New-IdeasOver the last number of months I’ve been thinking about how the New Evangelization can affect parish life and ministry. Matthew Kelly gave an interesting talk to religious educators that makes some excellent points on things we need to consider in parish ministry today.  There is a great need to consider new ways and approaches to meet the needs of parishioners in the Third Millennium. 


Here are some questions and reflections about the New Evangelization and parish ministry.

     1) In what ways are parishes in maintenance mode vs. mission mode?

     2) What needs to be considered today in ministry that get’s us out of merely being in                        maintenance mode towards mission mode?

     3) What does a parish in “mission mode” love like?

     4) In what ways do Q&S Catholics affect your ministry?

     5) What principles can we empower, inspire and implement to help ourselves, those in ministry and the faithful in general make Catholicism intriguing.  It is so rich and inspiring but what do we need to consider in ministry to bring that out?

6) Do you find that this video and it’s content contribute to the discussion on the new evangelization?

Is your catechesis evangelistic?  What does that even mean?  Well, it means a lot of things, but most importantly it means being a person to brings the light, joy, life and love of Jesus to others.  The heart of our catechesis to children, youth and adults must be evangelistic or it is not authentically Catholic/Christian.

How do I shine Jesus in my catechesis?  How do others encounter Jesus through my classes, presentations or by encountering me?  These are questions worth thinking about.  I found a compelling video clip by Fr. Robert Barron about Evangelization.  It’s a little academic, but it’s really good.  Take a couple minutes and check it out.

The Builder and the Rich Man

There was a rich man who hired a builder to build a house and he told him that he would pay him “x” amount of dollars for building him a house and he would like it ready by the time he gets back from his business trip.  The builder agreed and build it in a rather quick manner by taking shortcuts and buying cheap supplies so that he would pocket more money in the end.  He covered up little mistakes through paint and other tricks of the trade.  When the rich man returned and had the builder tell him that everything was ready just as he had requested, the rich man handed the keys and the deed to the house over to the builder as a gift for him and his family.  The builder was shocked to learn that the house which he took all the shortcuts in building was actually built for Him and his family.

Jesus’ Words

Jesus said: “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined” (Mt. 7:24-27).

How Will You Build?

What are you building – in your family life, in your workplace and in your community?  How will your foundation hold up through the wind and rain?  I know all too well, how the foundation I build can be made to look fine as I “cover up” the defects I have in my foundation.  The shifting sand always surfaces, sooner or later and my true foundation begins to become clear.  This summer is a good time to reflect and consider doing some refurbishing and reestablishing of what is most important.  Take some time to see what you need to do to continue to build upon a strong foundation.  Evaluate, reflect and pray for the grace to see and repair what God wants.

Upcoming Symposium on the New Evangelization

Recently, the Vatican News Agency reported that the symposium on the New Evangelization will address “the necessity to revisit” those areas of the world “that have been evangelized maybe for 1000 years or 500 years and where the faith was once very strong” but where “now people are rather cold in the faith.”

It will also stress the need for this “new freshness” and “new ardor” to be communicated using new technology.

Cardinal Arinze believes that life in the Western world has “many other offers to the human person” which are “attracting” or even “distracting” people away from Christianity so that “the message of Christ can sometimes be forgotten, given a second place, put as a footnote.”

Eye Opening Quote:

“So someone has to come who has the enthusiasm of an evangelizer, who has the convincing power of a witness who lives with conviction what that witness is preaching” and who is also “ready to use modern methods to contact people.”

What Is Needed?

Three things Cardinal Arinze says are needed: 1) Enthusiasm 2) the convincing power of a witness and 3) one who will use modern methods to engage others and lead them closer to Christ and His Church.

As a catechist and as a lay member of the Body of Christ, I am called, you are called and the faithful are called to have these three qualities in order to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those they encounter in their everyday lives.

Many are confused about why it has to be “new” regarding evangelization.  It goes without saying that the Church as always evangelized and exists in order to evangelize.  However, what is need today is a “new ardor”, “new expressions” and “new methods” of proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ who is “the same yesterday, and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

Fleshing It Out

How have you “fleshed out” this new “ardor, expression and methods” of the New Evangelization?  I would be grateful if you took a moment and left a comment.

Love of Jesus or Knowledge (Church Teaching)?

Is it the love of Jesus that matters most to convey to this generation?  Is it to pass on what the Catechism says so they will “know” their faith?  Those in ministry have clear opinions about these questions.  Sometimes people say the content gets in the way of helping children, youth and adults encounter Jesus and know His love. Others assert “if they only knew the content they would live their faith better”.

Pope Paul VI was the first pope in history to talk about catechesis as being a means to evangelization (Evangelii Nuntiandi #44).  We are familiar to the notion of evangelization preceding catechesis but Paul VI saw catechesis being a means of evangelizing, of proclaiming the Good News of God’s love and abundant life.

As catechists and disciples of Christ our goal should be to bring about both a greater understanding and knowledge of the faith so that a greater love and acceptance of the Good News will be embraced and lived in the lives of those who receive it.  Our catechesis must be evangelistic in nature so that it is not merely “doctrine” that we are passing on but “life changing doctrine”.

Both Are Essential

The answer is both the love of Jesus and the knowledge of God plan of salvation (doctrine) are key to handing on the Faith.  Before Vatican II the emphasis tended to be placed on memorizing the content of the faith at the cost of the proclamation of the Good News of God’s love and Mercy.  After Vatican II the pendulum went the other way and the emphasis was on proclaiming the love of God and his great mercy and minimizing the content and the importance of knowing/learning it.  What we need is to unify the two by understanding that we are catechizing and proclaiming this life changing doctrine so as to draw the learning into a life-giving relationship with Jesus. Blessed John Paul II said it very well in Catechesi Tradendae when he said:

Catechesis aims therefore at developing understanding of the mystery of Christ in the light of God’s word, so that the whole of a person’s humanity is impregnated by that word. Changed by the working of grace into a new creature, the Christian thus sets himself to follow Christ and learns more and more within the Church to think like Him, to judge like Him, to act in conformity with His commandments, and to hope as He invites us to.

To put it more precisely: within the whole process of evangelization, the aim of catechesis is to be the teaching and maturation stage, that is to say, the period in which the Christian, having accepted by faith the person of Jesus Christ as the one Lord and having given Him complete adherence by sincere conversion of heart, endeavors to know better this Jesus to whom he has entrusted himself: to know His “mystery,” the kingdom of God proclaimed by Him, the requirements and promises contained in His Gospel message, and the paths that He has laid down for anyone who wishes to follow Him. (Paragraph 20)

The understanding of doctrine and the goal of bringing about a change (conversion) is the “aim of catechesis”.  Today we need both in order to authentically pass on the deposit of faith and all its riches.

Catechetical Takeaway

A few ideas on how to accomplish this are worth considering.

1) Always open your catechetical sessions in prayer – prayer that helps draw others into the Mystery of Christ.

2) Share the topic of the day with enthusiasm and with conviction.  This will be noticed and those receiving it will be more inclined to be drawn into what you are proclaiming and sharing.

3)  Pray to the Holy Spirit (The Holy Spirit is the interior teacher).  Catechists are the instrument, the conduit, the mouthpiece helping others to know and love Christ.

4) Be faithful to proclaiming the Church’s teachings.  Proclaiming this life changing doctrine will lead others to the love of God and to encounter Him more fully.

How do you see catechesis being a means of evangelization?

I’m am not usually a fan of America Magazine but when I saw this posted from the NCCL newsletter I found it very interesting.  The September 19th edition of the Magazine had an editorial about Steve Jobs and asked the question,  What would the church of Steve Jobs look like regarding how it would reach out to young people?

The last paragraph asked the following:

“One hears that young people want what the church has to offer, but they cannot find it in that church. The delivery system fails. Imagine a Bishop Steve Jobs. What would his diocese—the Diocese of Appleton, perhaps—look like? How would entrenched interests react to his challenge? What is out there in plain sight that he would see and point out to fellow church leaders? How would he change not the message, not the content, not the words but the delivery system? The human side of the church could use the energy of new vision.”

How would you answer this?

What about the delivery system in the Church is going well and what needs renewal or in the technology world what “updates” need to be made?

The Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association published a post on their “Reach Out” blog awhile back by Mr. Tom Quinlan.  He lists 20 great ways to be a catechist who evangelizes the faith to their students.  I really enjoyed it and hope you do too.

1.) Pray for your children, your families … and for yourself!  Pray privately and within the liturgical/sacramental life of your parish community.

2.) Provide a gentle, firm, consistent presence.  Be there early to welcome each child by name. Strive to achieve respect prior to seeking to be liked.

3.) Listen to and remember the significant things going on in your children’s lives. (This presumes that an environment is fostered where they will feel comfortable sharing.)

4.) Create a physical setting that is comfortable and conducive to meaningful learning.

5.) Come to the session well-prepared … and thus, more confident and more relaxed.

6.) Find ways to reach out and connect with parents (or guardians).  Parents are much in need of re-evangelization and faith formation today.  Strive to bring the learning home for families to continue together!

7.) Minister in relationship to other catechists.  The personal bonds and creative sharing will be a blessing to you and your ministry…and theirs!

8.) Pray well with the children.  This means:

  • Dedicate sufficient time and quality to the experience
  • Incorporate a liturgical dimension (including ritual action) that fosters a Catholic sensibility in the children and makes Sunday Mass more meaningful
  • Allow them to participate in substantial and creative ways
  • Give them the opportunity to encounter the sacred up close and personal…incorporate a meditative silence, involve special items from their families, etc.

9.) Help them to gain a command of:

  • The Catholic approach to scripture
  • Distinctive elements of Catholic faith (i.e. various prayer traditions, the Pope and apostolic succession, Eucharist and our sacramental system, Mary and the saints, social justice teaching)

10.) Remember that children (and adults) learn more, and more deeply, by doing than by listening…and the most by teaching.  Use this to find creative ways to make the learning deep and lasting.

11.)  Always strive to make connections that show relevance:

  • Between the issues of the day/their lives…and what we believe
  • Between what we believe and how we are called to live …discipleship lifestyle

12.)   Teach Catholic faith fully and faithfully.  And share your faith experience insofar as it can strengthen the process of learning and integration.

13.) See yourself as more than just a medium to Catholic faith. The catechist is an embodiment of Christ and the Church!

14.) Help your learners to experience Catholic faith and community asgood news. We learn more when there is joy and humor, enthusiasm and hope.

15.) Don’t pretend to have all the answers. Be with them on this journey of faith discovery.  Try to find answers from good sources, when possible.  But also help them grow comfortable with the concept of mystery, the unknowable dimension of God.

16.) Utilize a variety of learning modes so as to form the whole person.  Since catechesis is much more than a strictly academic subject, care must be given to create a learning dynamic that attends to intellect, emotion, spirituality and human experience in proper balance.

17.) If there is a parish Catholic school, make creative connections:

  • Catechist to teacher
  • Student to student

18.) Encourage your children to be evangelizers, in their actions and in their words, at home and in the world.

19.)  Be open to the Holy Spirit, both in prayer beforehand and during the session. On occasion the lesson plan will need to be adjusted.

20.) See yourself as a work-in-progress.  Engage in catechist formation that develops your knowledge, your skills and your interior faith life in a way that is integrative.  Seek out opportunities to grow as a person of faith, not just as a catechist. (Remember to log your efforts that can count toward catechist certification, too.)

Tom Quinlan
Director, Religious Education Office
Diocese of Joliet