Msgr. Edward Arnister, pastor of St. Rose Parish, Belmar, is shown with JMJ Missions’ founders Rocco Taraborrelli, Anthoy McCullough and Dan Palmieri
Msgr. Edward Arnister, pastor of St. Rose Parish, Belmar, is shown with JMJ Missions’ founders Rocco Taraborrelli, Anthoy McCullough and Dan Palmieri
Ask 14-year-old Ava Minall what she enjoyed most about the July 21 presentation given by JMJ Missions’ Dan Palmieri, and she says it was the way he “spoke with such certainty and shared many real-life stories about the miracles of saints and devout Catholics.”

“It was amazing to hear how God works through his faithful to reach the hearts of others,” she said.

Minall was among the more than 200 who gathered in the Taylor Pavilion on the boardwalk in Belmar for the two-hour evangelization event hosted by St. Rose Parish, Belmar, and St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish, Avon. The evening opened with a performance of live, contemporary Christian music, followed by Palmieri’s talk on the theme, “Set the World on Fire.”

Referring to the impact of the global pandemic, Palmieri said, that “given the current spiritual situation we find ourselves in as a country and as a Church, it’s easy to get discouraged. The goal of the talk is to remind everybody that Christ promised that his Church will never fall and that we as 21st century Catholics have a beautiful mission of bringing his Light to others in a world that is truly in need of it. As the saints who have gone before us demonstrate, this mission of evangelizing is really exciting as well as the greatest task that Christ could have given to baptized Christians.”

In his talk, Palmieri, a resident of Williamstown in the Camden Diocese, gave the audience food for thought on how they can go about evangelizing by sharing his own personal conversion story. He told of how he came to know God and respond to the call to personally follow Christ. His ministry experiences have included teaching theology in Holy Cross Preparatory Academy, Delran, and speaking at events such as the one in Belmar. 

Admitting that it’s not always easy to follow Christ, especially when it’s easy to be influenced by negative forces, Palmieri acknowledged some of the present-day challenges in the Church and then reminded the audience that if they were to look back throughout Church history and some of the dark times, they would see that the Church clearly prevailed. With that he also gave examples of saints such as Teresa of Avila and Francis of Assisi, who arose during the historical challenging times and went on to help change the Church.

At the end of the presentation, Palmieri shared six challenging yet doable points of advice for people to keep in mind as they strive to become stronger in their Catholic faith: 1) Pray unceasingly; 2) Stay close to the Eucharist; 3) Start with your family; 4) Guard against doubt and discouragement; 5) Be “all things to all people,” and 6) Love unconditionally and smile.

Mercy Sister Donna D’Alia, director of religious education in St. Belmar Parish, said one reason she attended the presentation was out of concern for the “disturbing direction of our age and the divisions in Church and society.

“I am interested in hearing what works best, what information young people need to know and how can I most effectively minister and evangelize children in today’s world in order to meet today’s challenges,” said Sister Donna.

Reflecting on the saints that Palmieri highlighted, she added that “After I listened to him, I thought, I want to become one of those saints! This is exactly what Dan exhorted us to do!”

Catherine Minall of St. Rose Parish who assisted with coordinating the event, said she admired how Palmieri “spoke with great zeal and love for God and his Church!

“Mostly I was drawn into his stories about the lives and gifts of the saints,” she said, noting that one in which Mother Teresa had converted numerous others “just by spreading her love, that after encountering her, they wanted to know Christ.