Catholics must not be afraid to ‘speak about their own experience of God in their life,’ says Father Bryan Dolejsi
By Kevin Birnbaum
Catholics’ primary method of evangelization should be the witness of their lives, said Father Bryan Dolejsi.
“If we really encounter the living God through the risen Christ, that should fill us with a certain joy and happiness,” the Archdiocese of Seattle’s director of vocations explained. “People are converted to something that looks attractive.”
Father Dolejsi, a member of the archdiocese’s Year of Faith Speakers Bureau, will give a talk entitled “Rediscovering the Joy of Believing: The New Evangelization,” on Thursday, April 25, at 7 p.m. at St. Patrick Church, 1001 N. “J” St.
Go deeper in Christ
The “new” in new evangelization refers not to content, but to method and style. The new evangelization means proclaiming the Gospel in new ways — especially to those who have drifted away from the church.
The first step is for the would-be evangelizers to be thoroughly evangelized themselves.
“I think the whole point of the new evangelization is for people to get grounded even deeper in Jesus and their own faith experience so they feel like they are called to evangelize in their own particular sphere,” said Father Dolejsi.
Many Catholics may feel unprepared to evangelize, he said, especially if it means talking to someone about their faith one on one. They may feel they don’t know their faith well enough to share it.
Well, then spend some time each day reading the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the documents of Vatican II, Father Dolejsi said, because those conversations are vitally important.
“What converts (people) the most is when people just speak about their own experience of God in their life, of encountering the risen Christ, in their own words,” he said.
Catholics should pray to find ways to witness in their day-to-day lives, he said.
Parishes also must do a better job of equipping laypeople to be evangelizers, through small faith-sharing groups and ongoing catechetical formation for adults, Father Dolejsi said. The new evangelization is not just for priests and religious sisters, but is something the whole church must work at together.
The new evangelization is the opposite of complacency.
For many years, Father Dolejsi said, the prevailing attitude in the church was that “Catholics will just show up to the parish because that’s what they do.”
“And I don’t think we’re living in that time anymore,” he continued. “Just assuming that the Catholic culture is going to carry the day isn’t working, so we have to be real proactive and, in a sense, kind of professional in our evangelization efforts and do things in an excellent way.”
Parishes need to put a lot of thought into “everything from how we use our webpage, to doing young adult Theology on Tap type of stuff, to making sure that the quality of baptism preparation classes is really good so that people are engaged when they’re coming back to the church,” Father Dolejsi said.
He pointed to Father Robert Barron’s Word On Fire ministry (www.wordonfire.org) as a perfect example of the new evangelization in action — “using multimedia, using intellectual arguments, meeting people where they’re at, proposing the faith but not imposing it, trying to integrate it into the reality that people live in.”
“If you’re wondering ‘What the heck is the new evangelization?’ I’d be like, ‘Check out Father Robert Barron and Word on Fire — that’s what it looks like tangibly.’”
Most importantly, Father Dolejsi said, the new evangelization has to become an integral part of the church’s identity. Parishes can’t think of the new evangelization as something to be taken up as just a discrete program or a yearlong initiative.
“The new evangelization is what we’re about as a church, for the long haul,” he said.
April 11, 2013