I had the opportunity to participate in a webinar this week with Dr. Tim Gray, the president of the Augustine Institute out of Denver, Colorado, as he explained the plans they have for their new online ministry, "Formed."
About a year ago the Augustine Institute developed a wonderful adult faith formation video series called "Symbolon." They released the series for purchase as is usually done with video programs. Parishes or individuals buy the program and watch it in homes and parish halls across the country. But then, they did something new. They made the entire content of Symbolon available online so that parishes could purchase a subscription, that would enable parishioners to access the content using a password. Now, every parishioner could have access to the material at any time on any device. We saw the value of this immediately in our work of trying to reach young families who are notoriously busy and will not ever come to the wonderful opportunities for spiritual growth we make available in our parish hall. We took a risk and bought the subscription. We did a big "in house" promotion of Symbolon at the beginning of Advent with the pastor talking about it at every Mass. Then just before Ash Wednesday we did a big mailing to every person in the parish inviting them to watch one episode a week throughout Lent. We had over 150 individuals register. This was pretty amazing for us because we are a small parish and adult faith formation classes generally only draw 25 or 30 people. We had positive feedback from young and old alike.
So now, the Augustine Institute is poised to release "Formed." Like Symbolon, it is an online video delivery system that makes quality Catholic teaching available to every parishioner on every device at any time. But....it is so much more! "Formed" will have an impressive array of excellent teaching material and resources from some of the best Catholic teachers in America today. All of the Augustine Institute’s programs will be available including:
Symbolon - a 20 part series for adults on the content and life of our faith
Beloved - a 12 part marriage preparation/enrichment series
Ydisciple - a powerful discipleship program for teens already being used in youth ministries across the country
Lectio - studies of scripture and tradition, like the popular series "Peter" and "The Eucharist"
And they plan to add more, including a baptismal preparation series entitled "Reborn" (awesome teaser on their website: http://www.augustineinstitute.org
Now this is truly amazing to have all of these resources available online on demand. But the Institute didn't stop there. They formed partnerships with other leaders in adult Catholic faith formation so that "Formed" will also feature:
And they intend to add more. Their desire is to produce a "one stop" site full of quality Catholic content for parishes and individuals.
I was obviously very impressed with their plans. The technology they are using is state of the art. According to Dr. Gray, their performance tests have delivered the video content faster and smoother than Netflix and Amazon Prime. Using tools that can reach young families right in the midst of their busy lives removes a significant barrier that prevents them from learning more deeply the great truths of our faith. Because of its quality and accessibility, I believe Formed can be a truly powerful force in the furtherance of the New Evangelization in Maine.
Watch the trailer here:http://www.augustineinstitute.org/formed-coming-soon
Why “Evangelize Me”? Part Two
But I had another reason to call this ministry of mine Evangelize Me, one that is the very foundation of the New Evangelization. Evangelize me can also be understood as a request. Bring me the Good News. Please. If it is true that we are created for relationship with God, that our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Him, that every single human being has a God shaped hole in their heart, than it stands to reason that this is the cry of every human heart: evangelize me! Bring me That for which I long! But it is not a “that” but a “Whom.” Only we do not realize it is Jesus we desire, we are convinced it is security, stability, health, money, a new relationship almost anything except God.
At the same time that every human being has this deep longing for God, God has a deep longing for every human being! “…not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). “I will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). God is actively working, drawing, wooing every single person we know. And they are secretly, mysteriously longing for him. I believe if we understood this beautiful love story we could see our role in it so much clearer.
Ah, but that brings us to the crux, so to speak. I am one of those human beings that needs more of God’s life to be the holy, hopeful, joyful, loving person he has created me to be. “Evangelize me” is the prayer of the New Evangelization! Bring the Good News to my heart Lord, so that I can bring it to others! It is when I realize that I need to be evangelized every day in every way, and that it is out of the fresh revelation of his grace and love for me that I am able to speak and show his love and grace to others.
Is that what Pope Francis had in mind when he penned this prayer:
“Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you.
I need you.
Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace.”
Evangelii Gaudium, 3
Let us pray to the Lord today, “Evangelize me!”
Don Smith is a "revert" to the Catholic Church. After being a Protestant minister for over 20 years he is happy to be "home."