Title

Stories of faith : evangelization through narrative.

Author

Alfred Frank

Date of Award

5-1-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

School

Drew Theological School

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

Abstract

As a Roman Catholic deacon and a former newspaper reporter, I was called in 2013 to a new ministry in the Archdiocese of Newark. Archbishop John J. Myers asked that I edit New Jersey Catholic, a new monthly magazine to educate and inspire the 1.2 million parishioners in the archdiocese to better practice and share their faith. The principle way of carrying out the magazine's mission is to showcase stories of lay Catholics practicing the Gospel by their daily lives. The hope is that by telling such stories, readers might see the value of their own stories and - invigorated - live and promote Catholicism. The magazine also includes other local feature stories, catechetical resources, and practical columns by experts on how readers can implement the faith in specific situations in marriage, family life and the work place. I began this ministry one month before the Drew summer colloquium and, at the suggestion of my mentors, Drs. Daniel Kroger and Kathryn Stoner-Lasala, it became the focus of my D.Min. project in practical ministry. The research, based on a model by Hester and Walker-Jones, involved discerning whether the magazine's pastoral goals would be better served by changing the model of a top-down editor's defining and selecting stories for publication to a model where readers would suggest the stories from their faith experience. During four research sessions at three parishes and a Catholic university, the lay advisory committee and I observed and recorded stories told by forty-nine participants. The depth of the narratives was moving. Using evaluation models proposed by Savage and Presnell, it was clear the parishioners/students grew in awareness of the power their personal stories lent to practicing the Gospel and how those stories also inspired others. At the same time, lay advisory committee members - who had performed the exercise earlier - were transformed by the sessions. The richer narratives also provided ideas - and sources - for magazine stories: the new life taken on at Easter Vigil after celebrating the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults; the support found in a ministry to bereaved parents; the individual witness of those who returned to active faith practice after a period of drift. With the possibility of institutionalizing this process, the list is sure to grow.