Evangelization isn’t complicated for Rapids City parishioner

Photo Caption: Cathy Fouts is pictured in St. John the Baptist Church in Rapids City, where she serves as parish trustee. Fouts helped to form the New Evangelization Network, bringing together five parish clusters.

By: By Jennifer Willems

RAPIDS CITY — Cathy Fouts looks perplexed when asked if people make evangelization too difficult.

“No one has a problem with talking about their spouse or their grandkids. You naturally talk very comfortably about people you love,” she told The Catholic Post last week. “God is one of those people you love, so you should feel just as comfortable talking about God as you talk about your grandkids or anyone else you love.”

She goes a step further.

“You should have God stories like you have grandkid stories — and we have lots of grandkid stories,” Fouts said with a smile.

A trustee at St. John the Baptist Parish here, she has been working with Father Glenn Harris, pastor, to make certain people in the area will have those stories to tell. Mission of Mercy, founded three years ago, is part of that effort.

“A lot of times in parish finance meetings they talk about allotting money for the new furnace and for painting the building and all those structure things and we thought, ‘That’s good for the church building but how are we building the Church,'” she explained. “We decided to make this a budget item.”

Mission of Mercy grew out of that discussion and is designed to bring at least two speakers into the parish each year to explore healing, forgiveness and redemptive suffering.

“Evangelization is part of that,” she said. “We talk about how God is in our suffering, how God provides our healing and how forgiveness is a core message. You can’t think of Christ on the cross without thinking of forgiveness.”

During its first year, Mission of Mercy arranged for visits by popular youth minister Mary Bielski and apologist Tim Staples. On March 29 and 30, Mission of Mercy will present author, Catholic talk show host and motivational speaker Teresa Tomeo, who will take participants “In Search of the Truth.” (See story below.)

It was an anticipated presentation by Matthew Kelly in Rock Island that took Fouts to the next level. Working with Rose Roe at St. Patrick Parish in Colona, they formed the New Evangelization Network.

Large audiences attend Kelly’s talks and the Rapids City parish couldn’t host it or handle it alone. The well-known speaker’s organization suggests that parishes come together to sponsor his visits, but Fouts and Roe decided to go a little bigger.

They brought together five parish clusters on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, plus a cluster of parishes on the Iowa side. In addition, home-schooling families were invited to be part of the New Evangelization Network (NEN).

With all the parishes working together, Kelly’s presentation last November drew 1,100 people to St. Pius X Church in Rock Island, Fouts said.

“You hear horror stories of how so-and-so came to St. Paul’s and only 35 people showed up. That’s awful,” she said. “For our own interests at little St. John’s we said we want to know what’s going on in the rest of the world. We don’t want to be left out — we don’t want anyone to be left out.”

The network’s parish cluster leaders meet once a month to talk about what
events are happening in the area and how they can help one another with scheduling and promoting them. Fouts said NEN strives to foster communication, invitation and relationship.

She emphasized that they don’t act without letting their pastors know what they’re doing, however.

“We are a servant organization. The parish priests need to know who we are and approve of any speakers,” Fouts said. “They definitely have a role, but it’s not a role of doing. It’s a role of shepherding, because that’s their job.”

Fouts’ own interest in evangelization was fed by her Catholic mother’s “servant heart” and Lutheran father’s conviction that “you can’t gain the whole world and lose your soul.”

She discovered a new appreciation for sharing the good news of God’s love when she started to work with girls in crisis pregnancies after she retired from teaching in the Moline School District. Working with a group of “good Christian women” at Pregnancy Resources in Moline and Davenport every Thursday, she tries to let their clients know how much God loves them.

“That really has been a great way for me to learn how to talk to people about God in their lives on a daily basis,” she told The Post.

And that’s the point of evangelization, according to Fouts.

“One book I’m reading said instead of evangelize we should Emmanuelize — God with us,” she said. “Just teach people how God is with us.”



RAPIDS CITY — Teresa Tomeo, an author, syndicated talk show host and motivational speaker, will take people “In Search of Truth” on Saturday, March 29, and Sunday, March 30, at St. John the Baptist Church, 1416 Third Ave. Her visit is part of the parish’s Mission of Mercy series.

On March 29, there will be Mass at 8:30 a.m. Tomeo’s topics for the day are “Extreme Makeover,” “Who Can You Trust?” and “God, I Can’t Hear You!” Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the sacrament of reconciliation will be available at 3 p.m. and participants are welcome to come to the parish’s regular 5 p.m. Mass.

After Mass at 9:30 a.m. on March 30, Tomeo will discuss “God’s Bucket List for You” and “The Truth Will Set You Free If. . . .” The conference will close with prayer at 2:30 p.m.

The cost is $20 for all the talks on both days, or $15 for Saturday’s talks only and $10 for Sunday’s talks only. As part of the parish’s emphasis on evangelization, one guest will be admitted free with each ticket sold.
There is no charge for clergy to attend.

For more information or to register, contact Cathy Fouts at SJMissionofMercy@gmail.com or (309) 523-27998.

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