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Mentoring New Leaders for Social Ministry, Part Five

June 21, 2022

From the Office for Social Ministry

According to the Second Vatican Council, “It is upon the Church that ‘there rests, by divine mandate, the duty of going out into the whole world and preaching the gospel to every creature.’” God’s commandment to Christians, therefore, is to reach out and share what we have received – to evangelize the good news of Christ and give witness to the gospel.

Session Four of GREAT CATHOLIC PARISHES is entitled: Great Parishes Evangelize. When interviewed, many responses by pastors admitted this to be an area of weakness for lack of a strategic plan, dedicated staff member or a working committee. 

William E. Simon describes our parishes to be filled with either Mirror People or Window People. To look into a mirror, you see only your reflection, yet looking into a window enables you to see others. Evangelizers are Window People who see outside their parish community and seek to share their enthusiasm by inviting others to join in. 

As faith communities heighten their evangelization efforts, they more easily shift their focus from Maintenance to Mission. Maintenance Parishes put emphasis on sustaining their current membership where Mission Parishes reach out beyond parish boundaries. A pastor in South Carolina describes parishes to function either in institutional maintenance or as a missionary enterprise. The Church + the priest + a printed Mass schedule = wait and see if anyone comes. In the gospel of Matthew 28, Jesus commissions and sends forth His disciples to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit…” Contrary to Maintaining the status quo not knowing if anyone new will show-up on Sunday, parishes that are Mission focused evangelize and exude a welcoming culture and attitude of acceptance. They proactively do as Jesus taught in His commissioning to “teach them to observe all that I commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Faith communities who have a culture of welcome and evangelization also have buy-in from their parish leadership; beginning with the staff then to leaders of various ministries creating an organic development of peer role models. A parish in Washington DC plans and executes an evangelization season. Unlike the typical scenario where a handful of volunteers go out into the community, on designated Saturday’s, the leaders at this parish invite everyone to participate and they’re given a role or task. People are either out knocking on doors, more people fill the chapel praying for those doing the outreach and still more people work to prepare meals for both groups. They describe this approach as making evangelization less vague and more action related.

Because evangelization is outward rather than inward, volunteers serving in social ministry live the gospel and reflect God’s healing and compassionate love when reaching out to the homeless, feeding the hungry, caring for vulnerable persons through advocacy and wellness, visiting the imprisoned and so much more. These evangelizers live out the words to the old-time hymn that, “we are one in the spirit, we are one in the Lord … yeah they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” For your own copy of Great Catholic Parishes and to learn more about best practices shared through interviews with pastors across the country, visit Amazon or Ave Maria Press at https://www.amazon.com/Great-Catholic-Parishes-Essential-Practices/dp/1594714177 or https://www.avemariapress.com/products/great-catholic-parishes.