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Parish leaders learn to cast nets deeper at spring gathering

By RENEE WEBB, Globe senior reporter
(Email Renee)

“Cast your nets into the deep.” – Luke 5:4

Through talks of guest speakers Tony Brandt and Chris Stewart of Casting Nets Ministries, parish leaders who attended the spring gathering April 3 at Trinity Heights in Sioux City were able to gain a renewed zeal and some practical tips for evangelization.

The gathering drew leaders ranging from DREs, to liturgists and Bible study facilitators, although the number of attendees was significantly down due to a late season snowstorm.

Prayer and action

Prayer moving to action was the focus of Brandt’s talk. He stressed the point that the late Pope John Paul II had said that part of the new evangelization included reconnecting Catholics back to the Lord.

“This talk is very simple. It’s calling you to dive deeper. It’s calling you to renew the attitude, renew the perspective as we all need to do constantly in regards to prayer but then ask that the prayer be made manifest through evangelization,” he said. “That it motivates us to go out and share the relationship that we are diving deeper into with the Lord.”

Brandt acknowledged that everyone ultimately is searching for peace and happiness. It starts with silence and prayer.

He discussed four types of prayer: adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication.

When discussing adoration, Brandt spoke of the importance of “filling ourselves with the love of Jesus Christ first, and then turn it outward to those around us.” Brandt added, “The adoration of God becomes the adoration of the face of Christ that we see in other people when we turn it outward.”

As the speaker addressed contribution, he noted that it requires humility. Through contribution, the speaker said, lives can become perfected and weaknesses can become one’s greatest strength.

Citing Philippians 4:4-7, centered on rejoicing in the Lord, Brandt spoke of the importance of offering thanks, being content and turning one’s self outward in order to gain peace and joy.

“One of the ways we can turn it outward it to be radically generous,” he said.

Through supplication and petition, Brandt said the goal is to do the will of God. While God knows what people want and need, the speaker said the Lord still wants the faithful to ask.

New evangelization

Stewart told the parish leaders they had a moral obligation to share the faith, to evangelize.

“We want to give you these seven pillars as something to help you do that effectively,” he said.
The seven pillars for effective evangelization include: prayerful, invitational, hospitable, inspirational, sacramental, formational and missionful (a word the speaker acknowledged he made up) – full of mission.

“Our first pillar for evangelization is reflecting on our own sanctity, deepening our own search for holiness,” Stewart said.

Addressing the second pillar – invitational – the speaker noted that while there is much brokenness in the world, many desire to find the truth.

“An invitation speaks volumes,” Stewart said. “When we think about what is happening in our churches, why our pews are empty or when we hold events and people don’t come – we have to ask ourselves, ‘why?’”

He suggested inviting parishioners and non-parishioners alike to some low pressure activity such as a fish fry.
Stewart pointed out that the Catholic Church in this country typically scores of the lowest of all denominations on hospitality.

“If we are not hospitable, the invitation will mean nothing,” he said. “If when they come to our campuses or step into our churches, if they do not feel welcome or make a connection with someone there, the chance of them coming back are really small. We have to look for opportunities when people to come us, they know this is where they belong.”

After discussing the inspirational, sacramental and formational pillars, Stewart spoke of the importance of a missionary attitude.

“The church doesn’t have a mission, she is mission,” he stressed. “That’s why she exists and we need to be constantly asking ourselves who else am I going to invite to this Gospel? Because the moment we stop asking that question, we are not far from death.”

Catholics, Stewart said, must be willing to cast out into the deep because so many people long for the truth.


Deacon Ray Rosburg, DRE and pastoral minister at parishes in Mapleton, Danbury, Anthon and Oto, said the talks affirmed his thoughts on the new evangelization.

“It stems from each one of us,” he said. “We have to be people of prayer to take the new evangelization out to world.”

One message that really struck the deacon is the importance of extending personal invitations. Deacon Rosburg said he already incorporated that pillar, personally inviting people to attend the Easter services.

Stephanie Joyce, DRE at St. Mary Church in Storm Lake, said she found the presentations to be helpful and practical.

“The personal stories they told gave us some practical ways to help us reach out to kids,” said the DRE, who added she liked having a refresher on the forms of prayer and suggestions for helping with evangelization.

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