Evangelium Conference: Spreading the joy of encountering Jesus
By Wendy Shaw
An inspiring message of faith, hope and joy was delivered to Catholics who flocked to the Evangelium Conference in Launceston on 13 August.
Some 110 people from around the state heard from a sparkling line-up of presenters at the conference at Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School.
It introduced Catholics to different pathways for forming missionary disciples.
It was also another step on the spiritual journey of the Evangelium Project, a faith formation program of the Archdiocese of Hobart.
Archbishop Julian said he was thrilled at the response to both the Evangelium Project and the conference as he welcomed Catholics to what he forecast would be a wonderful, inspiring and encouraging day, and a source of vision and purpose.
“This conference invites us to see ways in which our parishes can be places of outreach and mission,” he said.
“Pope Francis constantly encourages the church to look outwards and not become stuck in being, as he describes, ‘self-referential’.”
This need to look outward was also a theme of keynote speaker Daniel Ang, the Director of the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation.
Mr Ang sought to instil a sense of both hope and of urgency about the potential to bring more people to Christ. He said people remained hungry for a lasting, enduring and fulfilling faith. He urged those present to examine more deeply the meaning of discipleship for the benefit of flourishing Catholic parishes, schools and communities.
“The future of the Church depends on the Holy Spirit and those who currently don’t believe,” he said.
“The story of the Church has always been that of an existing community of faith into which others are grafted. This outward focus, rather than diluting who we are, is fundamental to our identity and call as missionary disciples.”
A zeal for evangelisation was interwoven with the depth of discipleship. It was important to make explicit Christ’s call to make disciples and the graced result of that deepened relationship with Jesus.
The conference ended with a celebration of faith during which Archbishop Julian spoke of the overwhelming sense of joy that flows from an encounter with Jesus.
“Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation [Evangelii Gaudium] wrote of the joy of the gospel: ‘The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.’
“The encounter with Jesus results in joy and it is a joy not just of happiness or exultation or some special emotional high. It is a wonderful Christian joy.
“When we go out to evangelise and preach and share our faith with others it is not that we are going with some kind of sense of duty or some kind of determination that we have to do this. I think it is a belief that people sense in us.
“Joy can find us even in the midst of trials and difficulties and problems. Even when we feel a certain amount of darkness in our lives, with the joy of our faith and in knowing ourselves with Christ, we continue to find that joy holds up within us.”
Mother of three and former student at St Patrick’s College Launceston, Elle Daley, gave a powerful testimony on finding God for the first time amidst the grief and breakdown of her marriage.
Workshop presenters included musician Stephen Kirk, Alpha co-ordinator Barb Conlon, the Archdiocese of Hobart’s Director of the Office of Evangelisation and Catechesis, Dr Christine Wood, and the Archdiocese’s Director of Youth Evangelisation, Sam Clear and three 24:7 youth ministers.
Mrs Conlon, from the Henley Beach Parish in South Australia, is part of the Alpha in A Catholic Context Church Engagement team. With warmth and good humour, she explained the secrets to running successful Alpha evangelisation programs in parishes.
“Alpha is about taking people on the journey of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and it allows people to walk together and explore and discover,” she said.
The conference was warmly received by attendees.
Angela Lincoln from the West Tamar Parish said: “It was wonderful, inspiring and a revelation. The message on the call to evangelisation was clear – identify the situation, have a vision to change and then think up strategies. The music was great too.”