Catholics for Christ brings out the evangelist in all

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Joseph Curto wanted to figure out his role in the church, so he read church documents that spoke about evangelization and making disciples of everyone.

“It gave me an understanding of my role in the church,” said Curto, a parishioner of St. Francis de Sales Church in Purcellville. “Once I started down a path of doing something instead of just going to church on Sunday, I made a decision to start a ministry.”

Curto began that ministry — Catholics for Christ — in 1999. It offers evangelistic meetings, missions, retreats and “Living Life in the Spirit” conferences, which teach attendees the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of Catholics and how the Spirit recruits and empowers people to fulfill the mission of the church. 

Curto wants to help people understand their identity in Christ.

“I think I shock people when I speak,” he said. “They see a gap between their abilities and what the church tells us to do.” After the presentations, Curto has found people more engaged and wanting to do more within the church.

He said church teachings, outlined in documents such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s 2002 “Go and Make Disciples,” empower lay people and change their perception of their role in the church. “The church is pleading with us to get going,” he said.

Curto is a member of the diocesan speaker’s bureau, was a board member for six years on the diocesan Charismatic Renewal Service Committee and leads weekly Bible study at his parish.

Terry Riggins, parish liaison to the charismatic renewal, said Curto is passionate about evangelization.

“He draws on scripture, church teaching and Vatican documents to clearly present the mandate for all Catholics to evangelize and be open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit to reveal God,” she said. “ I feel that Joe’s teachings on the necessity of the charismatic gifts in evangelization are remarkable.”

Fellow parishioner Matt Bowe has attended Curto’s workshops and was a member of his Bible study classes.

“My faith prior to participating in Curto’s ministry was formulaic — menu item faith, not a relationship with the Trinity,” said Bowe. “His teaching on who we are in Christ, and all that comes with being an heir, opened up a personal relationship that I did not experience before.”

Curto manages three Facebook pages in English, Spanish and Italian — CFCSocialCFCViva, and CFCVita — which have grown exponentially over the past year and a half. In February 2016, there were 168 people who followed his pages. Initially, he focused on people who had been through his seminars or knew what he taught. Then he started to show the basic truth that “God your Father loves you,” and people started to engage more, according to Curto.

“God told me to talk to people’s hearts and do not try to engage their heads,” he said. “The minute I started doing that, the numbers grew.”

The English page has more than 127,000 followers; the Spanish page has more than 119,000 followers; and the Italian page has more than 3,000 followers. Boosting the posts for a small fee adds 600 to 800 followers per day, he said.

Ann Smallwood drives from Martinsburg, W.Va., to attend meetings and events with Curto. She has participated in charismatic renewal and has witnessed the healing of friends and family. She is also one of his Facebook followers.

“I have gotten so much closer to Jesus through Catholics for Christ,” she said. Smallwood loves the messages Curto puts on Facebook, such as a quote from St. Teresa of Kolkata that reads, “God has not called me to be successful. He has called me to be faithful.” Smallwood uses the posts in prayer. “They stay with you through the whole day,” she said.  

Fellow parishioner Andrew Jones was a cradle Catholic who stopped practicing his faith in college. When his wife converted to Catholicism, his faith became stronger. Jones twice took part in “Living Life in the Spirit.” Through the program, he learned who he is in Christ and how important he is to God as an individual.

“Many people get trapped in the feeling of faith rather than the reality of faith,” he said. “All of us are constantly at war with our lesser self.”

Jones was young when he was confirmed, but became more aware of the role of the Holy Spirit as an adult. “By consciously receiving the Holy Spirit as an adult, I was able to realize that I belong to God fully and completely,” he said. “The reality of that woke me up to the truth of life and our existence.”

“Maybe we are not evangelical preachers, but there is boldness in living the faith and talking about your faith,” he said.

Curto hopes through his presentations that people move beyond basic church teaching.

“The goal is not just to teach, but to engage people so they leave with some level of an encounter (with Christ),” he said.

Curto has felt called to this ministry for several years. “There has not been a day since that I have not thought and dreamed about my calling,” he said. “Every day is another day in salvation history I get the opportunity to help someone find God's great love.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017

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