Readiness key to evangelization person-to-person
Evangelization. It’s been discussed in homilies, the subject of reports, a topic for seminars and workshops and even the focus of an entire year in the Catholic Church. And it’s part of the pastoral vision for the Archdiocese of Omaha.
But even with all that attention, evangelization isn’t something that’s so easy to describe, to package, to organize. We know it when we see it, but most often we don’t know how it happened.
One point of agreement, though, stands out. Almost everyone – church leaders, theologians, catechists and people in the pews – agrees that evangelization in its best form isn’t about programs or books or marketing plans or mass communication efforts. While all of those things can help, evangelization in the purest sense is a one-on-one process … person to person, heart to heart.
Many of the people stepping up to meet Archbishop George J. Lucas at last month’s Rite of Election probably could share a personal evangelization story. Someone – a spouse, a parent, another family member, a friend – encouraged them, walked through a time of discovery with them and supported them as they began RCIA (the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults).
Sarah Patton was there, and has such a story.
The 25-year-old veterinary tech, who lives in Newport, had a late start (January) in RCIA this year. But she plans to be back in RCIA again this fall, and hopes to join the church later this year, thanks, in part, to her employer and a client of the veterinary clinic in Bassett where she works. What did they do? In a word … evangelize.
Baptized in the Methodist Church, Patton said she had attended a couple of Masses with extended family members, but really didn’t connect. Her desire to understand things, though, prompted a question one day at work of her employer, Dr. Marty Moravec, who teaches religious education at Holy Cross Parish in Bassett, part of the Grand Island Diocese.
One question led to another, and Patton said, "Dr. Marty did his best to talk me through it."
Then one day she heard a client, Susan Calvo of St. Boniface Parish in Stuart, talking about returning to her hometown of Boston for a Catholic faith event. That prompted more questions, and Calvo asked her about joining the church.
Patton had considered meeting with the pastor at Holy Cross on an individual basis, but opted to attend RCIA classes at St. Boniface, where she could share that journey with others. Calvo was attending those classes just as a way to learn more about her faith, what Patton called "Catholic continuing education."
Patton is very grateful to both Moravec and Calvo for their evangelization efforts. "They provided a gentle push," she said. "We just had back and forth conversations until it made sense."
A gentle push and some conversations. Perhaps Moravec and Calvo have the secret formula for evangelization. Perhaps they were just in the right place at the time. Perhaps they evangelized the faith more by living it than by preaching it.
Regardless, they provide an example of evangelization worth noting. They apparently could lift up the Catholic faith without putting other faiths down. They could explain church teaching for the mind, but somehow still manage to connect it to the heart. They seemed to be patient and consistent in their support, not aggressive and demanding. More than anything, they seemed to be ready when the opportunity was presented.
That’s the call to all of us as we evangelize the world. Be ready to respond in love and in faith.
Deacon Randy Grosse is editor and general manager of the Catholic Voice. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.