Compiled from staff and wire reports
As men and women across the country who serve in the ministry of catechesis are recognized Catechetical Sunday, veterans of evangelistic ventures advise that effective evangelizing for ordinary Catholics means keeping it simple: Listen first. Then talk.
“There’s no one way to evangelize. I’ve become more and more convinced that evangelization is not built over large things, but rather, small events,” said Father Frank Donio, director of the Catholic Apostolate Center and a consultant on evangelization for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Sponsored by the USCCB’s Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, this year’s Catechetical Sunday observance Sept. 17 will fall under the theme “Living as Missionary Disciples” (Viviendo como discípulos misioneros), responding to Pope Francis’ call for all to grow closer to the Lord and to take up their proper role as “missionary disciples.”
“I pray that through the sacraments, personal prayer, deeper knowledge of the faith, and our witness to the Gospel, we may grow in love for the Lord and further the evangelizing mission of his Church,” said Archbishop Leonard P. Blair, outgoing chairman of the USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis.
The USCCB has materials available on its website for all those involved in spreading the Good News, including a leadership guide, articles, webinars and videos in English and Spanish, as well as a commissioning service.
The new webinar series, for example, includes lessons for new diocesan educational or catechetical leaders as well as the professional development needs of veteran diocesan administrators.
In addition, Pope Paul VI is quoted in the USCCB’s new leadership guide, saying, “The Church evangelizes when she seeks to convert, solely through the divine power of the message she proclaims, both the personal and collective consciences of people, the activities in which they engage, and the lives and concrete milieus which are theirs.”
That, said Father Donio, is a pretty clear indication of what evangelization can look like. “Stopping and listening to a person. Not just focusing on our lives or on an issue, but on what’s going on around us. It means being where people are. And that can be in our own families, too.”
Steve Dawson, national director of the grass-roots organization St. Paul Street Evangelization, said, “We’ve got to have a mind change and shift in mentality among the faithful,” but agreed that sharing the Gospel message involves unpretentious tasks.
After you listen, Dawson said, have a personal testimony and be able to share your story. “Why is the faith important to you? How has that changed your life?”
Personal stories, he added, should be adaptable: “Can I tell you why I chose to believe in Jesus?” for an unbeliever; for someone who may be a lapsed Catholic, “Can I tell you why I love my Catholic faith?” and for someone uncertain about believing, “Can I tell you why I love the faith and I take my faith very seriously?”
It doesn’t always have to be about words, but rather with the example set by your own life, Father Donio advises, and that also can be through social media.
“Ask yourself, do I put something faith-oriented out there? Am I afraid to do that?”
To learn more, visit usccb.org and click on the Beliefs and Teachings tab.
Kurt Jensen, a freelance writer for Catholic News Service, contributed to this report.