Archdiocese launches Unleash the Gospel, a new, evangelization-focused communications platform

A graphic displayed on the new Unleash the Gospel Facebook page shows the new logo for the movement, a symbol that represents a door -- with inspiration taken from Detroit's Blessed Solanus Casey -- as well as an upside-down "U" and sideways-turned "D." On Dec. 11, the new content platform launched on social media, with a new website and magazine planned for next year. (Archdiocese of Detroit graphic)

Social channels, eventual website and magazine to feature inspiring stories, encouragement for living life of missionary discipleship

DETROIT — How do people connect with a movement?

For leaders in the Archdiocese of Detroit working to inspire a movement of missionary disciples in southeast Michigan, the answer is simple: community.

On Dec. 11, the archdiocese took another step toward nurturing that community with the launch of an all-new, digital communications and content-sharing platform, borrowing the name of Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron’s pastoral letter, “Unleash the Gospel.”

The new Unleash the Gospel platform — “UTG” for short — launched with its own Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, but eventually will feature video and audio content on its own website and a periodical magazine featuring stories of evangelization and inspiration from local Catholics living the life of a disciple of Christ, said Edmundo Reyes, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Reyes explained Unleash the Gospel is more than a new communications outlet for the Church in southeast Michigan, but an effort to build a community of discipleship around content that inspires the faithful to live out the mission of Archbishop Vigneron’s pastoral letter.

“We believe Unleash the Gospel is the mission God is calling us to join,” Reyes told Detroit Catholic. “[It’s] about creating a new identity that's not really new; it’s old, going back to the original mission we’ve been given: to share the Gospel, the most beautiful, life-changing, radical message that has ever been shared.”

In the days following the platform’s launch, it had already reached nearly 1,000 followers on Facebook, 325 followers on Instagram and 287 followers on Twitter.

Reyes cited passages in the pastoral letter that call for the archdiocese and its ministries to embrace the communication technology of the day to share the message of Jesus Christ. The new Unleash the Gospel platform, coupled with the archdiocese’s new, online news platform Detroit Catholic, and the Archdiocese of Detroit’s official social and communications channels are the tools the archdiocese will use to fulfill the mission of the letter.

“We’re out there sharing the Gospel, drawing back to the Acts of the Apostles,” Reyes said. “What the letter calls us to do is embrace this ‘Acts 29’ mentality.”

In Scripture, the Acts of the Apostles ends with the 28th chapter, the implication being that today’s Church is living a continuation of the original disciples’ mission.

“Throughout the history of the Church and this movement, people have been inspired by the Holy Spirit to have this strong conviction that this is what God wants us to do, and we’re responding to that conviction,” Reyes said.

When Archbishop Vigneron released “Unleash the Gospel” in Pentecost 2017, there was an eagerness among pastors, lay ecclesial ministers and archdiocesan staff to read the letter and apply it to their respective ministries, Reyes said. But to truly create the “transformative change in the very DNA of the archdiocese,” the Church in southeast Michigan needs everybody — pastors, religious, church staff and laity — to participate in building an outward, mission-focused Church, he said.

“What we’re trying to do is start a movement,” Reyes said. “A movement is something you join, like a cause, where there is a wrong that needs to be right. Like Archbishop Vigneron says, ‘God wants His world back.’ The people need Christ, and we’re here to serve Him by sharing His message with others.”

Reyes said the pastoral letter was keen on identifying individuals and families as the primary focus of such a transformation.

To help those families and individuals reclaim an identity in Christ, the Archdiocese of Detroit has partnered with parishes to provide resources for a “radically mission-oriented Christmas,” Reyes said, helping parishes show “unusually gracious hospitality” to people who might not attend Mass on a weekly, or even monthly basis.

Part of the “mission-oriented Christmas” campaign includes videos created by the archdiocese’s communications department inviting people to come to Christmas Mass, and a “Mass finder” website to help people find a Christmas Mass near them.

Such initiatives followed on the heels of another multimedia effort, the “Unleash the Gospel Challenge,” which invited Catholics to join the movement by signing up to watch and reflect on six short videos encouraging people to embrace the mission of evangelization by drawing strength, hope and inspiration in living out the Christian lifestyle in the 21st century.

“We want Unleash the Gospel to be a rallying cry that people are very comfortable with,” Reyes said. “When we create content, we need to ask, ‘Does this resonate with people in a way that truly speaks to them and inspires them?’ If we do everything well, more and more people in the parishes will be happy to embrace this identity.”

From the Gospels and letters of St. Paul to the early Christian communities to the printing press and eventually radio and television, the Catholic Church has always used mass media to communicate the Christian message.

But true conversion still occurs through person-to-person contact. For those who work daily in the mission fields of evangelization, having a steady stream of content that informs and inspires the faithful to live out the Gospel message is a God-send.

“People are looking for ways, as a whole parish in a unified way, to use their resources for evangelizing,” said Susan Cummins, regional coordinator of evangelization for the South Region of the Archdiocese of Detroit. “There is a bit of buzz because of the videos that have been released — things are happening with the Unleash the Gospel initiative — and people are looking for examples of powerful witness.”

“It is incredibly powerful to see people live the Christian life,” Cummins continued. “It is something people are hungry for, longing for, looking for, and if they have examples of how to live that life, it is the most effective form of evangelization.”