As a United Airlines pilot, Kay Harter loves to visit parishes on her weekend flights to Hawaii and New York. In her volunteer role as director of the San Fernando Pastoral Region’s Office of the New Evangelization, she is helping parishes inside and outside the region to reach a “culture of evangelization.”
Harter, 57, a master catechist involved with catechetical events at her home parish of Blessed Junipero Serra in Lancaster and neighboring parishes of St. Mary (Palmdale) and Sacred Heart (Lancaster), was tapped a year-and-a-half ago by San Fernando Region Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Wilkerson to spearhead evangelization efforts.
Evangelization was the subject of Archbishop José Gomez’ 2012 pastoral letter, “Witness to the New World of Faith: A Pastoral Letter to the Family of God in Los Angeles on the New Evangelization and our Missionary Call.” The Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ 2003 Synod also had “Evangelization and ‘The New Evangelization’” as its Pastoral Initiative I.
Since coming on board, Harter has led evangelization reflection retreats for parish ministers, including receptionists/secretaries, ushers and those in bereavement ministry. She has also led weekly formation/resourcing sessions this summer with evangelization teams from 16 parishes, which will culminate with a Discovering Christ training conference Aug. 8-9 at St. Kateri Tekakwitha parish in Santa Clarita.
“What we’re offering with this conference is training for people who are going to put on the Discovering Christ experience,” Harter said. “It’s for anybody interested in evangelizing (not just evangelization team members). We’re trying to cast our net even wider.
“After this event,” she explained, “what we would like is for 2-3 parishes to cluster to put on the Discovering Christ (7-week experience) themselves,” targeting people who have not experienced a conversion to Christ.
For more information on the Discovering Christ Conference — free for San Fernando Region parishes; $50 per person from other pastoral regions to defray the cost of meals and training materials — call (661) 810-2606; email: evang[email protected] or log on to sfprevangelize.weebly.com.
Conference date and times are Aug. 8, 6:30-9:30 p.m.; Aug. 9, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Aug. 14 webinar, 6:30-8 p.m.
“The culture of evangelization is focusing on the main point of having a relationship with Jesus,” Harter said. “Each of us as individuals has to not just know about Jesus, but know Jesus.”
A self-described Catholic “revert” who reverted back to the Catholic faith along with her husband after becoming parents to four children and wanting to return to the church they grew up in, Harter says having the support and witness of fellow believers is vital.
She remembers the spiritual spiral she underwent after she turned 21 following the death of her mother, who was the “faith-glue” in the family. “I just wonder at times if I had felt more a part of a faith community when my mother passed away, or if I had been in a small group or if I had known how to navigate a little bit better…I guess I felt like I was missing an extended family in my faith,” Harter said.
Noting that she’s always been a teacher of sorts — beginning with her flight instructor days teaching people how to fly gliders and planes a couple of years after getting her private pilot’s license by age 18 — Harter says she naturally gravitated toward being a catechist when she returned to the Catholic Church. After completing the master catechist course, she enrolled in the Catholic Bible Institute, eventually becoming a CBI team member as a mentor for small groups.
“When the bishop asked me (to be the New Evangelization director), I thought, ‘I feel like I have the skills now as a master catechist with formation center experience and an understanding in faith-sharing that I could make a difference for people,’” Harter said.
“I think people are yearning and wanting support,” she added. “Everyone has in their heart a faith that they love and they want other people to love it with them. All that fire is there, it’s just a matter of how do we get past all the obstacles.”