Meet an Evangelist: The Ven. Patricia Zifcak
Tell us about yourself and your work. Where are you located? What do you do with your time? Do you have any hobbies?
I am one of the Archdeacons of the Diocese of Massachusetts and have been an ordained deacon for 15 years. The focus of my ministry for the diocese is formation. I am responsible for the diaconate formation program of the diocese and I work with the Canon for Ordained Vocations to oversee the process of formation for both priests and deacons. I live in Rhode Island and spend free time gardening, bowling, golfing, and visiting with family.
How did you come to/find the Episcopal Church?
Mine is not an uncommon story. I grew up straddling the line between my father’s Catholic Church and my mother’s Episcopal Church. What might be unusual is that my sisters and I went to both churches each Sunday until at age twelve, confirmation age at the time, we were confirmed with our mother in the Episcopal Church. For me, the church has been central in my life ever since.
What does it mean to be an evangelist?
I know Episcopalians are quick to excuse ourselves from talk of evangelism and from the practice of sharing our faith stories and our love for God and for the Church. I had to learn to tell my story and to encourage others to tell theirs as a critical focus of my work in formation. I have been helped by the intentional efforts of our diocese to provide opportunities to learn and to practice storytelling as evangelism. Faith in action is my way of evangelizing. I minister to a congregation of chronically homeless men and women in Cambridge, Mass. For fifteen years I have served 150 people whom I know and love in Jesus’ name. I never try to convert them but I believe they know Jesus through my efforts to serve their most basic needs.
Have you registered for Evangelism Matters 2018? Learn more here.
What do you want the whole Church to know about evangelism?
In my ministry on the street, I encounter many groups who evangelize by trading the food or clothing they have to offer for a promise to attend a worship service or who stand quietly with a sign and a pamphlet while people around them are in need of a smile or a sandwich. Neither of these methods of evangelism fit my understanding of what it is to share the love of God in the world. As a deacon, my ministry is often described as a bridge between the world and the church. When I proclaim the Gospel, I am sharing the stories of Jesus’ love for each of us and his insistent call for us to love one another. When I offer the dismissal, I am inviting the Church into the world. If we carry the command to love each other as Jesus loves us beyond the walls of the church, we will be compelled to see what others do not see, to listen to stories and to tell our own, to smile and say hello instead of rushing by, and to remember that Jesus touches each person we encounter through our hands, our hearts, our voices. What do we want them to know about the Jesus we love?
Where do you see Jesus in your daily life and work?
Certainly, my ministry on the street brings me face to face with Jesus but Jesus is also very present for me in the volunteers who make sandwiches, make contributions of every kind, and walk with us on Sunday afternoons. When a new volunteer says with surprise, “I walk this area all the time and I never noticed her…”I know Jesus is present. I have the great privilege of accompanying those in formation and in discernment of a call to ordained ministry. In that work, I see the power of Jesus to change lives. We read the stories of call in scripture and may be amazed that the disciples leave everything behind to follow Jesus when he says, “Come and see.” His disciples are just as alive today in those who believe they are called to lay ministry, to diaconal ministry, and to priestly vocations. The community that is the Church has all it needs to bring a new light to shine in the world. We need to open our doors and step bravely into the darkness.
Evangelism catalysts, invited by their bishops, will meet the day before Evangelism Matters 2018 – March 14, 2018 – to learn from and network with other evangelists from across the Episcopal Church. Interested in joining? Contact your bishop’s office!