August 19, 2016

Evangelization Supplement

List of resources to help with evangelization starts with encountering Christ first

Knowledge of Church teaching is imperative for evangelization. Gabriela Ross, archdiocesan coordinator of catechetical resources, recommends the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, among other resources. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Knowledge of Church teaching is imperative for evangelization. Gabriela Ross, archdiocesan coordinator of catechetical resources, recommends the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, among other resources. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

When it comes to learning how to evangelize, archdiocesan coordinator of catechetical resources Gabriela Ross can rattle off numerous books, publishers, websites, CDs, DVDs and other tools.

But the first step of evangelization, she says, is nothing that can be found in a resource. The first step, she says is “living an authentically Christian life.”

Ross shares with The Criterion what evangelization is, what the Church teaches about it, and provides suggestions for those who wish to learn more about and practice this portion of what she calls “the trifecta of the Christian life: liturgy, catechesis and evangelization.”

(Related resource: List of resources related to evangelization)

‘Witness of an authentically Christian life’

“Evangelization goes hand in hand with catechesis and liturgy,” says Ross. “Liturgy—worship—that comes to its highest point in the Mass in the body of Christ. From that worship, we are sent forth at the end of each Mass—that’s our call to evangelize. Catechesis, that third part, is the teaching and learning about what the Catholic Church believes and teaches.”

When it comes to how to evangelize, Ross turns to the words of Blessed Paul VI in his apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Nuntiandi,” in which he states, “The first means of evangelization is the witness of an authentically Christian life” (#41).

“I think that speaks to lay Catholics, the everyday Catholic,” says Ross. “[Author William J. Toms] once said, ‘You might be the only Bible someone reads.’ By living an authentic Christian life, we’re already being a witness, we’re already evangelizing others.”

Ross describes an “authentically Christian life” as one in which a Catholic participates in the sacraments and lives in relationship with Christ through prayer and Scripture.

“You can’t share [Christ] if you haven’t encountered him,” she notes. “If he’s not living in you, how can you bring him to someone else?”

And for married couples, being a living witness of the sacrament of marriage is also a form of evangelization, she says.

“Teach your kids that we celebrate liturgical seasons, like, ‘We’re going to be fasting because it’s Lent,’ or ‘We’re going to have a Jesse tree and Advent calendar because we’re waiting for baby Jesus.’ All those might be second nature to us as adults, but to kids, that’s them learning about their faith, and then they share that with their friends as well.”

‘Knowing what the Church believes’

Gabriela RossBut one is not ready to evangelize simply by living a sacramental life and encountering Christ, says Ross.

“[It’s] not just living the faith, but knowing what the Church believes and teaches before you can share it,” she says, adding the need to pray for the virtues of humility and obedience to the teachings of the Church.

She suggests several sources to help in learning what the Church teaches, particularly the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults published by the U.S. bishops. That book, says Ross, “has a good question-and-answer format, as well as information about American saints and questions for discussion.”

Another useful topic Ross suggests exploring to help with evangelization is apologetics, or defending the faith. The term originates from the Greek word apologetikos, meaning “a verbal defense against a verbal attack” according to the New Advent online Catholic encyclopedia.

To brush up on apologetics, she suggests Bishop Robert E. Barron’s Word on Fire ministry. A broad variety of resources, including articles, homilies, videos, blogs, books, DVDs, CDs, lectures and study kits are available at www.wordonfire.org.

In this election year, Ross also recommends both as a learning and an evangelization tool the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) booklet, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” According to the USCCB website, this tool was written about the political responsibility of Catholics “…to help form their consciences; to teach those entrusted to their care; to contribute to civil and respectful public dialogue; and to shape political choices in the coming election in light of Catholic teaching.” (See sidebar for how to access the document online.)

‘Meet people where they are’

Armed with knowledge and fortified by a relationship with Christ and living a sacramental life, the Christian Catholic is ready to evangelize—but how does one begin?

Ross suggests starting with looking at where one lives out one’s daily life.

“When we think of evangelization, we think of, ‘Where is my circle of influence? Where are the people that I bump into every day? That’s who I’m called to witness to with my Christian life, to talk to when they have questions, to share how I’m living my faith.’ ”

For starters in sharing the faith in an organized way, says Ross, “Look into your parish to see if they have an evangelization committee or commission, and plug into those opportunities if there is one. Or if there isn’t, talk with your pastor or DRE [director of religious education] about starting one.”

One simple, useful evangelization tool Ross suggests is a bookmark created by the archdiocesan Office of Catechesis—with input from Catholics throughout central and southern Indiana—called “10 Things We Want You to Know About the Catholic Faith,” available in English and Spanish. A document was also created listing ideas for how to use the bookmark as an evangelization tool. (See sidebar for links to the bookmark and document.)

“Something as simple as putting this bookmark in the back of church, or passing it out at a church festival is an evangelization outreach,” Ross suggests.

For those who want to understand the process of evangelization, she recommends Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples.

“The first chapter is all statistics, but after that it gets really good,” she notes with a laugh.

She recommends the book “because it talks about the stages of evangelization—the natural progression we all go through as we make the faith our own.

“That [knowledge] helps someone who wants to be on an evangelization committee and really reach out to people, to see how they can meet people where they are on their faith journey, whether an atheistic non-believer or a theologian who’s trying to grow in their faith.”

‘Use gifts God has given to evangelize’

When it comes to helping youths become evangelizers, Ross suggests many sources for guidance, such as Augustine Institute’s “YDisciple” program, and looking at the concepts behind FOCUS—Fellowship of Catholic University Students.

“While [FOCUS] is geared toward college students specifically, they have a great methodology for making intentional disciples,” she says. “They have a whole framework of how to grow in discipleship, and how to empower others to go forth and be disciple-makers.”

Whether seeking to become an evangelizer or to develop evangelizers among youths or adults, Ross has a common recommendation.

“Connect the desire to do good with the faith that God inspires, and direct those efforts,” she says.

She suggests Catholics ask themselves and others, “What are you passionate about? Is there a way to plug that into your faith, to use that gift or passion God has given you to evangelize?

“Whatever your gifts are, use them for evangelization, and call out those gifts in others, too.”

It all comes down to being a good witness of the Christian life, says Ross.

She again turns to #41 of Pope Paul VI’s “Evangelli Nuntiandi.”

“To paraphrase,” she says, “[he says] we listen more willingly to witnesses than teachers, and if we listen to teachers, it’s because they were first witnesses.” †

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!