Deacon Ralph Poyo speaks on the New Evangelization Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016 -- 12:00 AM
deacon ralph poyo
Deacon Ralph Poyo pulls Michael Lancaster, Diocese of Madison superintendent of schools, during an activity displaying faith and making disciples in his talk on the New Evangelization at Holy Name Heights in Madison on November 3. (Catholic Herald photos/Kevin Wondrash)

MADISON -- Parishes and leaders in the Diocese of Madison recently got a chance to assess how they are living out the New Evangelization.

During the first week in November, Deacon Ralph Poyo spoke on this very topic.

Deacon Poyo runs New Evangelization Ministries, an Ohio-based ministry in which he travels the country and inspires the lay faithful, clergy, parishes, and dioceses through parish missions, retreats, and trainings leading them to answer the call to the New Evangelization.

Deacon Poyo gave presentations at St. Francis Xavier Parish, Cross Plains; St. John the Baptist Parish, Jefferson; and St. Christopher Parish, Verona. He also spoke to diocesan staff and catechetical leaders in the diocese.

Breaking through barriers

Toward the beginning of his talk to the catechetical leaders, Deacon Poyo encouraged immediate and active participation. He asked attendees to find someone they didn’t know and introduce him or herself.

He then asked them to share, with the people they’d just met, “two of the toughest challenges for you to share Jesus in your ministry.”

The challenge in this particular activity was only to have a minute each to share their answers.

Some of the responses shared were low Mass attendance among teens and their families and dealing with the current “Culture Wars.”

Deacon Poyo emphasized the importance of atmosphere in their ministry -- making sure they provide a place where future disciples feel “warm, loved, and invited.”

He applied this to all parish programs, for teens and those younger and older, and how invited anyone who walks through the doors feels.

“How do we make people wanted?” Deacon Poyo asked.

He told a story of a parish he did an assessment at once, attending weekend Masses and parish activities for a few weeks and only being approached by parishioners or welcomed a handful of times.

He added that’s why he had them meet new people when they shared their challenges; otherwise they just sit and talk with people they already know.

“If we’re not prepared to push though these elements that are very real in our lives, it doesn’t matter what you know about Jesus Christ because you’ll never share it with people,” Deacon Poyo said.

He then encouraged the importance of changing the way they do things in their parishes if they want to meet goals of reaching more people seeking the love of Christ.

The ‘bullseye’

Deacon Poyo asked his audience to come up with the “bullseye” or goal they should be striving for in their ministries.

Some suggested ideas were the saving of souls and evangelizing, but the answer Deacon Poyo called the “bullseye” was making disciples.

He said the command to “go and make disciples of all nations” includes saving souls and evangelizing, but making disciples is the reason for the existence of a parish.

He said Jesus needs disciples to continue to grow the kingdom and spread his message.

Deacon Poyo added the next step is asking, “What is a disciple?” and “What does it take to make a disciple?”

He called upon his audience to reflect if they themselves are disciples.

Deacon Poyo warned, “Most Catholic churches across the country are not forming disciples. They are forming volunteers.”

What is a disciple?

Deacon Poyo said having a strong faith is an important part of being a disciple.

“All the catechetical material we give [parishioners] isn’t worth a flying rip if they do not trust God,” he said. “How are we leading people to entrust their lives to God?” he asked.

He added the materials given to parishioners only becomes useful when “it actually becomes transformative in their lives.”

The goal of evangelization is “to convert the individual’s heart with the heart of God,” he said.

“Are we leading people to God, not just knowledge of God but an encounter with God.”

He encouraged parishes and diocesan leaders to witness to their own belief and trust in God “How you lead your life teaches more than words,” he emphasized. “You can’t give what you don’t have.”

He called “places where we are wounded” and “places where we have doubt in ourselves” are where the Gospel message has to penetrate.

When the Gospel message is part of a person in those areas, they have faith in their lives and they can begin to be called a disciple.

How to make a disciple

Deacon Poyo said there are two processes to making a disciple.

The first is evangelization. The second is discipleship formation.

He said most parishes are focusing more on discipleship formation with little emphasis on evangelization.

“We are confirming students who are still questioning if they believe in God,” Deacon Poyo said. “What we’re teaching those kids to do is how to look Catholic,” because missing from parishes is teaching, “what makes them Catholic.”

He said parishes can be so focused on the tools and the programs that they can lose sight of what they are trying to do -- make disciples.

He then focused on the importance of changing the environment to be effective.

Deacon Poyo used the analogy of the wood-burning stove that changes the wood, or its environment, to provide heat.

He called the starter woods the evangelization and the hard woods to sustain heat, the discipleship formation. Without getting the fire started, the hard woods clog up the stove and the fire doesn’t work, just as without the hard wood to sustain the fire, the starter woods burn out fast.

For more information on Deacon Poyo and New Evangelization Ministries, go to

Please support our advertisers: