From left, Peter Herbeck, Sr. Miriam James Heidland and Bishop Robert Barron were all speakers at the New Evangelization Summit May 12-13 in Ottawa. Register file photos

Speakers at New Evangelization Summit strike note of urgency

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  • May 17, 2017

OTTAWA – The message is clear: There is a spiritual crisis and an urgent need to share the Gospel.

That sentiment was echoed by speaker after speaker at the 3rd New Evangelization Summit, May 12-13 in Ottawa.

“We’re living in a crazy time,” said Peter Herbeck of Renewal Ministries. “It feels like the wheels are coming off.”

The trouble is not only political, but a sign of a “profound spiritual battle going on,” he told the participants at the host site and nearly 40 satellite sites across North America. “We live in a time when we don’t know what a man and a woman is anymore. We don’t know what a family is anymore.”

Herbeck said he has detected fear and a loss of confidence among Christians because they see anyone standing up to the prevailing culture being called a “bigot.”

“The Spirit of God is striving to lift our hearts in faith to receive the antidote for our time,” he said. That antidote is Christ, and Christ has “overcome the world.”

Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles, founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, warned of the rise of the “Nones,” those who check off “no religious affiliation” when answering surveys. He urged developing the right arguments to win them back.

Michael Dopp, organizer of the Summit, also cited surveys that show for every person who comes to the Catholic faith, four have left.

“The culture supports and embraces values contrary to the Gospel,” Dopp said. “All of us, myself included, are infected by the lies of postmodernism and relativism.

“We lack the courage to call good, good, and evil, evil,” he said. “The truth for us is that faith in the west … is on a trajectory to continue to collapse,” and called for people to cast off the darkness, repent and believe.

“We settle for mediocrity over areas of darkness in our lives,” said Sr. Miriam James Heidland of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. “God does not want to thwart us. His desire is to bring us to the fullness of our humanity.”

Headland said her life as a young, promiscuous alcoholic was transformed by a Catholic priest whose life reflected Christ. She told him, “I want what you have.”

What he had “couldn’t be faked,” she said. All of us are called to spend time every day in prayer with the one who loves us, Christ, and then to pass that transforming love to others, she said.

Herbeck also told of a transformative encounter that healed his family. He described it has a typical Catholic family, but he and his siblings drifted away from the Church in their teenaged years. The family also concealed a secret.

His father was a decorated World War II hero who was also an alcoholic. The family bore his illness as a cross they had to bear. The boys in the family would take care of him when he came home drunk. One day his oldest sister came home and asked family members to gather.

His sister told them about a small prayer group she belonged to where they had been praying for her dad. One night, one of the men in the group told his sister that he sensed the Lord saying that “He would bring healing to your father if you and your family return to the Lord.” As she left, another man came up to her car and said something similar.

That night, Herbeck said he knelt by his bed and prayed as he hadn’t done since elementary school.

On Monday night, his dad came home drunk and Herbeck said he kept his head down, not wanting to engage him.

“He reached out and grabbed my arm, and said, ‘Son, look at me.’ For the first time I saw my father shed a tear,” Herbeck said. His father continued, “I am a very sick man. Will you help me.”

Herbeck said he found himself saying to his father, “God is going to help you.”

His father called a doctor and went on to experience 20 years of sobriety and “All my family came back to the Lord,” Herbeck said.

Society is looking for a “radical faith,” he said.

The temptation is to go into timidity, to back down, he said.

“Allow the Lord to awaken in you a fresh outpouring of the Spirit to impact your family, your neighborhood and the city you live in.”

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