Kristin Bird of Burning Hearts Disciples in Oshkosh presented a breakout session on “From Encounter to Invitation” at the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s Eucharistic Revival Preparation Day on Saturday, Oct. 22. (Photo by Larry Hanson)
In a way, Kristin Bird was a little surprised to find herself standing in a classroom at Mary Mother of the Church Pastoral Center on Saturday, Oct. 22, offering a breakout session entitled “From Encounter to Invitation” as part of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s Eucharistic Revival Preparation Day.
Bird, who runs Burning Hearts Disciples in Oshkosh, spent 15 years as a youth minister, DRE and confirmation director before starting her organization eight years ago.
“If you would have told me eight years ago that dioceses and parishes were going to want to re-think so much of what we do as a Church, I probably would have laughed at you, and said there’s no way,” Bird said.
During her time working in the Church, she has seen it use many buzzwords and programs to try to spread its message.
“I found myself thinking revival was kind of a pipe dream,” Bird said. “It is fantastic to see the Church at a place where we’re not only ready for it, but we’re also planning for it, preparing for it and intentionally looking at how we can bring about revival for our parishes and for our people.”
Ultimately, the goal of the Eucharistic Revival is evangelizing.
Bird shared what Pope Paul VI wrote in Evangelii Nuntiandi: “Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God.”
“This is why we exist as a Church; we exist to evangelize,” Bird said. “We exist in order to live out the Great Commission: Go and make disciples.”
Bird defined evangelization as proclaiming the Good News in word so that others encounter Jesus Christ, are overwhelmed by the love and mercy of God, and commit their lives to following him as disciples.
“I think it’s important for us to recognize the Eucharistic Revival is not like we’re done with what we’ve done before, now it’s time to set that all aside and focus on something brand new,” Bird said. “The Eucharistic Revival is really a call across the country and here in our state and here in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee — it’s about deepening our understanding of evangelization and missionary discipleship. It’s about looking at those things we’ve already been learning about and discovering and unpacking, but looking at them through a Eucharistic lens.”
The steps through evangelizing that Bird shared are encounter, accompany, community and send, which are dependent on and sustained by the Holy Spirit.
In encounter, it’s the true essence of evangelization, leading people to encounter Christ, as illustrated in John 1:38: “Come and see.” Accompaniment is the response to the encounter (Matthew 9:9, “Follow me”). In community, people are invited to the Body of Christ — the Catholic Church (John 15:4-5, “Remain in me”). Finally, evangelization leads disciples to accept God’s desire to send them on mission (Matthew 28:19, “Go and make disciples”).
Bird said it is her experience that evangelizing doesn’t end at the send stage because every time she is sent, she has a new encounter with Christ, starting the cycle over again.
“The discipleship journey is never done,” Bird said. “It’s a constant deepening of relationship. Once you go through it once, it comes back around. It’s a depth of relationship he invites us to.”
Two of the parishes Bird’s organization works with have unique ways of evangelizing and making the experience of encounter easier to attain.
One parish has 60 people who deliver communion to the homebound. A donation of iPads to the homebound with just one link on the home page (the livestream of the Mass), has allowed them to participate more fully. The people delivering are sent forth with the prayers of the community and are at the homebound’s residences within 10 minutes.
Another parish has added a second monthly holy hour, which is simply called, “Encounter.” During this one hour of adoration, the master of ceremonies explains everything that is happening, including every step and detail of the service. All throughout, people are explaining what to do.
“It’s an experience that’s easy to invite someone to,” Bird said. “Just come with me — it’s gonna last one hour. Someone will be there to tell you what’s happening at every single moment.”
Bird noted the Mass is not an “entry level” event because it can be confusing to new people or people who have been away from the Church for years.
She shared the story of how her now husband was unable to keep up with what was happening the first time he attended Mass with her, and that it was an intimidating experience for him.
“If we invite them to start thinking about Mass differently, to start thinking about the communion of the Body of Christ and what this really is that we do here, and to have an experience of that, it can change everything,” Bird said.