More than 550 volunteers to be sent to every parish to introduce next phase of missionary movement

DETROIT — What began as a rallying cry for the Archdiocese of Detroit, its people and Catholics across the region is slowly building into a full-fledged missionary movement: “Unleash the Gospel.”

Inspired by Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron’s 2017 pastoral letter on the missionary transformation of the archdiocese, Unleash the Gospel is taking on new life in southeast Michigan as parishes and the faithful continue their journey of transformation and spiritual renewal with Jesus and the life-changing message of the Gospel as its center.

This weekend, Nov. 3-4, the archdiocese will launch the next phase of Unleash the Gospel, dispatching hundreds of volunteers to each of its 218 parishes in order to encourage parishioners to take up this mission of renewal through an innovative, six-day challenge.

The “Unleash the Gospel Challenge,” which will include a digital component, will ask Catholics to devote five minutes per day to learn and pray about what it means to be a Church on mission filled with joyful, missionary disciples.

“We have heard the Holy Spirit speak clearly of God’s missionary plan for our Archdiocese. We are called to go back to the original mission of the Church and to share the Good News of the Gospel – to unleash the Gospel – throughout southeast Michigan and beyond,” Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron said in a statement. “It is with a renewed spirit of hope and faith in the Lord Jesus that I invite the faithful throughout the Archdiocese to embrace this mission and walk with us this path to the Kingdom of God.”

At the core of Unleash the Gospel, which followed an archdiocesan-wide synod on evangelization in 2016, is the need to make the message of salvation readily accessible and available to a culture that seems often to have forgotten Jesus, said Fr. Stephen Pullis, Director of Evangelization, Catechesis and Schools for the archdiocese.

Unleash the Gospel really is a missionary movement of the Holy Spirit that seeks to invite people to consider how God might be active in our age,” Fr. Pullis said. “It’s not enough to simply say we believe in Christ. We need to equip evangelizers by inviting people to become joyful, missionary disciples and learning how to share that message with others.”

In a sense, the movement is about returning to the Church’s roots of proclaiming the kerygma, or the initial, basic message of salvation — that God created man in His image, man betrayed God’s friendship through sin, and that Jesus Christ was sent to repair that relationship through his saving death and resurrection from the grave, Fr. Pullis said.

Not only is Unleash the Gospel about making people familiar with the basic message of salvation, but it’s also about teaching people to live as if that message is true — which includes sharing that Gospel with others.

How exactly the archdiocese plans to do that is part of a multi-pronged effort that includes an overhaul of the way the Church communicates and engages with the faithful, said Edmundo Reyes, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Unleash the Gospel is a movement,” Reyes said. “Think about what a movement is. At its core, a movement is when something is wrong that needs to be right, and enough people know about it and are willing to do something about it. We’ve often heard Archbishop Vigneron say, ‘God wants His world back.’ That’s the wrong that needs to be right.”

Massgoers this weekend will be invited to join the "Unleash the Gospel Challenge," a multimedia evangelization initiative that seeks to ignite a missionary spirit across every parish in the Archdiocese of Detroit. (Archdiocese of Detroit file photo)

This weekend, the archdiocese plans to roll out the next phase of its missionary transformation as 550 volunteers are deployed to introduce the “Unleash the Gospel Challenge,” which will include an innovative digital component in both English and Spanish, Reyes said.

Not only must the Church embrace new forms of communication — such as digital media, smartphones and social platforms — but it also must become an expert at them in order to reach people on the “digital continent,” Reyes said.

Along with the challenge, the Archdiocese of Detroit also rolled out an all-new digital news service and website on Oct. 29. The news service, called Detroit Catholic, includes daily email, video, audio and social components. It is the successor to the archdiocese’s newspaper, The Michigan Catholic. In 2019, the archdiocese plans to launch a separate magazine and online evangelization and faith-formation content platform centered on Unleash the Gospel.

In addition, the archdiocese will also start a new podcast in November and make resources available to parishes to help parishioners learn more about being bold witnesses to Christ.

“If God wants us to embrace a new identity of joyful missionary disciples who share the Gospel with their families, co-workers and neighbors, we’re going to need to give people a roadmap for how to do that, and that starts people know this call and mission that God has for us in the Archdiocese of Detroit,” Reyes said. “A fire can spread with just a few hot coals. If you bring those coals together and blow on them, you can create the spark you need.”

Matthew Hunt, a youth minister at St. Isidore Parish in Macomb who is among the 550 volunteers facilitating the “Unleash the Gospel Challenge,” said he’s excited about the possibilities the initiative creates.

“Not everyone knows what Unleash the Gospel is, but if we do this right, it’s going to be huge,” Hunt said.

Hunt added the technology component to the Nov. 3-4 weekend is an exciting addition.

“I understand it, because I’m a millennial and I’m used to technology, but I think the archdiocese is doing a good job covering all the bases for people who don’t use technology,” Hunt said. “I think (the challenge) is a great, interactive way to get the average person in the pews to understand and start to live Unleash the Gospel.”

Susan Wit of St. Hubert Parish in Harrison Township, said it’s inspiring to see the Catholic Church ahead of the game in using the tools of the day.

“It seems like we’re always two steps behind, because there’s always something new that the young people are into that we don’t know about yet,” said Wit, another volunteer for the Nov. 3-4 challenge. “I think it’s a good starting point to get people interested and aware. We’re the jumper cables to get people excited about it.”

Jacqueline Clouse of Christ Our Light Parish in Troy agreed.

Unleash the Gospel still needs to be introduced as a household Catholic thing,” said Clouse, who also will volunteer. “And that’s what I think this weekend is going to do. There’s this new movement we have in Detroit. Archbishop Vigneron has it as a bumper sticker on his car that says, ‘UTG.’ When we saw it, we didn’t know what it stood for until somebody said, ‘It’s Unleash the Gospel.’ That’s so cool.

“This is a revival in the soul of our archdiocese,” Clouse added. “It’s exciting to see the vision.”

Reyes said part of this weekend’s challenge is helping people to see Unleash the Gospel not as a letter, which will unavoidably age with time, but as a Spirit-led transformation of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

“That’s the difference between a pastoral letter and a movement: You read a pastoral letter, but you join a movement,” Reyes said. “A movement grows stronger the more people join. We need to go all in.”