Structures don’t work unless people make them work. The bishops offer five ways in which believers can affirm the mission of Jesus Christ, even if their parish, diocese, and national conference offers them little or nothing:
1. Each individual Catholic is to look at his or her everyday life from the viewpoint of evangelization.
How does one do that? “Take note of … opportunities,” write the bishops. I think the task involves paying attention to the nudges of the Holy Spirit. If a believer asks for them, and listens carefully, the opportunities will be obvious. If one’s parish does not provide training, books and video are available. These days, easily available online. Training in parishes by vetted presenters is optimal.
2. Families must find ways to highlight the faith that is part of their daily life, until each family unit knows itself as a “domestic church” living and sharing faith.
The bishops actually suggest families read this plan and no doubt, the home may well be one of the more comfortable locales to begin. Practice faith sharing with people known and loved.
3. Parishes, as part of their regular planning process, need to examine their activities in light of this plan.
A basic question for everyone in a parish ministry to ask: how does what we do further the overall mission of Jesus to spread the Gospel? The question for the pastor and staff: how to best form an evangelization team? And determine if a new staff person is necessary.
This part of point three is addressed to priests who may already feel this is one more burden laid on busy shoulders:
We ask parish leadership, especially pastors who have a critical leadership role, to understand their ministry in terms of this plan. We commit ourselves to support pastors in the implementation of this plan by special gatherings to hear their concerns, assess their needs, and address their issues. We recognize how burdened parish leadership is today; our hope is that this plan can actually clarify the purpose of parish leadership and thereby ease the burdens of already busy pastors.
Clergy, have your bishops provided this support? Especially the ones appointed since 1992?
Catholic institutions, too:
4. Schools and hospitals, often the only face of the Church some people see, need to look at how their staffs welcome and treat people. Ways in which people can be invited to know Jesus and the Church through these institutions should be constantly explored and reviewed.
Catholics enjoy a tremendous reputation in serving the most basic human needs; along with that, should we not also enjoy a reputation for sharing our Catholic faith?
Organizations, too, outside the parish structures, can aim for renewal along these lines:
Millions of Catholics belong to Catholic organizations; their membership can lead them to a greater pursuit of Catholic goals. Cannot the goals of our plan find an echo in the goals of your organization? Your support, both nationally and locally, will be a tremendous asset to the Church.
One organization I’ve been a part of for years, the Knights of Columbus, seems to have overlooked or been overlooked in this. In recent years, political engagement has distracted us from our primary mission and loyalty to the Great Commission.
With other groups, as well as parishes and even evangelization committees, the focus on the tasks at hand have become fogged. The resource materials are available. The expertise is thin in the Church, but it is there. And we can utilize some of the energy from the “new” evangelization movement to broaden the focus back to where the ’92 bishops were challenging us.
What do you think?