Now an intentional disciple of Christ, an employee of the Diocese of Lansing and an involved parishioner, Cheryl Olsen sees that the Lord has gently and patiently called her closer to himself throughout her life. Early on, the clear and contagious witness of Cheryl’s grandfather was a model of evangelization. “My grandfather converted to Catholicism when I was 13, and when I saw what he was doing and experiencing, I begged my mom to put me through classes so I could become Catholic too. I was baptized when I was 14,” she says.
In her journey of faith since that time, Cheryl has been struck by the witness of others, and felt called to witness herself.
She continues, “When I was a teenager, I saw my [now] husband taking his mom to church, which struck me as powerful. Alan and I were married and were blessed with our children Alanna, Eric and Adam. We enrolled the kids in Catholic schools.” Faith and the Church played a role in her personal life and family life, but the Lord had more in mind for Cheryl.
“About four years ago, I started to feel a tug. It is clear to me now that the tug was one of many fruits of Bishop Boyea’s pastoral letter Go and Announce the Gospel of the Lord,” she says. In that letter, Bishop Boyea challenged men and women of the Diocese of Lansing to re-engage the fallen away and to evangelize to those who don’t know Jesus. “I started to pray for something more. I asked God to open doors that should be open to me, and clearly close the others. I soon was blessed with a job in the diocesan offices as an administrative assistant.
I started praying the Prayer for the New Evangelization every day, and sometimes several times a day. The Lord spoke through the passage from St. Paul (Rom 10:13-15) at the beginning of the prayer. Soon, I started going to daily Mass. The Holy Spirit was at work in me in new and powerful ways. “A short time later, I was invited to be a part of the Alpha program, first as a host and then co-director. I am not a professed evangelization expert, but I have had good models. I try to have a listening heart – to welcome the Holy Spirit – who then helps guide the person in front of me, and to invite others into prayer.
“For seekers, Alpha is often that great welcome. It is absolutely community based – we see each other at Mass and stay connected. My very first group still meets once a month for dinner. Alpha is, as evangelization should be, non-threatening. It’s about asking who Jesus is, why he died, who the Holy Spirit is, and how to pray. Accompanying others as they ask these questions has allowed me to ask them myself.”
“The way we are all trying to be prepared to bring people back to the Church and into the Church is such great vision. That vision is taking us into a new realm that I see flourishing in parishes. What is happening is very encouraging. We aren’t just a place to gather on Sundays, we are the Church. And we are God’s family.”