John Kowalski is the Director of Engagement for the Blue Water Vicariate Family I
Need an Idea for a New Year’s Resolution?
…that’s the tagline I’m using for a bulletin advert announcing an event at one of the churches (St. Mary Mystical Rose in Armada) in my FOP.
What is this New Year’s resolution idea? Getting to know God better! (Or, more specifically, the Holy Spirit).
A while back, I ran across a phenomenal video series about the Holy Spirit narrated by Fr. Dave Pivonka, President of Franciscan University, called “The Wild Goose” (the ancient Celts referred to the Holy Spirit as “The Wild Goose” because He goes where He wants to). I worked with my pastor on the idea of developing the fourteen episodes into a series of talks and this past summer we presented one episode per week at my home parish (Holy Family, Memphis). Hosting talks at our church is nothing new, but something of this length and nature had never been done before. However, with my pastor’s support, it turned out to be a huge success. So much so, that an encore presentation was warranted.
Promoting the Event
There were people in attendance who were churched and un-churched, Catholic and non-Catholic, adults, teens and children as well as clergy and (of course) the Holy Spirit Himself. We had as many as fifty people at times representing eight different parishes, some of which were almost thirty miles away. I believe that the reason we had such a good turnout was due to the pre-work spent advertising and socializing the event. All avenues were utilized to get the word out including:
Our parish uses FlockNote to get the word out for immediate needs (like prayer requests) and for reminders of upcoming events (such as this series of talks).
As a member of the Knights of Columbus, I leveraged the distribution lists of my chapter and several other chapters to help get the word out.
As a member of several different prayer groups, I engaged the people who held those distribution lists to help get the word out.
I also asked friends to help advertise the event via email to their friends.
Creation of/distribution of flyers
For a small fee, I was able to have 1,500 high quality flyers professionally printed for the event. These were stuffed into our FOP bulletins and the remaining ones were dropped off at surrounding parishes.
I utilized our church website to help advertise the event. This was really the centerpiece of the effort because it was:
- centrally located
- known by all in our parish
- is easily updated with any pertinent changes and
- allowed for a range of information including both text and video-based content
While I do not have a Facebook account, I know people who do, so I asked them to help advertise the event.
By pure chance, I ran into one of the people in the Wild Goose video series (Deacon Larry Oney) at a conference. I introduced myself, told him about the event, and asked him if he would be willing to make a promotional video inviting people to the event. He graciously agreed and I recorded his 20-second video on my cell phone. The video was posted online at the church website.
I made ambo announcements in every church that I could and handed out flyers to as many people as possible, personally inviting them to the event.
Keeping people engaged
But all this effort only got the people to the front door. I had to make sure that not only would they return for more presentations, but invite their friends as well. The secret ingredient to getting them coming back for more? I think there were several.
#1 Support - I was blessed to have the full support from my pastor (Fr. Phil Ching). He and I reviewed the material to be presented, discussed ideas, and then made it happen.
#2 Good content – The Wild Goose series is (in my humble opinion) every bit as cinematically brilliant as Catholicism, Alpha or any other film series out there. This was key. The videos are broad, diverse and well scripted and Fr. Pivonka is sincere, personable and funny.
#3 Keeping it fresh – Each night followed one of two formats; either
- watch the video, then listen to a live talk about the topic followed by a table exercise
- watch the video, have a group Q&A session/discussion, and then Adoration.
#4 Good presenters – I made sure to choose good presenters that had meaningful and personal stories to share for the talks. On the nights that involved a speaker, the talks were about one hour long so I made sure to choose a mix of clergy, locally known people, and speakers from outside of the parish. This kept it interesting.
The best nights were – by far – the nights we had adoration. I told Fr. Phil that I wanted to do something different each time we had adoration so that people could experience Jesus differently. The first night was straight-up adoration (Jesus on the altar). Another night, Fr. Phil processed around the church with the monstrance so that the people could experience Him coming to them. Another night Fr. Phil offered confession during adoration, another night we offered to pray over the people for a Baptism in the Holy Spirit during adoration, etc., etc. Each night we also had music and incense to engage all of the senses. There were many healings and other miraculous events witnessed on those nights that I will never forget.
In fact, I even challenged the Holy Spirit by asking the people in attendance to put prayer intentions into a prayer box with the express purpose of monitoring and tracking the results. I told them that if a prayer was answered they would have to declare it, claim it and then share the story with the group. The result? Praise God, over 70% of the prayers were answered! I can’t wait to see what he does the next time we present this at St. Mary Mystical Rose. Come Holy Spirit!
As of this writing, I can report that the event has definitely fostered a kinship between the members of our FOP. Some who had never visited the other churches before are now checking them out and it is good to see new relationships and friendships forming. I’m a big proponent of “telling or stories” and based partly on what happened during these talks, going forward, I plan to put a new prayer box in each church marked “answered prayers”. As Catholics, we are very good at asking publicly for our needs in our prayer chains and emails and such, but when prayers are answered we celebrate it privately. This must stop. Not sharing our stories steals the credit and the glory from God. I think that if people actually knew how many prayers were answered in our community, they would be astounded. I believe that sharing and celebrating these successes can’t but help draw my three parishes together and let’s face it, in these troubling times, wouldn’t it be great to hear some good news now and then for a change?
If you are interested in offering this presentation at your FOP, please contact me. I am happy to help you through it, help you with ideas, help you set it up and even (schedule permitting) present it with you at your church if you need help. You can do this! The videos are free, the format is simple and the Holy Spirit is just aching to show up and help you. In fact, why not make it a point to come and see the presentation yourself any Monday night between January 3rd and April 4th from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm at St. Mary Mystical Rose church in Armada?
That way, you can make offering this presentation at your FOP your very own New Year’s resolution.
Comments from the last event:
“I enjoyed the loose, informal structure of the talks, the openness and spontaneity of the congregants was appealing and refreshing. The concept that each session is independent of the others is good because missing a session does not leave you in the dark about what proceeded it.”
“I wasn't able to attend all of the sessions. I wish I could have it all over again.”
“I now pray every morning and pray the rosary every day in addition to kneeling for the Eucharist. The class gave me the strength to go to confession after a very long time. ❤️ Thank you. God Bless!!!”