The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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March 3, 2000 Issue
Local News

Outreach effects still being felt

Parishes continue to evangelize after major effort of last fall

Last in a series on the annual Bishop's Appeal

By Nancy Vande Hey
Compass Correspondent

"Catholics need to know its OK to step up and say, 'I love God! I love Jesus!'" says Meghan Fawcett, a member of the diocesan evangelization committee and a member of St. Willebrord Parish, Green Bay.

Fawcett says the committee that planned last November's Operation Outreach for the diocese, hopes Catholics will continue to explore the treasures of their faith and share what they learn with others.

Through funds raised by the annual Bishop's Appeal, the committee produced professional brochures and support materials used by parishes throughout the diocese in Operation Outreach. Many people went door-to-door with the brochures, which described some of the treasures of the Catholic faith.

Parishes could also include information specific to their parish, such as Mass times, community services, and phone numbers. The diocese also provided sample blessings, intercessions to use at Masses before Operation Outreach day, and training materials to help make the event successful.

Many parishes could not reach everyone in one day and plan to continue Operation Outreach this year.

Pat Niles of St. Thomas More Parish, Appleton, and also an evangelization committee member, says her pastor, Fr. Gerald Faulk, had an excellent insight when he told her that this outreach is just a first stage.

"'People will begin to do this on their own,' he told me. In the next two years we will see how people have really responded to this challenge," Niles says.

She says that because the other Appleton parishes chose not to go door-to-door with Operation Outreach brochures, 60 volunteers at St. Thomas More are trying to cover most of Appleton.

Niles says they plan to continue delivering the brochures this spring until they're satisfied they've reached as many people as is practical, as a way to let their neighbors know, "We're here if you need us."

One benefit of Operation Outreach is the spiritual effect it continues to have on people, Niles says. It pushes Catholics to look at their faith with a new appreciation and to share it with others.

"Did people get touched? Did they take a risk and step out?" Niles asks. "I think we have to say, 'Yes.' "

At St. Luke and St. Mark parishes in Two Rivers, parishioners did not go door-to-door but each parishioner received a brochure that they could keep or pass along.

Parishioners also gave the parish names of people they thought might be interested in receiving a brochure.

Sr. Dorothy Wagner, who coordinated the outreach for the two parishes, says this spring a team of volunteers will continue to deliver brochures to the people on that list.

"It is difficult to know how the recipients of the brochures have been touched," Sr. Wagner says, "but many did express gratitude for it."

One ongoing benefit of Operation Outreach is the willingness of volunteers to take a risk, she says. Some volunteers who helped distribute the brochures last fall thought it would be so hard, she says, "But many had a wonderful time and located some people who could really use our services."

While not every parish in the diocese participated in the day, and the way parishes participated varied widely, organizers say it was a good first step in teaching Catholics how to evangelize.

Fawcett says the diocesan committee wants everyone to understand the purpose of Operation Outreach is evangelization - proclaiming your faith and inviting others to investigate it - not proselytism - trying to convert someone from another faith to yours because you insist that your faith is the right one.

Niles and Fawcett both say that through Baptism, Christians have a duty to reach out and share the Gospel. Fawcett, says people can maintain the spirit of Operation Outreach and evangelize in simple ways - wearing a cross, speaking kindly to others, praying before eating a meal in public.

"There is nothing wrong with evangelizing," says Fawcett, who is an adult convert to Catholicism. "It means to lead by example and share the Gospel by making it an important part of your life."

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