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Emmanuel Community is on a mission to evangelise, boldly spreading the Gospel in innovative ways

Pat Keady: “If I wasn’t reached out to… I do wonder where my life direction would have gone and the values I would have would probably be extremely different.”

EMMANUEL Community moderator Pat Keady says evangelisation is the Church’s greatest need.

“I view evangelisation as the Catholic Church’s greatest need because I was a young person in particular who needed evangelisation,” Mr Keady said.

He said growing up and going to university, it was protestant evangelicals that successfully evangelised him.

It was only years later he went on “a long journey home” to the Catholic Church.

Mr Keady said evangelisation was deeply personal to him because it was part of his story.

“If I wasn’t reached out to… I do wonder where my life direction would have gone and the values I would have would probably be extremely different,” he said.

Charismatic renewal

Evangelisation is at the heart of all Emmanuel Community’s ministries, a community born out of the charismatic renewal.

One of their ministries, Blind Eye in South Brisbane, is a place where the marginalised and the homeless can come and seek help.

“But even they (Blind Eye) see their primary ministry not as service providing but as evangelisation,” Mr Keady said.

“To bring the Kingdom, the Gospel, (to bring) those people to the person of Jesus.

“Because as Pope Francis said himself, if you know something as important and powerful as a relationship with Christ, it’s actually an injustice to hold it back and not share it.”

Another ministry called Mother Effect, pioneered by Emmanuel Community member Caroline McCormack, raises up the relationship between mothers and their children in the domestic church.

“That’s all about evangelising your own children and being a witness to other parents about what’s possible,” he said.

“Too often in the Church, we can be tempted to think in sweeping terms because it’s easier and safer to say ‘evangelisation is everything’, but I think we need to challenge ourselves that the heart of evangelisation is proclamation of the Kerygma,” he said. “Actually sharing the story of Jesus – His life, His death, His resurrection, His purpose and His promises.”

Another group in need of evangelisation was young people.

Opening up to Person of Jesus

Mr Keady said Emmanuel Community’s dynamic youth ministry, Ignite Youth, had a unique way of bringing young people back to church – by not trying to “bring them back to church”.

“The way we target young people is by not trying to get them to come back to Church, but to introduce them to Jesus,” he said.

He said if you provide environments that are in their culture and speak their language, young people are “very open to the Gospel”.

“They’re much more open to the person of Jesus than we give them credit for,” he said.

“We simply create environments and run events like Ignite Live, Ignite Summer Camp and Ignite Conference, where we use contemporary music but it’s Christian in content. 

“Where we lead them in prayer but it’s done in such a way that they feel like ‘we can relate to this culturally’.

“I think if we just bring down those cultural barriers which often exist when they think of Christianity.”

Mr Keady said he did not think the Gospel was compromised at all by using the “mediums, sounds and smells of the culture” to communicate the Gospel.

“We use music that relates to them and helps lead them to a sense of experiencing Jesus present in the Eucharist,” he said. 

“And it all clicks together and they’re evangelised – they report having experienced Jesus; they say things like ‘I experienced Jesus, I felt his love, I felt him speak to me’. 

“It’s pretty amazing when you hear that stuff, it makes you keep wanting to do it for the rest of your life.”

In fact, Mr Keady said this process often opened young people up to healing.

“There’s a lot of trauma and a lot of confusion and a lot of anxiety out there; anxiety is increasingly through the roof with young people today,” Mr Keady said.

“And I think the message of Jesus is custom-made for a time like this. 

“We have a God who says ‘come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest, lay your burdens on me, for I am gentle and humble of heart’.

“When you just speak that message to them in a personal way at the right moment and you’ve led them into an environment where they’re open to receiving it – it really breaks through.”

Faith helps broken world

While he did not want to downplay the role of professional attention, he said faith had a strong role to play.

“Especially with the kinds of issues more common now, for example, young women and self-harm,” he said.

“That’s all connected to low self-esteem and what’s being pumped out at them every day.  

“But when they encounter Jesus and really accept his unconditional love for them, that can really transform situations like that.

“But you’ve got be willing to walk with them.”

Evangelisation was not an overnight fix. 

“Especially with young people, you meet them where they’re at and you introduce them to the person of Jesus and then you walk with them,” he said. “I think they’re looking for role models who will walk with them and go the distance.”

Into the future, Mr Keady said the Emmanuel Community wanted to challenge themselves to be “really bold”.

He said the devastated state of the Church today meant some people might feel like walking away, but for Emmanuel Community it was an opportunity to try new models of Church.

“If ever you were going to do something bold and different, now’s the time,” he said.

“We’re challenging ourselves now, asking how can we be faithful to the Gospel and the faith and the celebration of that, but in a way that radically connects with the culture and society we find ourselves in.”

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