TRAINING IN THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
LEADERSHIP TRAINING FOR PARISHES

ACTS II: CONVERSION, PROCLAMATION, COMMUNITY
A PARISH PROCESS

ACTS II: Conversion, Proclamation, Community (also known as the ACTSII Process) consists of four components: Recruitment, Evangelization training, Evangelistic Outreach and the Parish Small Group System.

It is a comprehensive process having as its purpose the goal of facilitating the formation of an evangelizing parish community: a caring, bearing, sharing community. The means to accomplishing this is the Parish Small Group System: the networking of small home groups (small Christian communities) whose primary purpose is evangelistic outreach.

The Parish Small Group System (PSGS) is a strategy of action for evangelization that provides persons who have been initially evangelized with pastoral follow-up until such time that they are ready, if unchurched, to enter the catechumenate of the R.C.I.A., or, if alienated/inactive, to enter the re-membering process of the parish.

The purpose of the ACTS II Process is twofold:

  • To provide a training that will evangelize active Catholics by creating an environment and a process that will lead to inner healing, reconciliation, personal conversion, empowerment and support, and enabling them to live out the Christian mission to witness and disciple others for the Lord Jesus Christ under the power of the Holy Spirit;

  • To provide an evangelistic outreach that will not only evangelize others but will offer pastoral follow-up through small group home gatherings (small Christian communities) to those who are initially evangelized.

By means of this process, trainees will be enabled and empowered for community and for mission in their parishes.

For Community:

Bringing about evangelizing communities (the Parish Small Group System) where the caring, bearing, sharing life witness of Christ is experienced by those to whom the parish is reaching out in its evangelizing efforts.

For Mission:

Trained evangelizers so filled with Jesus that each will have a burning desire:

  • To reach out and share Jesus with the unchurched and the alienated/inactive Catholic (E.N. 50-53) and bring them into the Community of love, the Church, where they can be nourished by a caring, bearing, sharing community and its sacramental life; and

  • To recruit and encourage those who already believe (E.N. 54) to take the evangelizing training so that they, too, will be equipped to share Jesus with others.

The ACTS II Process is based on the experience given in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2. This portion of Scripture demonstrates very powerfully that the apostles underwent a profound conversion experience with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon them. This conversion experience radically transformed the apostles, changing them from being scared men (Mt. 26:56b; Mk. 14:50) into bold, courageous men (Acts 2:14ff; 4:13, 18-20).

The result of the apostles' conversion experience was the proclamation of the Good News without fear (Acts 2:14-36), conversion for those who heard the Good News (Acts 2:37-42) resulting in community (Acts 2:43-47). The Church was not proclaimed but the Lord Jesus Christ. The Church was the result of the proclamation which effected conversion leading to community. Those converted went on to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to others and the process continued.

ACTS II: Conversion, Proclamation, Community is based, therefore, on chapter 2 of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles: first the apostles (the leaders) experience conversion; they go out and proclaim Jesus; those who hear and accept Jesus undergo conversion and come into community and the process continues.

Why The Parish Small Group System (PSGS)?

Our Catholic people must be ready to take some agreed responsibility for their own lives and for the lives of their brothers and sisters in the faith. Small home groups with their intimacy, mutual care, support and discipline are the key to bringing about this shared responsibility.

The Lord's desire for his people is that there be a genuine concern for one another, that each person become a caring, bearing, sharing person (John 15:12, 16f). The Scriptures clearly show the need for pastoral care to be shared (Exodus 18:13-22; Numbers 11:16f). Both Moses and the people were being worn out because the burden of caring for all the people was too heavy for Moses.

In our parishes today, there is a similar situation. The pastor is expected to carry the burden of all the parish families. A crying need for capable people willing to take pastoral responsibility for their brother and sister parishioners is being felt. The responsibility of caring belongs not just to one person or to a few but to everyone. In the small groups (PSGS), caring, bearing and nurturing can take place. In this, the whole parish can "endure and be at peace" (Exodus 18:21-23).

ACTS II: Conversion, Proclamation, Community has been designed to meet this great need that parishes are experiencing. The rich experience of our people must be tapped. The ACTS II Process enables our people to undertake shared responsibility (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). The Holy Spirit is the one who equips each for serving and for caring.

Our parishes will be renewed and become evangelistic in nature when the people of God are themselves evangelized, and learn to call on the Holy Spirit to empower them to witness to the Good News of Jesus: that there is someone who cares, who enables people to share and empowers them to bear one another's burdens.

Those coming into a small group must first of all be initially evangelized, led to commit personally to the Lord (Mt. 6:33). The wisdom behind this is that it ensures that the trained evangelizers are evangelizing. This built-in dynamic prevents the small groups from growing too fast but, at the same time, the small group must grow or else it will die. Just as with the human body, if a cell grows too fast, it becomes a tumor and, if it does not grow, it dies. Through personal and spiritual growth, these small groups will become strong living cells within the body of Christ, the Church.

Specifics About The Parish Small Group System (PSGS)

More specifically, as a pastoral plan for the parish, the number one pastoral benefit of the ACTS II Process to the parish is the formation of the parish into small groups (PSGS), small Christian communities.

A small Christian community is a group of 10 to 20 men or women who meet together at fixed times to pray over the Scriptures together, share their love for Jesus, intercede for the needs of others, help one another when difficulties arise, feast together, mourn together, just like the first Christians did in chapter 2 of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. This pastoral method takes the Word of God right down to the grassroot level and brings a "sense of belonging" to our Catholic Christians.

What The ACTS II Evangelization Training Will Accomplish

  1. train Disciples To Claim The World For Christ The training is primarily concerned with forming disciples, evangelizers, for Jesus Christ; disciples who are rooted in Jesus; persons who so love Jesus that their greatest desire is to bring others into a personal relationship with Jesus so that they, too, might love him deeply.

    This is what it means to be a disciple, an evangelizer: someone who brings Good News, Good News that has been experienced. And the Good News that the evangelizer has experienced is this, that:

    • (s)he is loved by Jesus;
    • Jesus is truly alive and in his/her midst;
    • Jesus has truly forgiven his/her sins;
    • Jesus is at work in him/her through the power of the Holy Spirit;
    • in Jesus, (s)he is victorious;
    • in Jesus, death has no claim on him/her;
    • in Jesus, (s)he has overcome the world;
    • in Jesus, (s)he can do all things;
    • in Jesus, (s)he is truly a child of God, a child whom the Father loves and cares about.

    All of this the disciple, the evangelizer, knows from his/her own living experience. What the Catholic Christian, the evangelizer, wants to do, then, is to bring others to Jesus as (s)he has been brought, with sensitivity and respect.

  1. This training will lead to a twofold outreach from the parish:

    • Evangelistic outreach to the Unchurched and Alienated/Inactive Catholics (E.N. 50-53); and

    • Recruitment of the active Catholic (E.N. 54) into the evangelization training within the ACTS II Process in order to lead them into:

      • A personal relationship with Jesus Christ for the first time and into the Community of the Church; or into

      • A deeper relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and into mission for him.

  2. The evangelization training facilitates within the trainees the development of four essential means for striving to be Christ-centered and living a life in the Spirit: prayer, study, community and service.

    Prayer.

    Within the training, prayer is a major focal point. trainees are put together as prayer partners and time is given, within the training sessions, for the prayer partners to pray together.

    Trainees are brought to the realization that time must be spent with the Lord in prayer in order for them to grow in their relationship with him, and for their evangelizing efforts to be effective. trainees are encouraged, therefore, to give prime time to the Lord for prayer and Scripture reading on a regular basis.

    Prayer is participated in extensively throughout the training itself. Each session has an opening and closing prayer service. The small groups always begin and end with prayer. Before the coordinator begins the training session, a blessing prayer is given by the trainees.

    The Evangelizer's Handbook (EH), Be An Evangelizer? Me?, teaches one to pray the Scriptures; lists the principles for effective prayer and states the obstacles to effective prayer; encourages that prayer be incorporated into one's life on a daily basis.

    Study.

    A regular study of the Scriptures and frequent spiritual reading are required. The Bible is the handbook for all evangelizers. Before evangelizing others, the evangelizer must know the core message of the Gospel. Some of the topics that are studied are:

    • the Good News Proclamation: A Synthesis;
    • God's Plan;
    • Jesus and His Mission;
    • the Role of the Holy Spirit;
    • the Core Message of the Gospel;
    • Effective Communication Skills;
    • Personal Witnessing;
    • Resources for Evangelization;
    • Outreach and Pastoral Follow-Up; and much more.

    The training requires a minimum of four hours of study per week following the Study Guide instructions.

    The following excerpts from a pastoral letter on campus ministry, "Empowered by the Spirit: Campus Ministry Faces the Future," (National Conference of Catholic Bishops, November 15, l985), explains the need for the amount of study time recommended:

    "Many Catholics on campus, including faculty members, are unprepared to deal with intellectual challenges to the faith. They are unable to explain their belief to interested friends or defend it against attacks by hostile critics. Their understanding of the faith has not kept pace with their knowledge in other areas. The legitimate pluralism of theology and spirituality in the Church confuses them. They have not achieved an adult appreciation of their religion that would enable them to speak about it not only with conviction but also with intelligence. At times, this produces frustration and anger over the inadequacy of their religious training. These problems are intensified by the general religious illiteracy in our culture" (n. 47, 48).

    Community.

    From Scripture, the Christian learns that living a life of faith and growing in it is not an individual affair but a community matter (Acts 2:44-47; 1 Cor 12:12-31). All aspects of Catholic spirituality cannot be taught but rather need to be caught. It is by association that Christians pick up or assimilate the spirit of a community. The necessity, therefore, of good Small Group Leaders.

    The Small Group Leaders become role models. And the relationship of the Small Group Leader to that of trainee is one of master-disciple. The training tries to emulate the caring, bearing, sharing (CBS) life-witness Jesus gives in the Gospels. During the training sessions, the Coordinators model a spirit of acceptance and respect for where each trainee is at in his/her walk of faith.

    The Small Group Leaders (SML) maintain a respectful, accepting environment in their small groups. The SML's also take on the responsibility of calling each trainee in their small group once a week for pastoral follow-up. These weekly phone calls convey concern for the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. Topics shared include:

    • Questions the trainee might have about the Study Guide;
    • Progress of trainee's prayer life;
    • Assessment together of how well the trainee is keeping the right priorities in his/her life: God, self, family, and others;
    • Personal and family difficulties; and
    • How God is working in the trainee's life.

    The Coordinators and Small Group Leaders meet together regularly on a weekly basis to pray for the trainees, to evaluate the weekly training sessions, and to learn how the small groups are coming along. The trainees are included in their personal prayers as well. The trainees are paired together as prayer partners. This prayer partner experience provides an immediate CBS (caring, bearing, sharing ) relationship because its focus is Jesus, intercessory prayer, and the individual's needs.

    When the evangelization training component of the ACTS II Process is completed, the small group home gatherings (PSGS) are in place to receive newly evangelized persons for ongoing evangelization, support and nurturing.

    Service.

    The main goal of the ACTS II Process is to facilitate the formation of an evangelizing parish community through the networking of small groups (PSGS) whose primary purpose is evangelistic outreach. This is the number one pastoral benefit to the parish and the number one service that the ACTS II Process offers.

    The Coordinators and Small Group Leaders, as well as those who receive the evangelization training, have the responsibility to help their parishioners realize and understand that the entire Church has been called to evangelize (Mt. 28:18ff; Acts 1:8).

    In the Decree On The Church's Missionary Activity, n. 35, the bishops have this to say to the people of God:

    "Since the whole Church is missionary, and the work of evangelization the the fundamental task of the people of God, this Sacred Synod invites all to undertake a profound interior renewal so that being vitally conscious of their responsibility for the spread of the Gospel they might play their part in missionary work among the nations."

    The ACTS II Process is a response to this call of the bishops and facilitates such an interior renewal through one of the training weekends called: Evangelized Anew.

Who Takes Responsibility for the ACTS II Process in the Parish?

  • Coordinators, persons who have completed the ACTS II Process online, take overall responsibility for the ACTS II Process within the parish.

  • Small Group Leaders take pastoral responsibility for the small groups (PSGS) within the ACTS II Process.

Conclusion

ACTS II: Conversion, Proclamation, Community has been carefully designed, developed, and tested for training Catholic evangelizers and preparing for the future Church in the present moment. Every effort has been made to make it authentic and realistic.

Mary, Star Of Evangelization

Immaculate Heart of Mary

 

ACTS II: Conversion, Proclamation, Community is dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary under whose patronage Pope Paul VI placed the entire effort of evangelization in the Church. "On the morning of Pentecost she watched over with her prayer the beginning of evangelization prompted by the Holy Spirit: may she be the Star of the evangelization ever renewed which the Church, docile to her Lord's command, must promote and accomplish, especially in these times which are difficult but full of hope!

"In the name of Christ we bless you, your communities, your families, all those who are dear to you, in the words which Paul addressed to the Philippians: 'I give thanks to my God every time I think of you -- which is constantly, in every prayer I utter -- rejoicing, as I plead on your behalf, at the way you have all continually helped to promote the gospel ...'" (Phil. 1:3-5) (E.N. 82).

Back to Top