I was moved by the morning newspapers on the Fourth of July that carried a full page replica of the Declaration of Independence. No commentary, no ads, no glitz – just this incredible testimony to vision, belief, hope, and courage and the signatures of those who placed their lives on the line, literally. What was remarkable was the meaning of those words over two centuries ago and how they have lived through generations to shape and mold a nation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness ….
In our diocese we have begun training Evangelization Teams in parishes using a combination of The Evangelizing Laity from the USCCB webinar series and The Evangelization Jump Start Kit from Paulist Evangelization Ministries. Every time in the training when we reach the section on home visitation I hear the same comment, “That’s not something we can even consider doing.” Home visits seem the most foreign, overwhelming and scary aspect of evangelization for Catholics. I began wondering if there was a way to gradually introduce the experience of home visitation to Evangelization Teams and Catholic parishioners. One great idea is to begin visits with those who have recently come to the parish for sacramental and other reasons.
In 2002, I attended World Youth Day in Rome, and in the middle of that soggy night, my friend woke me, grabbed my hand and said “get up, we’re going to dance!” I followed her toward a circle of people, dancing energetically and clapping and singing. I said “I don’t know how!” and my friend said “let’s just watch and we’ll figure it out.”
“. . . . Every ministry must . . . be an evangelizing ministry. It is our contention that if a ministry is not an evangelizing ministry, then the existence of the ministry itself must be questioned and challenged, redefined and transformed. Evangelization is not just an item on the agenda of any parish or ministry; evangelization is the agenda. Evangelization in this way is much more than a specific ministry; it becomes a Catholic way of life.” (Adapted from Susan Blum Gerding and Frank P. DeSiano, C.S.P., Lay Ministers, Lay Disciples: Evangelizing Power in the Parish, p.30, 159-161)
In Part One I described two of the four spiritual profiles—people who were actively engaged in the life of a parish community and those who participate occasionally. Now we turn to the next two profiles—people who are not affiliated with a parish community or with organized religion.
One of the things that is certainly “new” about evangelization in the 21st century is the greater diversity of the religious and spiritual practices, needs, and hungers of people today. Over the past four decades far too many diocesan and parish evangelization projects have utilized “one-size-fits-all” programs and resources. One example of a evangelization model that is very popular is the six-week small group program, usually organized around spiritual/religious themes and conducted over a few seasons or years. Such a program makes assumptions about the faith life and commitment of people, which is why they tend to attract a certain group of people and not others.
At the heart of the “new evangelization” is the call of three consecutive popes to re-proclaim the good news of salvation to a post-Vatican II generation that has little or no relationship with Jesus Christ. In the U.S., only 15 percent of Catholics attend Mass weekly and fully 60% attend Mass rarely or never.
Re-Thinking Evangelization - Angelica “Vivi” Iglesias, Associate Director of Hispanic Ministry, Diocese of St. Petersburg
What talents and gifts should be used as we bring Christ to others? How do we learn from each other’s experiences and offer an effective evangelization that invites others to the table? We must re-think evangelization and get outside our comfort zones. In Evangelii Gadium, Pope Frances invites everyone to “be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities.” (33)