What if your pastor stood up next Sunday and said he wanted to double the size of the parish within one year? That’s exactly what happened at Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Catholic parish in Washington DC, a predominantly African-American parish. Monsignor Charles Pope made that bold challenge last September and then got to work.
He trained forty parishioners to evangelize door-to-door, had another forty stay at the church and pray, and then asked forty more to cook meals for everyone upon their return. The whole program was a success. They visited more than 1,500 homes and drew many people back to the church.
Msgr. Pope is known for more than his parish work, though. His popular blog at the Archdiocese of Washington website is read across the world and his dynamic preaching inspires countless others.
Msgr. Pope recently sat down with me to talk about blogging, preaching, evangelization, and the unique experiences of serving in an African-American Catholic parish. Watch, stream, or download the interview below:
0:57 – As a priest, why is blogging so valuable?
2:05 – The main advantages of blogging
3:07 – Prayer and liturgical life in African-American communities
4:14 – Preaching in an African-American parish
6:15 – What advice would you give to homilists and speakers?
8:31 – Practical preaching and evangelizing
11:13 – How can parishes become more evangelistic?
13:45 – Obedience to Christ
Q: Why is blogging so valuable?
The main advantage is that people speak candidly. They share ideas. They feel free to share conversations among themselves and me. Of course the downside is that people can get a little harsh when we’re not actually in person with somebody, and they sometimes write things that are harsh or more critical than necessary. But even that is rare.
Q: What is preaching like in an African-American Catholic community?
In the African-American tradition, a lot is expected from the preacher and that’s really helped me grow in my preaching skills….The people show up on Sunday morning and I tell you what: they expect something to happen. They expect the Holy Spirit to show up. And sure enough he always does….Also, I’m never preaching alone. In the black tradition of preaching there’s what’s called “call and response”. It’s a really active participation by the folks in the congregation. Certainly I take the lead, but they’re shouting out “Amens” or affirmations or head bows or the hands go up. There’s a real interaction which assists me in knowing that I’m reaching or connecting.
“One great tragedy is how little many Catholics expect of their faith–and from their relationship with Jesus Christ…Many people put more faith in Tylenol than they do in the Eucharist.” – Msgr. Charles Pope
UPDATE: John Norton, Editor at Our Sunday Visitor, shared some of his own reflections on Msgr. Pope’s bold evangelistic efforts. Read them here!
Be sure to follow Msgr. Pope through the Archdiocese of Washington blog.
How do you think Catholics can become better evangelists?