Evangelical Catholic Institute
Sherry and I managed to avoid snow-related snafus in air traffic and arrived in Madison, WI on our separate flights from Colorado Springs and Tucson. We are attending the 2007 Evangelical Catholic Institute at the Bishop O'Connor Center here in Madison. This event is sponsored by Evangelical Catholic, a ministry begun at St. Paul's Catholic Campus ministry here at the University of Wisconsin.
What is The Evangelical Catholic? According to their website, "The EC's vision is that the Catholic Church be experienced as a vibrant, evangelical movement. We work towards the renewal of individuals, campus ministries, and parishes through an emphasis on interior conversion, devotion to the Scriptures, formation in the habits of discipleship, intense Christian community, and a commitment to evangelization.
How many of us, lay and ordained, charged with providing pastoral care have ever received the practical training needed to effectively recognize, reach, inspire, encourage and help the spiritually hungry? Our hearts are filled with love for God and for those we serve, but we are unsure how to implement ministries that help people enter into a meaningful and life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. Our best attempts at offering interesting talks, community gatherings, and other events often leave us disappointed at how few they have attracted and how little they have impacted the lives of our students, parishioners and the life of the parish as a whole.
The EC seeks to provide solutions to these problems so that our vision, and the Church's mission, can become reality."
"Evangelical Catholic Ministry is a concrete method for bringing about the Evangelical Catholic Vision. Its goal is relational, not ideological, nurturing individuals and ecclesial communities in their relationship with Jesus and His body, the Church, through a focus on the priorities of the Evangelical Catholic Vision. It has three stages and four settings."
The Institute is hosting what looks to be about 200+ people from around the midwest and east, primarily. The vast majority of them are college students involved in campus ministry, along with their campus ministers. Sherry will be giving a couple of workshops over the next two days, as will several other presenters. Keynote speakers include Avery Cardinal Dulles and Msgr. Stuart Swetland, a professor at Mt. St. Mary's Seminary and the former Director of the Newman Foundation and chaplain to the Catholic students at the University of Illinois.
This evening Msgr. Swetland gave a spirited plea for the importance of personal conversion to Christ. He used John the Evangelist and St. Paul as examples of people whose lives were turned around by their encounter with Christ, and emphasized the warning from Scripture that "without Christ, we can do nothing." Sherry commented that his use of Scripture (including carrying the Bible around the stage and reading from it), his expansive gestures, the fervor in his voice reminded her of some of the preachers she knew from her Evangelical days. Both Msgr. Swetland and Mr. Michael Haverkamp, executive director of Evangelical Catholic, quoted Popes Benedict and John Paul II and their insistence that evangelization is not primarily about doctrine or programs, but the sharing of an experience of a person - Jesus Christ.
This promises to be an interesting couple of days. I'll do my best to keep you posted.