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. Fr. Navarro believed small groups of evangelized and passionate people had the ability to transform their parishes from the inside out.
SINE arrived in the Rockford (IL) diocese thanks to the Rev. Ernesto Elizondo. A missionary for SINE at the time, Elizondo presented the first “Kerygma Retreat” in 1991 at Holy Family Parish. Three retreats were held that same year, several small faith communities formed, and the fruits of the retreat became apparent. Parishioners from Holy Family spread the retreat throughout the region, volunteering to act as team leaders and begin the retreat process in other parishes.
In 2000, Monsignor Dan Hermes and two laywomen were charged with creating a new, formalized evangelization process using what they had learned and experienced through SINE. Over the next three years, Msgr. Hermes and a Core Team of laypeople developed the Light of the World Retreat and Parish Evangelization Process, incorporating the Catholic Catechism, papal encyclicals, and Scripture. The first Light of the World Retreat was hosted in spring 2002 by Holy Family Parish, followed by a fall retreat at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish (Crystal Lake, IL). Word of the Retreat’s success spread, and volunteer teams took the process to new parishes seeking a new direction.
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.