In February of 2020, COVID-19 reached the United States and began wreaking havoc in homes, schools, parishes, businesses, and more. Light of the World Evangelization Ministries was no exception. Almost instantly, most parishes shut down around the country. All of our spring retreats were cancelled, which poses a problem for our mission, the work we do, and even our financial viability.
Then as we looked ahead at the upcoming fall retreat season, parishes were not scheduling retreats then either. JoEllen and Dan were still holding virtual meetings on a regular basis, and developing strategies and resources for parishes who wanted to run the retreat. But with many Catholic churches still unable to even hold Mass, it became clear that most parishes weren’t going to run the retreat any time soon.
We knew something had to change. We needed to adapt. Good thing the Holy Spirit had something up His sleeve…
On Friday, May 22nd, we joined our Board of Directors in beginning a Novena to the Holy Spirit for guidance for the ministry. The novena ended on Pentecost. Before we even finished the novena, the Holy Spirit moved.
On Wednesday, May 27th, JoEllen and Dan went to the church to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. This was the first time we saw each other in person since everything shut down. During that prayer time, the Holy Spirit posed an important question: "Is a retreat the only way to help someone personally encounter Christ in a parish?" The clear answer is “no," there are lots of ways someone can encounter Jesus. This is when the idea for a new, kerygmatic parish evangelization program was born.
But what would such a program look like? We’d want it to have the same, effective, kerygmatic flow of the Light of the World Retreat. But since most parishes are unable to gather groups of people, it would need to be more accessible and flexible.
The solution was to adapt the retreat into a series of sessions a parish could run. The content would be accessible through an online portal, and the kerygmatic message would be delivered by a series of videos featuring Catholic priests. Parishes could adapt this program to run with any size group and even run it remotely through video conferencing.
Suddenly the path was clear, but we knew there wasn’t much time if it was to be ready for the fall. The Holy Spirit gave us a sense of urgency, and He was like a tidal wave that pushed us forward at a remarkable pace.
We tried our best to just ride the wave.
JoEllen and Dan met daily - socially distanced meetings outside on JoEllen’s back deck - to begin developing the details of the program. The overall structure was presented to the Board on Wednesday, June 10th. Our Board of Directors was open to the Holy Spirit, and they approved the new project.
Then JoEllen and Dan got to work…
Once we knew what the Holy Spirit wanted us to do, we got to work. We asked a dozen priests in the Rockford Diocese to each take a “piece” of the kerygmatic message. Then we filmed them. After four weeks of filming, Dan cloistered himself in his home office to edit and create all the videos. Meanwhile, JoEllen personally contacted all our current parishes to let them know about the new program. After that, there was still a lot of work to do, and JoEllen and Dan met daily to accomplish it. We saw the Holy Spirit’s hand in everything placed before us.
Finally, on Tuesday, September 1st, we launched “Awaken.”
Awaken is a brand new parish evangelization tool that’s designed to provide people with a personal encounter with Jesus and His Church. Parishes execute this intentional, step-by-step process with participants over a series of 12 sessions that present the kerygma - the basic gospel message - through engaging videos, personal testimonies, and small groups.
Parishes can subscribe for unlimited access to all session materials through a convenient online portal. Then they invite people to attend once a week for the duration of the program. Duplicate and repeat as many times as needed, run multiple sessions at the same time, or even run it remotely using video conferencing. It’s easy to implement and remarkably flexible in its application. For example, some parishes are even going to use it as part of their RCIA process.
There's a lot more of Awaken to explore. Check out our Awaken page to learn more about the details of the program. Parishes can even sign up for a free, unlimited, 14-day trial so they can watch all the videos and explore all the resources.