little summit,” Gesch said. “We’ll have a lot to talk about, because the guest speakers are motivational. They talk about their stories and how they’ve had success in trying to evangelize their churches and reach out to the community and share the gospel with people.”
For additional information about the event at St. Peter the Fisherman, email [email protected] or call the parish office, (920) 793-4531, and ask for Bernie Huettl, faith formation director.