Written by Sherry
Thursday, 08 May 2008 06:41
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles will be celebrating Pentecost with a new pastoral letter on Evangelization called
A Fresh Encounter with Jesus Christ: Directions in Evangelization.
"The title references Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter Ecclesia in America in which he writes that all church goals and ministries must be rooted in a "fresh encounter with Jesus Christ." Unless there is in each person a deep encounter with the person of Jesus Christ, the efforts of the faithful, however well-intentioned, will not bear fruit.
Even in Southern California, where Catholic parishes are vital and vibrant, says Cardinal Mahony, there is still an ongoing concern that many people feel they lack a transformative, personal encounter with Christ.
Evangelization is the primary mission of Christ and of the Church. As such, delegates to the archdiocesan Synod (concluded in 2003) endorsed "Evangelization and 'the New Evangelization'" as the first pastoral initiative to govern all planning and activities in this Archdiocese for the coming years.
To this end, the Synod and the pastoral letter on evangelization identify three levels of evangelization. "First, evangelization entails allowing one's own heart to be seized and saturated by the Gospel, responding to the call to lifelong conversion to Christ by the gift of the Spirit.
"Second, evangelization requires reaching out to others to proclaim in word and deed the Reign of God.
"Third, evangelization demands that the values of the Reign of God, a reign of truth, holiness, justice, love and peace, permeate each and every culture, transforming every sphere of life."
"New evangelization" signifies efforts to re-evangelize under-catechized, inactive and alienated Catholics as well as efforts by active Catholics to allow Christ "to touch the unconverted corners of our lives."
I can feel the cynical reactions of some readers from here - and I have some of my own. As we begin working more and more with dioceses, it is becoming clear how much more complicated it is to really accomplish something at the diocesan level than at the parish level. And for many reasons - not just the usual suspects that get bandied around St. Blog's so readily.
Part of it is that Bishops and diocesan staff aren't implementers. They can prevent things from happening by not giving permission but it is much tougher to make something new happen. Diocesan leaders, even and especially a Bishop, are very dependent upon the good will and cooperation of the real implementers who are at the parish level.
Bishops can order. They can mandate - but it still won't be done well and fruitfully without the enthusiastic cooperation of pastors and parish leaders. Who are already up to their eyeballs in a thousand other commitments even if they would normally be interested.
So Pastoral letters are good. They encourage and give the official seal of approval to various critical initiatives like evangelization. But making evangelization actually happen? We'll see.
And just a reminder:
If you are eager to make evangelization happen in your parish, check out our Making Disciples seminars coming up June 8 - 12 in Benet Lake, Wisconsin and August 8 - 12 in Spokane, Washington.