Written by Sherry
Thursday, 08 October 2009 08:16
Despite the fact that I must have flown in and out of the Minneapolis airport at least 100 times, I had never set foot on Minnesota soil till last Friday. I've waxed eloquent about Atlanta, Corpus Christi, Denver, Boise, and southern Michigan. It's time for the Twin Cities to get its share.
The Cathedral of St. Paul is truly gorgeous in a vast, stone and marble, elaborate bronze grill sort of way. ( I couldn't help ask my host when we first walked in if we hadn't made a mistake and were in St. Peter's Basilica. I wasn't entirely surprised to meet tourists with cameras milling about when I was done. It is the national shrine to St. Paul, after all. ) But "intimate" would not be the word that comes to mind.
It could have been the 30 foot high Art Deco-ish looking figures of the four Evangelists. Or the massive marble figure of St. Patrick that made him look like he weighed 300 lbs and was preparing to hurl anathemas at you. Or the fact that 250 people scattered about that great space looks pretty lonely. Or that I was tethered to a podium a long way from those attending with a mic that was too short for my height and I had to talk hunched over the podium. (Are there no 6 foot plus priests in St. Paul?). And that I was speaking in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament. I just couldn't help but be more subdued than usual. Which was appropriate but not exactly my normal style.
It seemed to go well all the same. And the cathedral staff are most impressive. The pastor is a very sharp, young and lively polyglot, who is working with a parish of Hmong refugees in his spare time. (When you already know 6 languages, how hard could it be to learn how to celebrate Mass in Hmong?) And Marc, who is in charge of faith formation and RCIA, is a joyful disciple and bringing in a wonderful collections of speakers for special events.
The people I met were also impressive: a number of cradle Catholics whose faith was awakened by spending time in the evangelical world and are now on fire and wrestling with the implications of that. One woman talked to me about the fact that she is the only serious Catholic in her circle of family and friends - most of whom were raised Catholic. How could she communicate to them the beauty she sees in the Church? I'm sure that her passion was already visible and even thought-provoking in ways that people around her aren't necessarily ready to acknowledge yet.
And a exuberant young woman who probably has a pastoring charism and feels called to form other lay apostles. Meeting new leaders of her quality emerging all over the country is one of the satisfying parts of this work.
Along with a cheerful young leader of the St. Paul based NET ministries. He wanted to invite me to attend a NET-sponsored monthly gathering that evening of 1,000 teens! I was bummed that I couldn't go because I had to catch my plane but excited about what he told me of the collaboration between NET and the Archdiocese. Nearly everyone involved in youth ministry in the Archdiocese has been involved with or directly influenced by NET.
The National Evangelization Teams form and then send out 18 - 28 year old Catholics around the country to evangelize. Their latest group of 100 + new missionaries have just begun their journeys. Their motto: Challenging young Catholics to love Christ and embrace the life of the ChurchI' They've been doing it for 27 years.
The fruit is obvious. Over 25,000 retreats have been conducted for 1.6 million youth. 1,822 young adults have been trained in youth evangelization. And the impact of the NET experience is often life-long. I have run into innumerable "alumni" of NET all over North America and in Australia who are still on fire and now exercising various kinds of leadership in the Church.
I"m adding the Archdiocese of St. Paul - Minneapolis to my informal list of dioceses where evangelization is taking hold. What I have come to look for is evidence of a genuine evangelizing synergy between the diocese, pastors, and creative lay apostles that is beginning to or has already taken root.
Good stuff is happening in the soon-to-be frozen north.