Illig, Alvin Anthony
ILLIG, ALVIN ANTHONY
Paulist priest, evangelist, and founder of the Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association; b. Los Angeles, California, Aug. 17, 1926; d. Washington, DC, Aug. 2, 1991. Alvin Illig, the third of four sons born to Joseph and Katherina Illig, entered the Paulist novitiate in 1945 and completed his studies at St. Paul's College in Washington, DC. He was ordained a priest by Bishop Fulton sheen on May 1, 1953 at the church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York City.
Illig was assigned to Paulist Press following his ordination, and served as an assistant editor of Information magazine. During his twenty years at the press, he was part of a team of young paulists who transformed this pamphlet and tract house into one of the largest Catholic publishing houses in the United States. Illig's particular talent was marketing, and by the late 1960s he had created the American Library and Education Service Company (ALESCO) that distributed books and audio-visual materials to school libraries. When the program was criticized for making Catholic incursions into the American public school system, ALESCO was sold. Seeking a new challenge, Illig retired from publishing in 1973.
In January 1974 Illig went to Pascagaoula, MS, to devise a campaign of Catholic evangelization that involved radio ads, billboard space, telephone volunteers, and door-to-door visitations. In two months, his success led to a program called "We Care, We Share," that expanded the outreach campaign across the diocese of Natchez-Jackson. In 1975, Illig became Director of Evangelization for the Archdiocese of Washington. He established the Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association in November 1977 and was simultaneously named the first Executive Director of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Evangelization.
Illig used his marketing and communication skills to promote Catholic evangelization and became a significant influence in the national Church's growing awareness of the unchurched and of inactive Catholics. He was an early and important influence in the development and dissemination of new forms and approaches to evangelization in the modern church. The American Bishops' National Plan for Evangelization, Go and Make Disciples, issued in November 1992, is dedicated to his memory.
Bibliography: d. r. hoge, Converts, Dropouts, and Returnees (Washington 1981). a. a. illig, Evangelization Portraits (Washington 1981). k. boyack, ed., Catholic Evangelization Today (New York 1987); The New Evangelization (New York 1992).