.- A Denver-area parish’s mission week seeks new and creative ways to bring people to church and to encourage Catholics to create “a culture of the new evangelization.”
“The goal is creating a parish that is an evangelizing parish … a place where we come and grow together, and go out and spread the good news,” Father Daniel Cardo, pastor of Holy Name parish, told CNA Oct. 24.
Fr. Cardo said the parish, in the south Denver suburb of Sheridan, has tried to avoid a typical mission practice of hosting a speaker to give several talks.
“That usually works for those who already come to everything. We want to get new people.”
Instead, the parish extends mission activities across a whole week and focuses on activities, rather than a talk.
The parish’s most recent mission week, held Oct. 14-20, took as its theme “The Light of Faith.” It featured different events geared for seven different groups: adult men, adult women, seniors, families with children, young adults, youth, and Spanish-speakers.
The events are designed to be creative and different, in ways that encourage parishioners to invite their friends and family.
For young adults, the parish hosted a Friday night “Oktoberfeast” party with free food and free draft beer in a specially designed glass. The party, now in its third year, has the mood of a German-style Oktoberfest.
Partygoers gathered around small outdoor fires and in tents to chat and eat. One young adult offered a reflection on faith before the dinner began.
As the evening grew cold, the festive crowd switched to hot cider and hot chocolate.
One parishioner had invited his non-Catholic friends from Casper, Wyoming, a four-hour drive away.
According to Fr. Cardo, the parishioner relayed one friend’s comment: “Man, I didn’t know that young Catholics were actually normal!”
“It’s not very threatening to invite someone,” the priest said. “We give a short reflection, and we really try to create a very friendly, welcoming environment so that they can meet people and hopefully get involved in something.”
“They see people having fun, and having beer, and chatting and eating, and they say ‘wow, this is cool’.”
Past “Oktoberfeast” events have helped reconnect inactive Catholics to their faith and have helped non-Catholics decide to join the faith inquiry program at their local Catholic parish.
“Many others have started conversations and friendships and have joined small communities of faith,” Fr. Cardo said.
He said the parish is trying to do what Pope Francis asked of young Catholics at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro: “I would like us to make noise; I would like those inside the dioceses to go out into the open; I want the Church to be in the streets!”
Other mission week events include a zoo for children, a tea and trivia night for women, and a trivia night for men with pizza and beer.
“We literally went through the neighborhood to invite people,” Fr. Cardo said. Parishioners knocked on doors to invite others, with a special focus on the Spanish-speaking community to tell them about the parish’s concert, chat and dinner.
“It’s fun to invite someone to Oktoberfeast or invite neighbors and their kids to the zoo at the parish hall,” the pastor continued, adding that appealing events can help overcome some Catholics’ reluctance to invite others to church.
He credited the “enthusiasm” and hard work of the many parishioners who helped mission week take place. These parishioners have become a “movement” within their parish.
Fr. Cardo said an important aspect of the mission week is its emphasis on friendship as a means to bring others to Jesus Christ.
“If you are friends with someone, invite them to see that this friendship really comes from something else.”