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Canadian evangelist Eric Chow shares proven principles for renewal

Darren Ally
Darren Ally
Darren Ally is the Manager for Communications and News Media at the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney.
Photo: Supplied/Eric Chow

The man charged with supporting Vancouver’s parishes in welcoming Catholics and non-Christians into their midst, Eric Chow, knows he has his work cut out for him.

But through grassroots initiatives and innovative ideas for evangelisation, he is seeing slow but steady change. And he’s bringing the lessons he’s learned to Sydney.

On 18 March, 7:30-9pm, the Parish Renewal Team will host a free event at which Eric will draw on his extensive experience to share proven principles, practical tips, and stories of renewal.

Held at St Martha’s in Leichhardt, the Director for Proclaim and Associate Director for Ministries and Outreach in the Archdiocese of Vancouver will speak about his archdiocese’s success in supporting adult faith formation.

If you’d like to attend Eric’s free event “Prayer and the Mission to Proclaim Jesus” visit the Go Make Disciples events page to register.

“Vancouver is an increasingly secular society. With about 450,000 Catholics in a population of about 3.5 million, Catholics make up about 12 per cent of the overall population,” Chow told The Catholic Weekly.

“Our recent census showed that just under one in five attend Mass on any given Sunday.”

Taking the focus solely off Mass attendance (important as it is) and focusing on proven tools for evangelisation has contributed to increasing numbers of people seeking RCIA—and the Mass numbers are improving too.

In the last two weeks of February, the Archdiocese of Vancouver has seen 394 catechumens and 60 candidates at their Rite of Election.

“And this does not include adult Catholic candidates, who are confirmed at Pentecost. We held the Rite of Election over two Sundays as our cathedral couldn’t hold everyone plus sponsors and family,” said a delighted Eric.

He explains that to promote evangelisation and renewal within our parishes “we narrowed our focus to supporting Alpha and a faith study series developed by Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO).”

“Alpha has helped parishes provide spaces for non-Christians to ask questions about life, faith, and purpose, while the CCO faith studies have helped form missionary disciples who can multiply through a small group context,” said Eric.

The results, he says, are slowly but surely speaking for themselves. There is no quick-fix for parish renewal, but “we’ve seen these principles applied fruitfully—with limited budgets and people.”

Eric is familiar with Sydney’s mission plan, Go Make Disciples.

“I have a copy of the full Go Make Disciples plan and it is a beautiful publication! The content and directives are so important, and it aligns Christ’s own mission—to take the Gospel to the whole world,” he said.

“I also noticed several similarities to principles driving evangelisation in the Archdiocese of Vancouver: creating a culture of invitation, the centrality of the kerygma, and an emphasis on leadership development, just to name a few.”

Eric also sees many similarities between the Archdiocese of Sydney and Vancouver.

“Vancouver, like Sydney, is highly multicultural. It’s normal to walk down a street and hear conversations in Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog, Punjabi, Italian, or any other language,” he said.

For close to a decade, in his own parish, St Patrick’s in Maple Ridge, he has led initiatives to encourage and foster mission and renewal.

One of these ideas has been the conversion of their parish hall into a café called Holy Grounds.

“This café has allowed us to provide a beautiful space of encounter and hospitality. We meet new people here, run Alpha, host faith studies,” he said.

“We are regularly meeting people who are seeking faith, new to the area, or just curious about what’s going on. And our own parishioners see Holy Grounds as a comfortable and safe space to bring their non-Christian and non-practicing friends and family,” said Eric.

“When evangelisation is truly at the heart of parish life, we’ve seen parish renewal.

If you’d like to attend Eric’s free event “Prayer and the Mission to Proclaim Jesus” visit the Go Make Disciples events page to register.

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