“I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church’s energies to a new evangelization… no believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.” – St. John Paul II, “Redemptoris Missio,” 1983
The Catholic Church has promoted the idea of a “new evangelization” since St. John Paul II’s 1983 encyclical on the topic.
Yet, many Catholics have been slow to adopt the idea of proselytizing to their family members and friends.
With Christ Cathedral’s recent dedication, however, the Diocese of Orange has a new, preeminent center for evangelization and faith formation. Indeed, the cathedral seeks to become the model parish for those goals, according to Bishop Kevin Vann’s Strategic Plan, published in November 2018.
So, how can we – energized by the dedication of our new cathedral and its limitless possibilities – embrace the idea of spreading our Catholic faith to those who have fallen away, or even to those who have no faith of their own?
“Evangelization isn’t as scary as we make it out to be,” claims Matthew Kelly, an internationally acclaimed speaker, author, and business consultant and the founder of The Dynamic Catholic Institute, a Cincinnati-based nonprofit organization.
“We evangelize all the time,” Kelly notes. “You see a good movie or eat a great cheeseburger; you tell your brother or friend. What did you do? You just spread some good news. You just evangelized.
“But in these examples, there is something that is often overlooked,” he adds. “One must believe in the movie or the cheeseburger or whatever it is enough to champion it. The sad truth is that many Catholics don’t evangelize because they don’t believe Catholicism is a superior way to live.”
The mission of Kelly’s institute is to re-energize the Catholic Church in America. To do so, he develops world-class books and other educational resources that “inspire people to rediscover the genius of Catholicism.”
“The key to successful evangelization is simple: Win. Build. Send. No one follows-up on a lukewarm recommendation,” Kelly explains. “There needs to be fire there, passion, complete buy-in. Win the heart first, then – and then – build the mind and spirit with catechesis. The last step is to send forth – through friendship, through generosity, and by helping others find answers to their questions.”
Kelly advises us to start with small, non-threatening steps. “Give a friend or coworker a great spiritual book,” he suggests. “The worst-case scenario (other than them not reading it) is that they don’t like the book. Even still, you can have a conversation. There’s a dialogue. The ice is broken. I believe the right book at the right time can have an incredible impact.”
Closer to home, Cathy Duffy, an active member of St. Vincent de Paul in Huntington Beach since 1998, encourages fellow Catholics to embrace evangelism as an integral part of their faith.
Duffy has authored a book called “Everyday Evangelism for Catholics,” published by TAN Books and available for $16.95 on Amazon.com.
Evangelization begins simply, Duffy notes. “Conversations with people are an underrated tool,” she explains. “You listen and ask questions about what’s going on in people’s lives. Everyone has issue, something troubling them. You can start asking about whether God is part of their lives.
“It’s all about reaching out and starting the conversation.”