A welcome basket for new parishioners.
A welcome basket for new parishioners.
When it comes to evangelization, one parish in the Albany Diocese is serving as a model for the whole country.

The efforts of St. Patrick's parish in Cambridge were recently featured in Paulist Evangelization Ministries' newsletter, which gives tips for evangelization leaders and volunteers.

St. Patrick's evangelization team, nicknamed the "E-Team," started almost three years ago in correspondence with diocesan evangelization initiatives. Today, the eight-member team is growing and boasts an array of accomplishments, including:

•  producing a parish welcome brochure, along with "welcome gift bags" for new parishioners that included religious items donated by local stores and handwritten notes from parishioners;

•  hosting a dinner for confirmation students and their families;

•  serving at an annual Lenten fish fry and passing out fliers there with Mass times;

•  launching two new Bible study groups;

•  writing more than 100 letters to those who have fallen away from the parish; and

•  starting a greeting card ministry.

In its infancy, the E-Team spent a lot of time practicing faith sharing and watching Bishop Howard J. Hubbard's "Amazing God" DVD retreats to learn about the Diocese's three-year evangelization initiative. They also read documents about evangelization from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Team members have tried to welcome unfamiliar faces at Mass; a greeter ministry is in the works. The E-Team meets monthly for two hours.

Possible projects in the group's future include an evangelization column in the parish bulletin, sending care packages to parishioners going off to college and going door-to-door to talk about the parish.

Linda Crepeau, facilitator of the E-Team, says it was designed to "help a maintenance-minded church turn into a mission-minded church" and "allow people to recognize the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives and allow them to see their gifts."

She said it's hard to gauge the success of projects like the letter-writing campaign, but such efforts have planted seeds.

Mrs. Crepeau has evangelization experience in a variety of Christian backgrounds. She and her husband, Bob, raised their three children in a Mennonite community in Chicago for 12 years. This required giving up their worldly goods and sharing resources with other families.

They moved to the Albany Diocese to care for their elderly parents. When they couldn't find a Mennonite church in Albany, they went to a non-denominational church in Glenmont for another 12 years, studying evangelization along the way.

Mr. Crepeau studied church history and realized he needed to return to Catholicism, the religion of his youth. Mrs. Crepeau followed suit and went through a Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults class at St. Vincent de Paul parish in Albany, intended for those who wish to join the Catholic Church.

The couple spent time at that parish before moving to central New York to develop small Christian communities for The Good News Center in Utica, a Christian retreat center offering programs on marriage and family.

The Crepeaus have lived in Cambridge for four years. Mrs. Crepeau has served as a cantor and on the liturgy committee and pastoral council.

"We have learned a huge amount," she said. "For us, evangelization is not a program. It is truly a way of life."

She advised other evangelization team leaders to have patience with their parish teams and use them as incubators for faith sharing.

"We the people are the Church, and we are the faces of the Church today," Mrs. Crepeau said. "We really need to know our gifts."