“The task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church. Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize.” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, Pope Paul VI, 14).
Evangelization Retreats were introduced to Sacred Heart Church with the purpose of providing an intense encounter with the Risen Jesus and to foster the development of small faith communities.
The retreat is a grace that has helped us focus upon the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian Community. Based upon the book, Evangelization: God’s Love for Man by Alfonso Navarro the retreat focuses upon the Sacraments of Initiation: BAPTISM, CONFIRMATION, and EUCHARIST.
In keeping with the experiences of the early Church, lay Catholics share their stories of faith through a series of personal testimonies. Small group discussions give retreatants the opportunity to dialogue and perhaps for the first time say out loud who and what God means to them and how God has touched their lives. Through a special Liturgy of Consecration, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are rekindled and stirred within the lives of the people. The retreat uniquely moves from the basic foundations of initiation and conversion to specific actions necessary in one's walk to live the Christian life: prayer and study, suffering, community and witnessing. Christians of other denominations are also welcome to attend Evangelization Retreats.
Evangelization Retreat Schedule
Friday: 5:30 pm – 9:00 pm
- Light dinner
- Introduction & Purpose
- The Love of the Father & Group Discussion
- Sin & Its Consequences/Jesus, God’s Solution & Group Discussion
- Accept Jesus & Return to God
- Closing Prayer
Saturday: 8:00 am – 9:00 pm
- Morning Prayer
- New Life in the Spirit & Group Discussion
- Reconciliation Service
- Silent Lunch
- The Lordship of Jesus & Group Discussion
- The Promise of the Father & Group Discussion
- The Gift of the Holy Spirit/A New Pentecost Now & Group Discussion
- The Promise is for You Now & Group Discussion
- Consecration Liturgy
Sunday: 8:30 am – 4:30 pm
- Persevering & Belonging
- In God’s Word & In Teaching/Praying Always in the Spirit & Group discussion
- Carrying the Cross Daily & Group Discussion
- Witness to the Risen Lord & Group Discussion
- In Church & In Community & Group Discussion
- Community Formation
- Retreatants’ Response
- Final Blessing
How Retreat Testimonies/Talks Come to Be
During the retreat, the Gospel is proclaimed through a series of personal testimonies during which lay Catholics share their stories of faith. These presentations (currently twelve) provide retreatants with an opportunity to make "new" through adult awakening, the graces and commitments we received in Baptism, and an invitation to look at the Catholic faith through the group dynamics of proclamation of God's Word, personal testimony, dialogue and community. Three major themes of the retreat center upon the Sacraments of Initiation: the renewal of Baptism, renewal of Confirmation, and the celebration of the Eucharist. Each talk builds upon the previous talk and is intended to lead retreatants down a certain path to conversion.
These are the talks given during the retreat and the sacraments which are renewed or celebrated:
Renewal of Baptism
- The Love of the Father
- Sin & Its Consequences
- Accept Jesus & Return to God
- New Life in the Spirit
Renewal of Confirmation
- The Lordship of Jesus
- The Promise of the Father
- The Gift of the Holy Spirit/A New Pentecost Now
- The Promise is for You Now
Celebration of Eucharist
- In God’s Word & In Teaching/Praying Always in the Spirit
- Carrying the Cross Daily
- Witness to the Risen Lord
- In Church & In Community
Everyone is encouraged to write their own faith story as a prayer experience and an opportunity to recall and recognize the ways in which God is present in their lives. Everyone is encouraged to share their faith story with spouses, family, friends, and their small faith community. Some will be encouraged to give their faith story as a testimony on the retreat.
In hearing that faith story, the Speakers Team listens for parts of the story that speak to one of the retreat talks. When that theme has been identified, the presenter is given the outline of the talk and asked to re-write all or some part of that story so as to embody the topic. This is done with the assistance of a team member to narrow, expand or deepen what has been written so that the talk is no longer than 12 minutes or a maximum of 2500 words The talks are not intended to be given as autobiographies, confessions, or sermons. Each person’s faith story has many aspects and continues to unfold over time, allowing it to be shared again with a different focus to express another retreat topic.
Overview of Retreat Talks
GENERAL: Personal testimony is the most powerful aspect of each presentation. Experience has shown that each presenter should give their testimony to the Core Team or Speakers’ Team, who will then jointly discern what subject area that would be most appropriate (and what is needed for the next retreat!) for that person. When the subject area has been discerned, and agreed upon, the talk will then be tailored to that specific theme, using Scriptural references whenever possible. Father Navarro's book Evangelization: God’s Love for Man is the primary reference -- time allotted and page number will follow each of the brief subject descriptions.
The theme of each subject area is carefully designed and constructed to build upon, and to complement one another. As a consequence, experience again has shown that each presentation MUST be written out completely, and READ, so that encroachment into another area does not occur. Following your script precisely virtually eliminates "rambling" and other diversions. Your skill as a presenter will make it "appear" that you are not "reading" the material.
1. THE LOVE OF THE FATHER -- those who hear will open themselves to the love of God. It is a declaration of love as if God himself asks the evangelizer to go in His Name to declare his love to the listeners. The presentation is primarily testimonial, witnessing to the Love of God in one's own life. Scriptural references that stress the words of Him who loves, and how it should be faithfully copied in us. (12 mins., p. 12).
2. SIN AND ITS CONSEQUENCES/JESUS, GOD'S SOLUTION -- discover the reality of sin as it is separation from God, and the impossibility of human beings to find a solution to this situation alone. Speaker must avoid melodramatic overtones regarding their own sinfulness while understanding the consequences of sin and that these consequences continue in baptized persons. Ultimately, the speaker centers on the proclamation that Jesus is God's solution and in Jesus the solution is already given and is the answer for the sinner. (12 mins., p. 16).
3. ACCEPT JESUS AS YOUR SAVIOR -- Jesus is a real, live person and the Christian life begins when we accept Him. This presentation is an invitation for all of us to respond to God's solution. Clearly stated, Christianity is NOT just ideals, but a relationship to be lived with a live person, Jesus! (12 mins., p. 24).
4. CONVERT AND RETURN TO GOD -- conversion is necessary to live the Christian life. Testimony reflects one's life before and after the encounter and acceptance of Jesus Christ, understanding that conversion is a life-long, on-going process. Steps of conversion are reviewed. (12 mins., p. 28). (Combined with "Accept Jesus.")
5. NEW LIFE IN THE SPIRIT - to accept Jesus and the subsequent conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit. One becomes aware of the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives. An invitation to respond to the Holy Spirit and the New Life that will follow. (12 mins., p.36).
6. LORDSHIP OF JESUS -- presents the person of Jesus who has been accepted as Savior, and now He is accepted as the Lord. Discovery of what Lordship means is sought, and it invites listeners to make Jesus the Lord of our lives. Lordship is shown as all-encompassing in the life of the Christian - work, rest, life, vocation, etc. (12 mins., p.50).
7. THE PROMISE OF THE FATHER - lead all to discover the person of the Holy Spirit, as God has promised. The Good News of what the Holy Spirit can do in us. It is a matter of witnessing to what the Holy Spirit IS doing IN us, and what happened when the gift of the Holy Spirit was rekindled. A restatement of what the Holy Spirit does in the life of a believer in accordance with the Word of God. (12 mins., p. 54).
8. GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT - testimony is given as to what the coming of the Holy Spirit actually was like among the first Christians. Scriptural quotations should be used and read so the Word of God itself will explain the effect of the Holy Spirit today in the lives of the believers. Signs of the Holy Spirit (i.e. "tongues") will be explained at another time. (12 mins., p. 58).
9. A NEW PENTECOST NOW -- lead people to understand that today in the Church we are living in an uncommon presence of the Holy Spirit. Testimonial in nature, as to the various aspects of the life in the Holy Spirit; prayerful, communitarian, family level, parishes, and the universal Church. (12 mins., p. 64). (Combined with "Gift of the Holy Spirit.")
10. THE PROMISE IS FOR YOU NOW -- an invitation to ask the Holy Spirit to make Jesus the Lord of our lives, and to live a Christian life. People should understand their need for the Holy Spirit - that it is impossible that Jesus become Lord and to live effective Christian lives without the power of the Holy Spirit. Flow to the Liturgy of Consecration ... (12 mins., p. 68).
11. ROSARY PRESENTATION -- brief background of the Rosary is given, and then the Rosary is prayed. It is advisable to pre-select those who lead each decade. (25 mins., background information is available from a variety of sources). (Optional)
12. PERSEVERANCE AND BELONGING -- an exhortation to all the people to remain united to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and to persevere in the various media of growth in our spiritual lives. (12 mins., p. 96).
13. IN THE WORD, AND IN TEACHING -- testimony on how necessary it has been in our lives to always remain in contact with the Word of God, and how a program of catechesis makes this process life-giving. (12 mins., p. 96)
14. PRAYING ALWAYS IN THE SPIRIT --understanding the intimacy with the Lord is indispensable in our lives; and how a variety of prayer forms (all types: personal and communitarian) transforms our lives. Different forms of prayer should be made clear and validated. (12 mins., p. 88). (Combined with In the Word and in Teaching.")
15. CARRYING THE CROSS DAILY -- Christian life is to take up the Cross daily and to understand what that means. Clarify that the Cross is not necessarily synonymous with pain, but attuned to God’s intentions for our lives. (12 mins., p. 92).
16. WITNESS OF THE RISEN LORD -- witnessing is an indispensable part of our Christian life. Witnessing takes on many forms within our lives, testimony by words, service, and works. God does not ask the impossible; we will always have time to cooperate with God’s loving intentions. (12 mins., p. 84).
17. IN CHURCH AND IN COMMUNITY -- clearly stated, each Christian should rediscover, know well, and remain faithful to the Church and belong to a small faith-sharing community. Benefits of living in a small community are testified to, and formation is reinforced. (12 mins., p. 100).
“The testimonies were all unique. I’m finding the Lord, but in those words, the love shared by our faith makes each of us stronger. We are not alone.” Michael Farley
“I discovered love and rediscovered the music hidden deep within. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for Jesus, but I had no idea he had a “secret weapon” in the form of the Holy Spirit.” Susie Johnston
“The realization that we are all broken, that we all hurt, that though we come from different backgrounds, we are all family – none better than the other, confused and maybe dysfunctional. God loves us all equally and overwhelmingly.” Mike Geno
“My first retreat was what I would call a spark lit by Jesus and fanned by the Holy Spirit over the past years until one day I hope to be a bonfire.” Irene Kraemer
“I most remember feeling God’s love and care for me in how well I was cared for at the retreat.” Mike Kosik
“I was able to forgive someone, to understand forgiveness in a much deeper way. This changed my life.” Mary Fran Brown