|Lay Catholics: Church's "Most Promising and Effective Force" in Evangelization|
|Written by Sherry|
|Thursday, 08 March 2007 12:07|
From a CNS article of April, 2006 which I somehow missed and didn't see discussed around St. Blogs. The piece is primarily on Italian Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, president of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples who offered some very interesting observations:
"The face of today's missionaries, however, has changed; they are laypeople, groups of families or religious from a country nearby
The numbers of lay Catholics working in mission lands "has exploded" during the past decade as laypeople fill the void left by an ever-dwindling number of people entering traditional missionary orders
Laypeople and especially local catechists represent the church's "most promising and effective force" in evangelization, he said, because they live the same day-to-day lives as the people they r each out to and are often more familiar with local customs and the native language."
This is a passage taken from the first talk I ever gave to priests, the Dominican pastors of the Western Province. as a still-wet-behind-the-ears Catholic in November, 1995.
I believe that the most effective itinerant evangelists are trained lay disciples whose natural roles and responsibilities carry them among the unchurched every day. But is all this just a another idealistic theory that can never be realized? Is it really possible for lay Christians to successfully evangelize the unchurched ? I can attest that it is not only possible, it is happening right now.
My oldest female friend is currently living in one of the most religious repressive of the Islamic countries. I cannot reveal either her name or her location because it would be dangerous to both her and her family. She is a quite ordinary, middle-aged, five-foot -nothing housewife and mother. She and her husband spent years equipping themselves to be "tent-making" missionaries, that is, Christians who work at a secular profession that enables them to live in a country where no overt missionary work is possible in order that some living witness to the love of Jesus Christ might be found there. She now speaks the language fluently and frequently dons her national dress and goes out to the desert tribes and the outlying villages where she has developed many friendships. There she shares not only goat and spiced coffee, she shares the gospel.
What she does is possible only because she is a lay woman - no "official" missionary, no pastor, priest or nun would be allowed into the country. My friend is supported in her efforts not just by her husband but by her local Protestant congregation back home in the States. But when I tried to tell her story in a magazine article on lay vocation, the editor of a national magazine for committed lay Catholics told me to take it out. "None of our readers could hope to aspire to such a ministry" he said.11 + years later, my friend is still living her life of witness in the Muslim world and there are thousands more "unofficial" but intentional lay witnesses like her all over the world.
Would an editor of a magazine for lay Catholics today tell me that "none of our readers could hope to aspire to such a ministry? What do you think?