The Aparecida bishops give their people fourteen proposals for ministries to the family. The second is this brief, but essential one:
b) Encourage projects to promote evangelized and evangelizing families.
For most North American parishes and dioceses, an enormous challenge, and one we haven’t been up to for at least two generations. And likely far longer.
It’s a challenge because the Catholic church has largely been membership-focused. We promote “stewardship” (what many lay people perceive as “donating”) to permit the functioning of a parish and to a lesser extent, a diocese. We offer opportunities aimed at various groups. First, those preparing for sacraments: parents of infants, seven-year-olds, teens, and young adults. Second, activities often indistinguishable from “club membership”–dinners, fund-raisers, charitable opportunities, and even political action. Yes, there is Sunday Mass, but often enough, the non-ritual moments buttress the club approach: messages from staff and announcements of activities. Sunday Mass could be the focus and locus for the evangelical message, but too often the message is mixed.
What the bishops of the south suggest is twofold. One, an effort to support families already committed to the Matthew 28:19-20 mission of Christ. Two, to draw others in. Until dioceses, parishes, and their staffs recognize that the Great Commission should be at the forefront of everything else, we will be offering only a shadow of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.