Ames parish learning to evangelize
‘The Evangelical Catholic’ working with St. Cecilia
By Sue Stanton
AMES — “How to Talk to People” was the name of a recent workshop held at St. Cecilia Church in Ames for parishioners given by Peter Andrastak, senior parish consultant at The Evangelical Catholic organization based in Madison, Wisconsin.
Andrastak has a master’s degree in theological studies in pastoral theology from Ave Maria University and has worked in adult formation since 2003. He is a married father of seven children. Speaking to a crowd of 65 people, Andrastak explained the mission of the organization and how the parish of St. Cecilia is embarking on a three year process whereby it will be trained in learning how to evangelize others through the power of speaking to them concerning their relationship with Jesus.
He explained that this is a new method, a new way of doing evangelizing for many Catholics and that it may feel uncomfortable at first.
“When you feel something challenging, you press into it and see why it challenges you,” he told them. “Catholics hear the word evangelizing and they tend to run with their tail between their legs.”
He reminded the group that “When you can speak from your experience of victory, that’ll make your experience real to others, it becomes genuine, and the Gospel is incarnated right now.”
Speaking of the conversion experience, Andrastak referred to Pope Benedict’s “Deus Caritas Est” document where it says, “Being a Christian is not defined by the result of an ethical choice and lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, or a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”
After handouts in which people were expected to write down comments concerning their own relationship with Jesus, Andrastak concluded with some tips for the long road ahead; always use the name of Jesus, avoid church language, don’t teach lessons, and stay focused on what you want to say. Also avoid the word ‘sin’ since that word implies judgement.
“We use the law of gradualism,” he said. “It’s not hiding ourselves but is meant to avoid confrontation. You want to smile and communicate joy.”
Rosie Stanley, a St. Cecilia parishioner liked hearing this.
“I liked that he gave a list of concrete things,” she said. Fellow parishioner Pat Stahr agreed with her but added, “I really enjoyed the person-to- person process. Our society is so busy, it’s good to be able to sit with someone and take time out to slow down. Taking time to think about how I came to be and who I am was very worthwhile.”