Catholic Gospel Project Q&A with Graduate Aimee Cooper | Living the New Evangelization
by TERI TOLPA
The Catholic Gospel Project was launched by Augustine Institute Graduate, Aimee Cooper (Class of 2008), as a way to evangelize others. Beginning as a door-to-door evangelization model, it has developed into a full-fledged course on how to share the Gospel. Aimee is working on the front lines of the New Evangelization, truly living out the call of Christ to spread the Good News.
How did the Catholic Gospel Project begin?
Door-to-door evangelization was my thesis practicum for developing how to explain the Gospel message in light of the full Catholic tradition, with the sacraments central to the message. The question was how to do it, so I began researching and testing in the field, talked with tons of people and got a lot of feedback. I made many mistakes at first, but then really began to reach people.
How did this evolve into reaching out directly to Catholics?
We realized that Catholics need to hear the message, along with learning how to share it with others, as many are not really evangelized and don’t know what the sacraments are really for. So I developed an 8-week course for Catholics, taught in parishes in the Denver Archdiocese, and it went great. Catholics came to learn how to evangelize others – and left with a deeper conversion themselves! And are now able to effectively evangelize family and friends.
How did you end up teaching at the St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver?
The seminary was looking for evangelization training, heard about this course and asked me to teach a short version in three sessions. I’ll be teaching there the fourth time this fall, prior to the “immersion” experience, when they go out for a month on their own and are expected to evangelize others.
What does the Catholic Gospel Project consist of today?
We’re doing less door-to-door while developing parish training, realizing that a parish needs to be evangelized and formed before it can do effective door to door work. I began working with Fr. Chris Hellstrom of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Denver this past year for this purpose, taught a couple of groups there, will do more this fall. Thanks to him, the course has just been approved as continuing education credit for teachers in the Archdiocese Catholic Schools – one of my groups this year was school teachers – and we are looking at how to deliver to teachers more widely, along with in-parish training and door to door possibly next summer. We are also extending the basic course into different components to give people more formation, which went over great this year and we plan to develop more next year. There are other plans, too – but one thing at a time!
What gave you the idea to start the Catholic Gospel Project?
I am a convert to Catholicism, previously trained in door-to-door evangelization as an Evangelical, in a great program that teaches others how to explain the Gospel message in their own words. When new at the Augustine Institute in the Fall of 2005, I attended a Theology on Tap with Archbishop Charles Chaput (Denver’s Archbishop at the time) who talked about evangelization and the need to go out and share the Gospel. Many young people in attendance said they wanted to – but didn’t know how, didn’t know what to say – Catholicism is so big. I thought maybe I could find a way, using the type of approach I’d been trained in, but with uniquely Catholic content. That became my thesis practicum, which I’ve continued to develop since graduation.
How did your formation at the Augustine Institute help you with this project?
The Augustine Institute gave me a great foundation for developing this approach. Evangelization is not a one-time commitment to Christ, which is how evangelicals usually think of it, but a life-long process of conversion into Christ. The emphasis on Salvation History and Church History taught me that we are a part of an on-going story, and we need to know the story. We need to know what Jesus is doing in light of who we are and where we are going, and how He is doing it, so we can be a part of it. We need to explain the Catholic Gospel message in light of this on-going work of His, which means the Church, the sacraments, everything. It takes effort – but once we figured out how to do it, we found that it is really effective, and gets results!
The Augustine Institute | A New Kind of Graduate School for the New Evangelization
In response to the call of Jesus Christ and His Church, the Augustine Institute is a Catholic Institute of Higher Education that forms disciples for leadership in the New Evangelization through intellectual, personal, and practical instruction so that they may renew the Church and transform the world for Christ. Learn more at www.AugustineInstitute.org.