Evangelization is topic for first of five videos bringing ‘Growing Disciples’ to life

Bishop Louis Tylka and Father Adam Cesarek are seen talking about evangelization in a new video for the "Growing Disciples" process. The conversation was filmed at Sacré-Coeur Retreat Center in Magnolia by Sam Mangieri of Fiat Films. (Provided photo/Sam Mangieri)

Evangelization isn’t as scary and difficult as people imagine and in a new video, Bishop Louis Tylka and Father Adam Cesarek talk about the beauty and simplicity of sharing what Jesus has done for us.

Part of the “Growing Disciples” pastoral planning process, the video is designed to explore one of the five foundations on which the Diocese of Peoria will build “a vibrant, mission-driven church for the future,” according to Bishop Tylka.

In addition to evangelization, the foundations include discipleship, vocations, the Eucharist, and the legacy of Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

“Because we cannot lose sight of this being an aspirational process, we want to provide opportunities for people to really begin to reflect upon and incorporate into their lives of faith these foundational ideas,” Bishop Tylka told The Catholic Post.

Bishop Louis Tylka said evangelization is really about capturing the heart. “The amazing thing is it starts with Jesus, not with us. God loves us first.” (Provided photo/Sam Mangieri

Two formats are planned for the videos for each of the five foundations.

The long format will feature a conversation between two people — in this case Bishop Tylka and Father Cesarek, pastor of St. Mary Church in Pontiac. They were filmed at Sacré-Coeur Retreat Center in Magnolia by Sam Mangieri of Fiat Films.

The short format will be a five-minute clip culled from the full conversation, which is about 90 minutes long.

Work has started on the next video, which will feature Matt Faley, chief of mission for the Diocese of Peoria, and Jenny Witt, director of evangelization at St. Philomena Church in Peoria. They will discuss discipleship.

The videos can be found on the “Growing Disciples” page of the Diocese of Peoria’s website, cdop.org/pastoral-plan/five-foundations, or Facebook page.

“My dream and my hope is that when we get through our five foundations we will find ways and develop other communications that unpack the notions of evangelization, discipleship, vocations, Eucharist, the legacy of Sheen,” Bishop Tylka said. “It’s like our life of faith — it’s not a one-and-done moment. We have to keep deepening our understanding and appreciation in all of these areas.”

CAPTURING HEARTS

Father Cesarek and Bishop Tylka said they enjoyed their discussion about evangelization.

“One of the main emphases we talked about in our conversation is evangelization becomes easy when you fall in love with Jesus,” Father Cesarek explained. “It starts with your own intimacy with the Lord.”

He said that far from being “scary,” evangelization is actually “quite awesome.”

“Evangelization becomes easy when you fall in love with Jesus,” according to Father Adam Cesarek. “It starts with your own intimacy with the Lord.” (Provided photo/Sam Mangieri)

“But it require us to enter into conversation and be real with Jesus, be vulnerable with Jesus, be honest with Jesus and say, ‘This is where I am’ and truly enter into the kind of relationship where we can’t help but want to talk about it,” Father Cesarek said.

Both Father Cesarek and Bishop Tylka noted the difference between catechism and evangelization, saying people often confuse one for the other.

For example, Catholics know a lot about Jesus, which helps with catechesis, but may not be prepared to talk about if they love him and why, according to Father Cesarek.

“Eventually I have to say what I truly love about him — he changed my life forever and I’ll never be the same. I’ll never be able to thank him enough. That’s evangelization,” he said.

“As important and significant as it is to say this is what the church teaches or this is the way we live our life because of the church’s teaching, evangelization is really the capturing of the heart,” Bishop Tylka said.

“We capture somebody’s heart and after their heart has been captured by the love of Jesus Christ, which is what we’re trying to do here, that’s when we can move into those other aspects of forming the head,” he continued. “The amazing thing is it starts with Jesus, not with us. God loves us first.”

DISCERNMENT, PRAYER, DIALOGUE

The bishop would also like to start providing short video updates on the “Growing Disciples” process as a way of honoring a request for communication and transparency.

At this point in the two-year process, parish surveys are done and data collection is being completed. A series of 14 focus groups have been held to get feedback from priests, deacons, and parish and school leaders. Workbooks, which include information submitted by the parishes and additional census data of the diocese and trends, will be distributed to parish leaders in December.

“We want to be able to give that back to the parishes and help them begin to see and understand the scope of what we’re dealing with as we seek to chart a course for the future,” Bishop Tylka said.

Discernment and prayer will continue throughout 2023 and into 2024, as possible scenarios are developed. Dialogue in parishes, between parishes, and between the vicariates and the diocese is also planned.

“The hope is to have at least two, if not three, scenarios for each situation,” Bishop Tylka said. He added that care will be taken not to create a “desert” or an area without a Catholic church being available.

One of the questions that has been asked of the priests and the Diocesan Pastoral Planning Commission is how far — in terms of time — should people be willing to travel to go to Mass?

A BRIGHTER FUTURE

“There will be a tension that we cannot deny, nor can we ignore, that there will be those who see this simply as a process to close or merge parishes. That is the farthest thing from the truth,” Bishop Tylka said.

“This is a process of building a brighter future, of empowering us and freeing us up to create a brighter future.” — Bishop Tylka

“This is a process of building a brighter future, of empowering us and freeing us up to create a brighter future,” he said. “From being preoccupied with maintenance to move us into mission.”

It will be painful, however, because it means taking a hard look at realities such as having too many buildings and not enough priests, fewer people in the pews, and strained financial resources, he said.

“But if we can move beyond and deal with the immediate challenges that we face, we can create those opportunities that bring growth for the future,” Bishop Tylka said.

The fact that this is a prayerful, open, participative process should provide some level of comfort, the bishop told The Catholic Post.

“Indeed, it is the work of the Spirit in our church and we are taking up our responsibility to do this,” Bishop Tylka said.

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