March 16, 2012

Catholic Evangelization Outreach / Peg McEvoy

Bringing people to Christ needs to be a team effort

The Sunday before Ash Wednesday gave us a wonderful Gospel reading to help us connect Lent with evangelization. It is the story of “the paralytic” (Mk 2:1-12).

St. Mark tells us of a group of friends who want so much for their friend to be healed that they find an ingenious way to bring him to Jesus—they cut a hole and lower him through the roof. The story continues, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Child, your sins are forgiven’ ” (Mk 2:5).

In this case, it was the faith of the friends that brought forgiveness and, eventually, healing at the feet of Christ. Isn’t that what each disciple is called to do even today—to remain in the presence of Christ and bring others to him?

In this story, we don’t know very much about the man who is paralyzed. We aren’t told if he had great faith or not, but we are told that his friends did. What we do as disciples matters to Jesus and to bringing his salvation to the world.

Our parish is the place of encountering Christ directly through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Our parish exists to bring people to Christ. Or, as the most recent popes have explained, “the Church exists to evangelize.”

What does a parish “look like” that is focused on bringing people to Christ? Here are the first of several things to consider:

  • Are parishioners taking advantage of opportunities to regularly receive the sacraments?
  • Are there opportunities to pray together as community and as individuals even outside of Mass?
  • Is it a priority to invite and welcome the “outsider” or “stranger”?
  • Is the whole parish engaged in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) in some way?
  • Is there is a commitment by the staff and parishioners that faith formation continues through all stages of life?
  • Do parishioners understand, and are they committed to, the Gospel call to provide works of charity and outreach to the poor?

These are questions that every parish should consider. The answers can affirm good work as well as identify priorities for growth.

The next question might be, “But who is responsible?” And here the answer is both simple and complex because “we all are!”

We need to be able to “connect the dots” between our faith and our practice for ourselves, our family and our friends. We need to know why we do what we do as Catholics. That will help with the personal witness necessary for a disciple. But our community—our parish—needs more.

Can parishioners identify who is responsible for evangelization in the parish?

There was a group of people—a team—that worked together to bring the paralyzed friend to Jesus. A parish needs a “parish evangelization team” to look at the key elements of evangelization in the parish and to help make them happen.

This team can be part of a larger body, such as the parish council or a group that is less formal. Regardless of the structure, it must be in contact with and work with the pastor, pastoral staff and other parish leaders.

We may doubt the impact that our faith and spiritual practice may have on the world. But as we unite our efforts in our parish, archdiocese and universal Church, the results can be amazing.

And just maybe, through God’s grace, the world—or our little piece of it—will be astounded and glorify God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this” (Mk 2:12).

(Peg McEvoy is the archdiocesan associate director for Evangelization and Family Catechesis. For questions about and/or help starting a parish evangelization team, contact McEvoy at pmcevoy@archindy.org.)

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