GUILFORD – St. George Parish will host the internationally known evangelist and best-selling author Matthew Kelly and award-winning singer/songwriter Eliot Morris for a Sept. 25 presentation entitled “Passion & Purpose LIVE,” about finding one’s talents and offering them to God.
“Matthew Kelly’s mission is to re-energize Catholicism in America,” said parishioner Bob Mongillo, who with his wife Pam has sold more than 800 tickets to the event.
The seeds for the invitation were planted when former pastor Father James A. Shanley handed out copies of Mr. Kelly’s book, Rediscovering Catholicism, to parishioners at all Masses for Christmas in 2012. Mr. and Mrs. Mongillo read the book and were hooked.
“The more we read and the more we studied its mission and Matthew Kelly’s position on Catholicism, it appealed to us,” said Mrs. Mongillo. “We both felt something in his message on Jesus and the Catholic Church; and wanted to learn more and see how we could fit it into our lives.”
The next Lent, they attended a two-day discussion of the book held in the parish; and the following September, they drove to a parish in New Jersey to attend a presentation titled “Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose” by the apologist and evangelist.
“He talked about becoming people who are highly engaged in their lives; and the principles of Catholicism that you can apply to your everyday life,” said Mrs. Mongillo.
“He did his research,” added Mr. Mongillo, and said that in most parishes, only 7 percent of parishioners were active participants. “Imagine what would happen if everyone did something every day. We need to break people out of that ‘Catholic faith is just one hour a week’ mold.”
“We emailed our pastor on the way home to get the ball rolling” and got permission to invite Matthew Kelly to St. George, said an enthusiastic Mr. Mongillo.
The following Easter, Father Shanley gave parishioners copies of Mr. Kelly’s Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic, and the next Christmas he distributed Pope Francis’ The Joy of the Gospel.
Mr. Kelly is founder of The Dynamic Catholic Institute, a Cincinnati-based organization with a mission of reinvigorating the church and parish life by offering resources that inspire people of all ages to “rediscover the genius” of Catholicism, “become the best version of themselves” and bring spiritual vitality to the church.
According to his website www.dynamiccatholic.com, prayer, study, generosity and evangelization are the four signs of “dynamic Catholics” that every parish has the power to form.
Mr. Mongillo noted that “according to Mr. Kelly, 85 percent of young Catholics stop practicing their faith within 10 years of their confirmation.”
“This really hit Pam and me, and we put it up on our fridge,” he said. “Catholics talking about their faith is a rare thing; and to most, evangelization is a hard word.”
Since St. George Parish invited Mr. Kelly, Father Shanley has been reassigned as rector of the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford.
However, the Mongillos are not worried about the level of enthusiasm in the rectory. The parish’s new pastor, Father Stephen M. Sledesky, was previously assigned to St. Bridget and St. Bartholomew Parishes in Manchester where he was instrumental in organizing a presentation by Mr. Kelly for next year.
“We got lucky,” said Mr. Mongillo. “He was very enthusiastic when he heard that Matthew will be here, and told us that he already had distributed books in his own parish.”
Tickets for the St. George event are $39, and the doors will open at 6 p.m. The parish plans to simulcast the presentation in the parish hall to accommodate an expected overflow crowd.
Tickets are available by calling 203-453-2788 or emailing pamelaM976@gmail.com.
Dynamic Catholic uses the proceeds to develop other Catholic programs, all related to the sacraments. It has already produced “Decision Point,” a confirmation and formation program for teens.