May 15, 2009

Evangelization Supplement

Individuals and parishes need to evangelize

By Ken Ogorek

Evangelization has been around as long as the Good News itself. We can be happy forever thanks to the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Why, then, would we talk about a New Evangelization?

Pope John Paul II articulated where evangelization needs to head in the 21st century and beyond. A new evangelization will help bring about the new springtime of Christian faith that Pope John Paul saw coming and of which we already see signs.

We all need to be evangelized constantly throughout our lives. The New Evangelization brings special focus to three specific groups of us with three related yet separate needs.

Although his Church has been active for over 2,000 years, we occasionally encounter folks who, practically speaking, have never really heard about Jesus. This group is sometimes called the unchurched.

People in this predicament deserve to have at least a basic message about our Savior delivered to them in various ways.

Individual Christians can and should look for opportunities to connect with the unchurched around them on simple, human levels—always ready to mention what a difference Jesus and his Church make in everyday life. Parishes should develop strategies to evangelize their neighbors who have this real, urgent need.

Sometimes due to alienation, sometimes due to indifference, sometimes for no clear reason at all, many baptized Catholics cease any meaningful practice of our faith.

Especially in so-called developed countries—materially developed at least—the distractions of everyday life often lure Catholics to a fantasy world, a world where God doesn’t matter, where life imitates TV sitcoms, where pleasure and happiness are mistaken as identical.

This group requires special attention. With focused efforts from individual Christians and parish evangelization committees—Does your parish have one?—by God’s grace the alienated can become “re-verts,” coming home to the Catholic faith of their youth, coming home to joy, coming home to salvation.

Even the most well-formed, conscientious Catholics need to be reminded constantly that our hope of salvation from sin and death is the suffering, death and resurrection of our Father’s only Son, Jesus, the one Savior of the world. This Good News needs to permeate various ministry efforts and parish life in general so that by the Holy Spirit’s power it penetrates our culture—building God’s kingdom as fully as possible until it is fully realized when Christ comes again in glory.

This doesn’t happen by accident. Parishes need to continually seek ways of evangelizing each active member of Christ’s local Body. Although the specific needs of practicing Catholics, the alienated and unchurched may differ, under the umbrella of parish evangelization committees, their right to hear the Good News proclaimed will be fulfilled.

Evangelization and catechesis are closely related. More and more parishes, schools and apostolates are exploring this relationship in very fruitful ways.

Our archdiocese has a storied history of evangelization efforts. As we seek to establish and reinvigorate parish evangelization efforts, we know that seeds sown and watered by faithful women and men of the past are bearing fruit today. May the seeds we sow and the faith we nurture be fruitful in God’s time—helped along by 151 parish evangelization teams.

(Ken Ogorek is the archdiocesan director of catechesis. Evangelization is one of his administrative responsibilities.)

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