“Without love, we are not really living; we are merely breathing.”

The 99 Handbook
Mark Hart & Joel Stepanek

Ascension Press has released a new resource for parishes called “The 99 Experience.”  I was intrigued after hearing Mark Hart being interviewed about the program and it caught my attention for several reasons.  First, I think it can be very useful for small, rural parishes.  One of the goals of the resource was to provide a way for parishes to host a “parish mission” without incurring the expense of bringing in a speaker.  Bringing in a speaker is not often practical for many of our small parishes, so this resource may be perfect for them.  Secondly, the program acknowledges the need to provide a more long-term avenue for parishioners to come to a deep commitment to Jesus and His Church.  The parish mission portion of the resource is only part of the resource.  Also provided is a leadership training resource for parish leaders (either paid or volunteer) to help prepare well for the mission as well as a follow-up book which is intended to be used to jumpstart small faith-sharing groups in the parish after the “mission.”  This approach is consistent with our Stewardship initiative which has the long-term goal of assisting parishioners become Dedicated Disciples who practice an intentional love of God and neighbor.  Within the leadership training is a strong emphasis on personal prayer and personal invitation.  These, too, line up well with our goals in Stewardship.  Lastly, the resource emphasizes fellowship, another aspect of Generous Hospitality.

Resource Details

  • A six session Master Class which includes video vignettes by Mark Hart, Joel Stepanek, Fr. Mike Schmitz, Fr. Joel Johnson, Sr. Miriam Heidland and others as well as group exercises and personal reflection questions.  The resource can be used in multiple ways and over many different time frames.  It strives to challenge parish leaders to a deeper personal conversion as well as equip them with knowledge and skill to effectively evangelize.
  • A three session parish mission called The 99 Experience.  This is a story-based experience for the whole parish which includes a video resource as well as discussion questions.  It can be done as a traditional three night mission, or as a one-day “retreat” or over several weeks as perhaps a kick-off to the faith formation year, or as an Advent or Lenten series.
  • The 99 Handbook.  This is a 125 page, 7 chapter book written by Mark Hart and Joel Stepanek.  It is designed to be read and discussed in a small group setting and seeks to present the basic Gospel message in a way that resonates with today’s parishioner.  “The 99 Handbook makes the case that a life of faith–a personal relationship with Jesus–is necessary, reasonable, and rewarding.  It also shows that evangelization is an essential calling of every Christian.”  (from the back cover)

Who is this Resource Designed For?

Unlike the ALPHA course, which is an evangelization tool designed for those who are not coming to Church, the 99 Experience strives to bring the Kerygma to those who are attending Sunday Mass. Both resources are similar in content — focusing on the basics and relying heavily on testimony but the 99 Experience’s audience is more focused towards those who as Fr. John Riccardo puts it, “have been sacramentalized but not evangelized.”

If you have questions or would like to know more, please don’t hesitate to call or email the Office of Stewardship, or visit the Ascension Press website.  

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Barbara Scherr (605) 209-3418
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