Table of Contents
- Evangelization is an outward expression of our relationship with Jesus Christ… through knowing Jesus more intimately, we love him more ardently and live him more totally. In living him more totally we embrace the commission given to us by Jesus before His ascent into heaven, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all I have commanded you.” (Mt 28:19-20.) “You are to be my witnesses… to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8b.)
- Through God’s free gift of grace we have become disciples of Jesus Christ. We are commanded to spread the Good News of Jesus into every human situation. We seek to embrace the power of the Gospel so that we open our lives to personal conversion and bring Gospel values into our society (On Evangelization in the Modern World). All persons are called to holiness which is a sharing in the life of the Holy Trinity and the mission of Jesus. Because we have experienced and felt the love and grace of Jesus, we naturally want to share our conversion with everyone. God’s grace given freely to each of us is not a gift for us to keep, but a gift which we need to share freely with others.
- The Church understands evangelization as her primary task. In Go and Make Disciples: A National Plan for Strategy for Catholic Evangelization in the United States (1992), the Catholic bishops of the United States state that Jesus “gave the Church the unending task of evangelizing as a restless power, to stir and stimulate all its actions until all nations have heard His Good News and until every person has become His disciple.” (Go and Make Disciples, p.3.) Therefore evangelization is not simply a transitory program sponsored by the Church, but something that lies at the heart of the Christian faith and life.
- We are called to present Jesus Christ in word and deed to those who do not know Him. As evangelists, we let others see the light of Christ illuminating our own hearts. As a result we witness the light of Christ in others as they begin their discovery of Jesus’ merciful love for them. As evangelists we also rely on the Holy Spirit in prayer to grow in holiness, to do God’s will, and to bring others to the Kingdom of God.
- We are called to be instruments of the light of Jesus to both the unchurched and to those who have given up the practice of their Catholic faith so that they may be restored to the Church. “We want to let our inactive brothers and sisters know that they always have a place in the Church and that we are hurt by their absence – as they are. We want to show our regret for any misunderstandings or mistreatment. And we want to help them see that, however they feel about the Church, we want to talk with them, share with them, and accept them as brothers and sisters. Every Catholic can be a minister of welcome, reconciliation, and understanding to those who have stopped practicing their faith.” (Go and Make Disciples, p. 4-5.)
- As Christians we have been given a threefold mission:
- to continue to nurture, deepen and develop the faith life of those gathered in the name of Jesus,
- to reach out more assertively and welcome back those who have drifted away from their roots in the Church,
- to seek out and invite those who have never been identified with the Church.
- Conversion is the change of our lives that comes about through the power of the Holy Spirit. All who accept the Gospel undergo change as they continually reject sin, become reconciled to Jesus and His community and become more faithful disciples in His Church. Conversion happens in many ways. Some experience a sudden, shattering insight which brings rapid transformation. Some experience a gradual growth over many years. Others undergo conversion as they take part in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). Many experience conversion through the ordinary relationships of family and friends. Others find it through the formation received from Catholic schools and religious education programs. Still others have experienced on-going conversion in renewals, ecumenical encounters, retreats, and parish missions or through some of the great spiritual movements that have blessed Church life today. The Church offers many opportunities to educate and assist Catholics in their lifelong process of conversion. If our faith is alive, it will be aroused again and again as we mature as disciples.
- The fruits of evangelization are changed lives, changed families, changed communities, and a world changed by the experience of holiness, justice, and peace. The validity of our having accepted the gospel does not only come from what we know or what we feel; rather it comes from the way we serve others, especially the poorest, the most marginal, the most hurting, the most defenseless, and the least loved. An evangelization that stays inside ourselves is not an evangelization into the Good News of Jesus Christ.
- There are two essential elements at work when we live Jesus’ command to evangelize: witnessing, which is the simple living of the faith, and sharing, which is taking action in spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ in an explicit way. Although both stated elements are equally important in evangelizing, of the two, we need to emphasize the element of sharing our faith in church, at home, at work, and with family and friends. It is immensely important that we share our Catholic faith with others as well.
- The unchurched, the non-Catholics, and those who are lapsed Catholics, are all persons who emphatically need to be evangelized. Those who do not belong to any church need to be invited to share in the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ, which the Catholic Church proclaims. We need to be sensitive to other Christians, appreciating their faith traditions and joining them in appropriate ecumenical ventures, while letting them know in positive ways that they are welcome to be part of the Catholic Community. Our inactive Catholic sisters and brothers must know through our words and actions that Jesus desires them to return home.
- As Catholics in the Diocese of Beaumont, we are an increasingly multi-cultural community of faith. Our faith community includes Hispanics, Asian-Americans, African-Americans, youth, young adults seeking a spiritual foundation, and the elderly. Each of these presents its own ministry challenges. We seek to understand and to appreciate the varied cultures and subcultures so that we can share our Catholic faith while respecting the uniqueness of others.
- One critical area of evangelization is the faith formation of the family, the domestic Church. The family is the Church’s fundamental strength and the foundational source of all that is wholesome in society. The most effective way to enrich evangelization at home is for those who are parenting to share and witness to the Catholic faith. We must equip them with knowledge so that they and their children can live and grow in the ways of the faith.
- Many commendations in the area of evangelization have been recorded through the “Speak Up Sessions” and the survey taken in each parish. People praised Bishop Galante for his daily morning television scripture thoughts and were pleased that this service reached so many in the diocese. Many parishioners expressed appreciation for the ministry given by the religious and clergy. Parishioners also were thankful for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults which was a conversion process for so many.
- A major strength in our diocese is the sensitivity to the languages of different ethnic groups, especially to the Hispanic and Vietnamese parishioners. These parishioners expressed gratitude for being able to participate in the Eucharistic celebration and to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation in their own language. Other ways the Church was reaching out to its members and unchurched were: Pro-life Rallies; Youth retreats and renewal programs; Catholic Schools; Faith formation classes, and the East Texas Catholic.
- However many parishioners also expressed serious concerns in the area of evangelization. One repeatedly expressed concern was the future generations of Catholic families. Many adults are lacking in knowledge of the Catholic faith, doctrine and traditions, and this results in their children not being well formed in the faith or in developing Catholic values. Additionally there is unfamiliarity with the Bible and some felt that they could not apply scripture to the events of their daily life.
- Almost all parishes expressed deep concern about reaching today’s youth. Many felt we are losing our youth to other religious faiths because the Church is not addressing youth nor encouraging them to fully participate in Church life. Another concern expressed in many parishes was limited availability and the cost of sending children to Catholic schools.
- Some parishes do not offer anything for the young single adults, young married adults, the elderly, and various ethnic groups. Too few opportunities exist for these groups to mix and invest themselves, create fellowship and share their faith with one another. Some felt that all cultures are not being equally respected nor included in some Church functioning. Many still experience feelings of racism and ethnic prejudice even within the Church. There also is a lack of bilingual catechists as well as an insufficient number of priests who can minister to different cultures.
- Other concerns related to evangelization are:
- insufficient use of the communications media,
- lack of joy and enthusiasm in being a Catholic Christian,
- an absence of concerted ecumenical efforts,
- insufficient attendance at educational programs offered by the parish,
- diminishment of hospitality and socialization,
- exclusion from Church activities due to distance or rural location.
Perhaps the greatest weakness the Church perceived in our Diocese today is indifference and lack of concern when Catholics leave the Church.
In Go and Make Disciples, our bishops identified three broad goals for evangelization for the Catholic Church in the United States.
- Goal I: To bring about in all Catholics such an enthusiasm for their faith that, in living their faith in Jesus, they freely share it with others.
- Goal II: To invite all people in the United States, whatever their social or cultural background, to hear the message of salvation in Jesus Christ so that they may come to join us in the fullness of the Catholic faith.
- Goal III: To foster Gospel values in our society, promoting the dignity of the human person, the importance of the family, and the common good of our society, so that our nation may continue to be transformed by the saving power of Jesus Christ.
- Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can become channels of grace and reach the goals of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. We are all called to share in the ministry of evangelization. We all know some people who do not know Jesus, some people who desire to know Him better in the fullness of the Catholic Church, and some people who have stopped practicing their Catholic faith. Each of us needs to look for opportunities to invite these sisters and brothers to the Catholic Church.
Therefore, the synod recommends the following goals and strategies:
Goal 9. Let your religious beliefs be seen through your service, faith sharing, and involvement in Church.
- Cultivate a strong personal relationship with God as the foundation and source of reaching out to others
- Be an example of love, by helping others, and contributing to the life of the parish
- Participate in the ministry training classes offered by the Church
Goal 10. Reach out to invite people to participate in the life of the Church.
- Extend personal invitations which make it easy for people to come, to participate, and to volunteer
- Welcome newcomers in ways that they are recognized and can feel accepted in their new faith community
- Establish parish ministries to address those who are experiencing special human needs
Goal 11. Develop an evangelization plan, which invites the Catholic community to an ongoing and deeper experience of personal conversion.
- Incorporate into the plan models/programs of evangelization that have been effective
- Provide training in the content and methods of sharing the Good News of Jesus
- Teach Catholics how to reach out to inactive Catholics and the unchurched
- Use media and technology to educate and to tell the Catholic story to the public being mindful of the cultural and linguistic needs of the people
- Emphasize the role of the East Texas Catholic in evangelization
- Evangelization in the Modern World [Evangelii Nuntiandi, (EN)]. Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation, 1975.
- Go and Make Disciples: A National Plan for Catholic Evangelization in the United States. National Conference of Catholic Bishops / United States Catholic Conference, 1992.