We are happy to offer our February Evangelization Exchange which gives us some important contexts for sharing faith.
In the opening essay, I try to paint the broad cultural patterns that surround us as believers and as a Church; facing these patterns will help us develop an outreach needed today rather than resorting to ideas from a past that no longer exists. Fr. Ken Boyack, from our office, gives us the large context of the statistical numbers which reflect the unfortunately low numbers of adults entering the Church and the low ranking “evangelization” receives from most Catholics.
We offer another essay by Jane Angha on hospitality; this piece expands on the particular context of every parish, the neighborhood in which it lives, and the kinds of interactions that should be part of its life. We link to an article by Fr. Matt Malone, SJ, from America magazine, on the opportunities that today’s technology can offer us in our evangelization efforts.
Pretty soon it will be Lent, a great time to think about parish renewals and also reconciliation outreach. Our website offers many resources in this area, including our catalog of past webinars. Be sure to check out Catholic Discipleship: Spiritual Exercises and Reflections (Para Discípulos Catholicos, Ejercicios Espirituales y Reflexiones) to help grow the principles of disciples on many levels in your parish or community.
May we all find joy in sharing Christ’s Good News.
Frank DeSiano, CSP
Reading the Signs of the Times for Evangelization Today
By Fr. Frank DeSiano, CSP
President, Paulist Evangelization Ministries
What does reading the signs of the times and the findings of the sociological studies tell us about the nature of faith in the US today? What are some of the larger pictures of what’s happening in current culture? What might this indicate about parish and Catholic life today?
No one serves as a missionary disciple in a vacuum. No, the surrounding culture and environment deeply affect both what a missionary says and how it is said. One of the very exciting observations about the New Testament is how Christian faith grew through its encounter with the ancient cultures of Greece and Rome. In fact, if you wanted to read the “original” words of the New Testament, they would all be written in Greek—not in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke in daily life, and certainly not in Hebrew, the language of ancient Israel. Earliest Christian faith is a perfect example of responding to a new environment.
We can look back on those ancient cultures and study them. That is one thing. It’s entirely different to try to study a culture we live in today because it surrounds us so intensely. It is very difficult to pull back from our present years and see the big patterns. All the more so in a culture as “hot” and changing as the one in which we live. We experience daily things that were barely imagined fifty years ago, starting with the little computers we carry around with us all the time—our cell phones. Or transportation at the pace and rate in which people experience it today. Or the interface of different cultures because, today, in many places, on one street one can meet people from Europe, South Asia, China or Japan, Latinos from various cultures south of us, and Africans both north and south of the Sahara. Even more, we can turn on our TVs and watch content from any and all of these cultures, and then publicize our feelings over social media.
Neighborhood Mission Field
By Jane Angha of www.ministryblueprints.com
Parishes are planted in neighborhoods and it is nice to have good neighbors and get to know them. In many churches around the country, there are no longer such things as parish boundaries. People can go to the parishes they choose. But a parish is also responsible for the surrounding neighborhoods and people who may have different beliefs, religions or denominations. A parish is called to love and serve. So, how does a parish go about this? Through hospitality and welcoming of course – relational ministry.
To serve, you need to know the people. Parishioners must get out there to meet and invite the neighbors to events and gatherings that are not worship related – but intended to build community. Get out and help the neighbors by cleaning up parks, helping with yard work, painting a mural on an old building…or maybe throwing a big block party!
It is important for your neighbors to get to know you – what you value and how important they are to you. A sacrament is an outward sign of God’s grace. That is what your parish collectively can be to your community. A parish has lots to share – generosity, compassion, mercy, hope, joy and passion. Do you have people in your parish that might like the challenge to go make an impact? Invite them in for a conversation soon to start your neighborhood outreach!
It sounds like a lot of work, but it really is quite easy to throw this together! If your parish really wants to have an impact on the neighborhood or community – find who is out there – not just those who are registered in the parish. Then throw a party!
102,134: The Lowest Number of Adults Becoming Catholic in the United States in 20 Years
By Fr. Kenneth Boyack, CSP
Vice President, Paulist Evangelization Ministries
After celebrating Mass one Sunday in 2018 I talked with a man who told me he became a Catholic through the RCIA during the Easter Vigil in 2017. His face gleamed with delight as he shared how much he had grown in his faith since becoming a Catholic. He said he especially loved the Eucharist and was happy that he, his wife, and three children are now a Catholic family.
When the 2018 edition of The Official Catholic Directory arrived, I was eager to see the number of “Adult Baptisms” listed and the number of adults “Received into Full Communion.” The Directory records 41,212 Adult Baptisms as the 2018 U.S. Grand Total and 60,922 as the U.S. Grand Total for adults Received into Full Communion. Adding these two categories equals 102,134, the total number of adults who became Catholic.
The Official Catholic Directory for 2018 identifies 17,416 total parishes in the United States, which provides the basis for determining that each parish, on average, welcomed 6 new Catholics as members of their parishes. The Directory also records 71,417,568 as the 2018 Grand Total of Catholics in the United States. This number enables us to calculate that each Catholic registered in a parish invited and welcomed 0.00143 individuals who were identified as new Catholics in 2018.
The number 102,134 reveals both good news and sad news. The good news is that over 100,000 individuals have come to know the risen Christ in a personal, transformative way, and made a public commitment to follow Jesus as his disciples in the Catholic Church. The sad news is that the number 102,134 is the lowest number of adults who became Catholic in 20 years. The graph below gives the details.
The data from The Official Catholic Directory reveal that within the past 20 years the largest number of new adult Catholics recorded is 178,533 in 2001. The lowest number recorded is in 102,134 in 2018. The decline in the number of adults becoming Catholic from 2001 and 2018 is 43 percent.
Lead your parishioners to a clearer sense of Catholic and missionary discipleship
Catholic Discipleship: Spiritual Exercises and Reflections offers twelve easy-to-read sections to build the awareness of discipleship in the lives of Catholics. Each unit contains a reflection, a spiritual exercise to encourage personal involvement with the theme, and a selected Scripture passage with discussion questions.
Can be used by:
- small groups
- faith formation groups
Help your parishioners grow in their awareness of conversion, personal encounters with Christ, and discipleship. The twelve units can be used in a variety of ways throughout the parish’s schedule. Don’t miss out on this opportunity! Click Here to preview the initial chapters and place your order for this new pastoral tool. Watch the introductory video here!
Treat Yourself This Lent! Learn Lectio Divina.
By Fr. Kenneth Boyack, CSP
Vice President, Paulist Evangelization Ministries
Lent is a graced time for Catholics to engage in the spiritual practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as ways to develop a more meaningful and personal relationship with God. This Lent, try praying with the daily and Sunday Mass readings using Lectio Divina. It can transform your life!
If you are not familiar with this Catholic prayer form, watch a nine-minute video produced by Paulist Evangelization Ministries titled, Learn Lectio Divina. This video teaches you how to use Lectio Divina as a way to pray with the Scriptures. Watch the video on YouTube here.
After you learn Lectio Divina, try this suggestion beginning on Ash Wednesday, March 6. Go to the daily Mass readings on the homepage of the US Bishops’ site here. Read the Scriptures for that day, and then select a small portion of one of the readings to pray with using Lectio Divina. Set aside about ten minutes each day and try it for a week. Then make any changes needed so that this way of praying with the Scriptures works best for you. Take some time each week during Lent to evaluate your progress, making changes as needed, and thank God for the graces you have received. Be sure to pray that the Holy Spirit will guide you on a path of personal spiritual renewal during Lent.
New technologies are a conduit for evangelization
By Matt Malone, S.J.
From America Magazine, Copyright © 2019 America Press Inc.
Longtime readers of this column may recall that I once wrote here about the day, eight years ago, when I lost more than half of my hearing in a freak occurrence of sudden sensorineural hearing loss—what was in effect a stroke in my inner ear. Overnight I lost the ability to hear much of what is said, and it took me several years to figure out a work-around. Now, through creative positioning, I am able to place myself in a room in such a way that I have the maximum chance of hearing the gist of things. But there are some situations that are still largely impossible.
My most recent experience of this was at a gathering last week hosted by the Leadership Roundtable, a church management group that was hosting a summit on the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. Much of the two-day affair involved simultaneous conversations at about 40 tables in a ballroom at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, D.C. Knowing that this was going to be a problem, I informed my tablemates right away that I have a hearing disability and that I would likely miss much of the conversation.
The next morning, one of my tablemates, a deacon and subscriber to this magazine, handed me a device called the PocketTalker 2.0. It is a lightweight microphone, just a little smaller than an iPhone. The idea, he said, was to place the instrument in the center of the table and the earbud in my good ear, allowing the sound collected by the microphone to be transmitted directly into the ear. I gave it a try. It worked! I could hardly believe it. The kindness of your fellow reader made it possible for me to hear the conversation at my table and to make a meaningful contribution. I decided then and there that I would be putting this little miracle to work in many other situations.
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