In the 1970s, the Rev. Alfonso Navarro, MSpSC of Mexico City, developed the Sistema Integral de la Nuevo Evangelización (Systematic Integration of the New Evangelization or SINE), a parish-based model for building faith communities and missionary parishes. He believed instruction and faith formation should be held in sectors (in local homes) within the Parish, thereby establishing small communities of faith. Fr. Navarro recognized that small groups of evangelized and passionate people had the ability to transform their parishes from the inside out.
In 1991, Ernesto Elizondo ( now Fr. Elizondo) was invited by Monsignor Dan Hermes to host the first SINE “Kerygma” Retreat at Holy Family Parish in Rockford, Illinois. Three retreats were held that same year, several small faith communities formed, and the “fruits of the retreat” were put into action. Parishioners from Holy Family spread the retreat throughout the region, volunteering to lead teams and begin the retreat process in other parishes.
In 2000, led by the Holy Spirit, Msgr. Dan Hermes, Jeanne Leezer and Ellie Nelson created a whole new Parish-based Evangelization process called “Light of the World” based on Matthew 5:14-16.
Over the next three years, they collectively studied existing Catholic Evangelization processes, determining how each one brought the retreatant to a “living” encounter with Jesus Christ. Along with these Evangelization processes, SINE was a tremendous gift in the research and laid the foundation for the authors to draw upon. The importance of proclaiming the KERYGMA, having the Evangelization Process centered within the parishes and building Small Faith Communities were some of the central points of learning from working closely with SINE at Holy Family Parish.
Drawing from the inspiration of Holy Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Papal Encyclicals, and the many Evangelization processes, Msgr. Dan Hermes, Jeanne Leezer and Ellie Nelson completed writing the “Light of the World” Parish-Based Evangelization Process. It was important to the authors that the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation) were renewed and celebrated in the Retreat experience. Msgr. Dan Hermes was vigilant in reviewing each document written for the Light of the World Retreat Process and an Imprimatur was granted from Bishop Thomas G. Doran on April 13, 2005.
A core team of evangelized men and women were assembled at Holy Family Parish and presented the Light of the World Retreat for the first time in the Spring of 2002. As pastor, Msgr. Dan Hermes continued to support the Light of the World process by personally inviting parishioners to the Retreat by phone or in-person and supporting the formation of small faith communities and home visits.
News of the Light of the World Retreat spread, and volunteer teams took the process to new parishes seeking a new direction. In the fall of 2002, St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Crystal Lake was the first on-the-road Retreat presented!
Realizing the Retreat and Evangelization Process were too large for one parish to maintain, Light of the World Evangelization Ministries became an independent, 501(c)3 nonprofit, Catholic Evangelization Ministry based in Rockford, IL.Today, the organization operates out of Crystal Lake, IL with two full-time staff members and more than 120 volunteers. Through its grassroots efforts, LOTWEM continues to offer Light of the World Retreats at more than 130 parishes across the United States, as well as evangelization strategies and implementation plans to help transform Catholic churches into evangelizing parishes.