By Cande de Leon, Together Let Us Go Forth Magazine

Several years ago, I went with two colleagues, Lisa Wentz, director of appeals, and Linda Barkyoumb, director of engagement, to do an offsite retreat. We were looking to develop clarity of what Mission Advancement really meant. We came up with three principles:

  • Strengthening Relationships
  • Boldly Growing Engagement
  • Connecting People to the Mission

You’ll have to look to my columns in upcoming editions of Together Let Us Go Forth ~ Juntos Sigamos Adelante magazine to learn about Building Relationships and Strengthening the Mission, but for this issue I’d like to share a bit about how Boldly Growing Engagement advances the mission of the Catholic Church.

Boldly Growing Engagement is not about getting more volunteers or disciples, more people at Mass, or more tickets sold to the next fundraiser! Instead, when we think about engagement, we should be thinking about the relationship with people and the Church. 

How are we bringing people closer to Jesus by introducing them to His Bride, the Catholic Church?

Think of it like this: I remember when I was dating Rosemary, my wife, I wanted her to meet my family. I knew my family loved me, and I loved them, so introducing her to my family was important.

I told her all about them! I told her the stories of how they helped me, how they held me accountable, and how they always pushed me to be my best. Most importantly, I wanted Rosemary to love them, and I was hoping they loved her back!

Spoiler alert — she did, and so did they!

Jesus wants us to know His Church in that same way, or even better! Jesus knows that the Church can help us, hold us accountable, and encourage us to become the best we can. The closer we get to the Church, the closer we get to know Jesus. It’s His Bride!

The biggest barriers I hear from people about growing engagement are the following:

  • Our Church isn’t perfect.
  • People may have been hurt by what the Church said or did.
  • I don’t know how to introduce people to the Church.
  • My own relationship with the Church isn’t that great.

Well, here is the good news: it doesn’t matter! You see, if we think of the Church as our family, as the pathway to know Jesus, then we really have no choice but to introduce others.

Trust me, when introducing Rosemary to my family, I knew my family wasn’t perfect. I knew they said hurtful things in the past. I was nervous, and I had my own issues with the family, but they are still my family! I love them despite their imperfections, and they love me despite mine.

This is why we have to be bold! We have to be courageous when telling people that the Church is the Bride of Christ. Then can we introduce them to the family.

So here is my question to you: Who is God asking you to introduce or reintroduce to the Church, your Catholic family?

— Cande de Leon serves as the executive director of the Office of Mission Advancement for the Diocese of Phoenix. He leads a team committed to advancing the mission of Christ through stewardship, evangelization and discipleship formation.

We invite you to participate in discipleship and evangelization efforts at the Diocesan level, including the Together Let Us Go Forth ~ Juntos Sigamos Adelante campaign, the Charity & Development Appeal, the TV MassCatholic School Support 365, and through supporting our seminarians and Nazareth House. If you would like to receive the magazine at your home, we invite you to support the mission by participating in one of these efforts. You may also call our donor services team at (602) 354-2235 to receive future issues or provide one of our team members with an updated address.

Read past issues of Together Let Us Go Forth Magazine.