May 18, 2012

Evangelization Supplement

Good communication in parishes fosters evangelization

Father Ryan McCarthy, pastor of St. Michael Parish in Brookville and Holy Guardian Angels Parish in Cedar Grove, baptizes Ashley Tebbe on April 7 during St. Michael’s Easter Vigil Mass. Good communication among a parish’s pastor and parishioners interested in evangelization can help bring people to consider being welcomed into the full communion of the Church, says Peg McEvoy, archdiocesan associate director of evangelization and family catechesis. (Submitted photo)

Father Ryan McCarthy, pastor of St. Michael Parish in Brookville and Holy Guardian Angels Parish in Cedar Grove, baptizes Ashley Tebbe on April 7 during St. Michael’s Easter Vigil Mass. Good communication among a parish’s pastor and parishioners interested in evangelization can help bring people to consider being welcomed into the full communion of the Church, says Peg McEvoy, archdiocesan associate director of evangelization and family catechesis. (Submitted photo) Click for a larger version.

By John Shaughnessy

It was a time to rejoice.

For months, Father Ryan McCarthy had led a special faith formation program at St. Michael Parish in Brookville, hoping it would deepen the faith of families.

“We invited families to come in once a month to talk about their faith and share their faith. And we gave them information to talk about at home,” says Father McCarthy, pastor of St. Michael. “It’s been very, very successful. In fact, two of the families had fallen away from the Church so it’s encouraging to see them come back to the faith.”

That kind of success is one of the main goals in the Church’s and the archdiocese’s effort to promote the “new evangelization”—an effort to have Catholics deepen their faith, to bring back Catholics who have fallen away from the faith and to reach out to non-Catholics to join the Church.

It’s a commitment that begins at the parish level, archdiocesan officials say. It’s also an approach that requires a good working relationship and continuing communications between a pastor and parish members.

“One of the important questions is, ‘How can we as parishioners help the pastor take the Gospel everywhere we possibly can?’ ” says Peg McEvoy, associate director of evangelization and family catechesis for the archdiocese. “Sometimes it’s hard in our everyday lives to figure out how to share our joy in Christ in a more organized way.”

In helping parishes develop evangelization programs, McEvoy offers guidelines to create open lines of communications between a pastor and parish members—starting with the people in the pews.

“First, literally sit down with your pastor,” McEvoy says. “You want to share your reasons for wanting to become involved in the evangelization ministry, and you want to ask for ideas from the pastor. After you have discussed where this effort needs to go next, stay in touch with the pastor. An evangelization team will need some guidance at some point.

“And share the good news of what’s happening with the pastor. So many times, pastors hear complaints. A pastor needs to hear the good news, too. It’s also a good way to practice witnessing. It encourages us to get in touch with witnessing the good things that are happening with our faith.”

McEvoy also has tips for pastors as their parishes start to become involved in new evangelization efforts.

“My greatest recommendation to our pastors is to let themselves be excited about this,” she says. “Make sure the evangelization group is staying in touch. And really look for those moments in your own parish where you can see the mission of our discipleship being lived out. And take joy in that. There are people who are getting so excited about what’s coming from the Vatican, the bishops and the archdiocese about this. That’s a good thing.”

Roger Reuss has felt that excitement as a member of the evangelization effort at St. Michael Parish in Brookville.

“All Catholics need to be called as leaders,” Reuss says. “We can’t sit back. I’ve seen people in different denominations who try to evangelize by telling people that they’re sinners. As Catholics, we need to evangelize in a more caring and understanding way.

“We have to reach out to Catholics and non-Catholics in our daily lives. We need to show that Catholics are there for others and have respect for others. We need to get back to that presence.”

Reuss sees his involvement in the evangelization effort as a way to deepen his own faith, too.

“There are always times in life for most people when you push God away,” says the 47-year-old husband and father. “But then you feel you need to come back to him. I feel that way often. It’s a life journey.”

Father McCarthy embraces the value of Reuss and other parish members committing to the new evangelization plan from the archdiocese.

“It’s important for each of us to recognize that we have a responsibility to preach our faith,” he says. “If we love God as we should, we should want to share that with others. By emphasizing evangelization, we will at least be strengthening our own faith. And, hopefully, we’ll be able to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, and build up a stronger and more faithful society as well.”

He realizes both the challenges and the possibilities of the new evangelization plan at the parish level.

“We’re missing faces on Sundays,” Father McCarthy says. “We’re looking at ways to re-energize our Catholic faith on a deeper level. We’re inviting people back and putting a big emphasis on a family perspective because the family is the smallest unit of the Church.”

That’s why it was a time to rejoice for him and the parish when two families did return to the faith.

McEvoy also sees a reason to hope for the success of the archdiocese’s Evangelization Commission—as long as pastors and parish members communicate and work together.

“There’s not a model for this out there, but we’re on the right track,” she says. “It’s completely parish-based, helping parishes build this from the ground up. There will be an evangelization team in every parish or at least every cluster of parishes. So we know the Gospel is being proclaimed not only in Mass, which is critical, but also outside of Mass and into the community.” †

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