Outreach and Reaching Out

Continuing our ongoing discussion of  Disciples Called to Witness: The New Evangelization

If I’m honest with you, I was tempted to skim through this final section, Part V: “Key Components of Outreach Programs.” But then I read the first two paragraphs:

Christ’s message to the women at his tomb is also addressed to us. With his Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension, Christ has vanquished death and granted us the hope of eternal salvation. Therefore, there is nothing to fear. However, because of Original Sin, we still experience fear and anxiety. Our brothers and sisters who no longer actively practice the faith may have apprehension about “coming back.” They may wonder and worry about the following: Will the Mass be the same? Will I be judged because I stayed away so long? Maybe I have sinned so greatly that I cannot come back. What if I cannot remember the words to Mass?

Those who minister to our missing brothers and sisters are filled with questions also: Who am I to welcome people back? Am I actually capable of explaining what the Church teaches? Can I offer guidance and listen to their concerns without judgment? Indeed, Christians often experience these concerns when they evangelize. We are often afraid to ask our family, friends, and co-workers, “Would you like to come to Mass with me this weekend?” We have difficulty saying, “I saw the same news story, but this is what the Church actually teaches.” We have trouble revealing, “Yes, sometimes going to confession is hard, but once I am there, I experience God’s peace and mercy. If you haven’t been in awhile, consider giving it another chance.” There are several key components to successful evangelization programs designed to engage our missing brothers and sisters. This section of the resource will examine these components and offer concrete practices for fostering a culture of witness in diocesan and parish-based programs designed to invite all Catholics to a fuller participation in the life of the Church.

I started to bold parts of that, and realized I was bolding the entire thing.

It got me excited. It made me think, “Ah, maybe there is hope for those of us in parishes after all!” It made me wonder what insight the bishops would offer me as a parish employee, a catechist, a wife and mother, a sister and daughter, and a troubled person in my own right.

They offer key components in a list, and then they explain each one:

  1. The Holy Spirit and Conversion
  2. Leadership
  3. Team Preparation
  4. An Atmosphere of Hospitality and Trust
  5. Catechesis (including sacramental catechesis)
  6. Prayer and Popular Piety
  7. The Sunday Eucharist and Effective Preaching
  8. Resources
  9. Continued Support

I’m not going to go through this list extensively (in part because you really need to read the document for yourself!), but I do want to highlight a few take-aways that I have after reading it.

First, we have to trust the Holy Spirit. This isn’t about a program that will rock the socks off people or convert people or the work we do. This is about cooperating with God’s grace and doing the work he’s asking of us. Ultimately, the Holy Spirit is the one who’s doing the real work. Not us. Period.

Going along with that, things don’t happen overnight. Conversion is an ongoing, often very slllllloooooowwwwww process. (Case in point: me.)

And you know what? Every single one of us is an example, a teacher, a part of the process. We don’t have to sign up for it or want it or even being willing to be involved. We are by virtue of our own baptism and the witness of the life we live as practicing Catholics.

That’s all the more reason why we have to be welcoming all the time, not just when it’s time for donuts or to ask a favor. How we welcome may differ by circumstance, but it’s part of how we live in our parish communities.

Are you intimidated yet? Don’t be. We’re not in this alone. Reference “trust the Holy Spirit” above and believe it. Plus we have each other. Right?

Conversion never ends. Ever. Where you are today is a different place than where you’ll be ten years from now. (Need another case in point? Me again.)

Our outreach is, at its heart, a reaching out, a sharing of the God who dwells within us with everyone around us. We can’t help it. He’s overflowing from us.

At least, that’s the theory. Thanks to this document, I feel like I’m better equipped to take on whatever my role in the New Evangelization will be.

Previous posts in this series:

Copyright © 2012, Sarah Reinhard

Sarah Reinhard

Sarah Reinhard

Sarah Reinhard continues to be shocked and delighted that her life as a grown-up involve horses, writing, and sparkly dress shoes. In her work in the New Evangelization as a Catholic wife, mom, writer, parish employee, and catechist, she’s learned a lot of lessons, had a lot of laughs, and consumed mass amounts of coffee. She’s online at SnoringScholar.com and CatholicMom.com, and is the author of a number of books.

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