Catholic evangelization is now more than ever understood as the “essential mission of the church…bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new” (On Evangelization in the Modern World, 14, 18). All Catholics are urged to speak out, reach out, and live out the Good News of Christ Jesus, and many parishes seem to be getting the message.
Parishes that care deeply about evangelization instinctively share their faith in Christ Jesus with whomever they encounter.
But at the same time some parishioners may sense that there’s more to evangelization and wonder what is lacking.
Going beyond the front door
In these parishes, the gospel message can often seem to be centered more on strengthening the parish community than on evangelization efforts that go beyond the front door of the church. While the building and maintenance of a viable community of faith is undoubtedly absolutely vital, the faith community may at times become insular or out of touch with those who are on the margins of the parish.
Who is not here?
If parishes are to get serious about “bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity,” it is important for them to take a clear, hard look at who the parish is serving and begin to consider those who are missing from the picture. In doing so, the following questions might be considered:
Make it personal
Strengthen your evangelization efforts by asking each parishioner to take some personal steps to bring the Good News to others in their families, at work, at school, and beyond their neighborhoods. Here are some techniques:
By speaking out clearly about God, by reaching out to those in need, and by living out our Christian values, you can strengthen your evangelization efforts. By helping parishioners practice these techniques, your parish will begin going beyond its doors to “transform the world.” It is good to know that evangelization begins at home but equally good to know that it doesn’t just stay there! TP
Welcome those who come to the parish
Look beyond the parish
Be sure parishioners are aware of ways they can participate in food distribution centers, homeless shelters, English as a Second Language or adult literacy programs, or tutoring children.
Become involved in the political structure. Attend city council meetings, participate in “get out the vote” campaigns, or volunteer to work at polling places on election day. Make sure the Catholic Christian perspective is known to others in gentle and non-threatening ways.
Attend ethnic and cultural celebrations in your town. This is a fun way to learn about and deeply appreciate people while enjoying delicious food, different kinds of music, and a wonderful and colorful environment.
Learn the value of dialoging with others. Listen carefully, respect the other person’s viewpoint, and ask, “What can I learn from you?”
Organize ecumenical worship experiences at your parish. Encourage parishioners to invite friends, neighbors, or coworkers to attend and to participate with enthusiasm.
This article appeared in the September 2007 issue of Today's Parish