PERINTON — "When the son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" Jesus asks in Luke 18:8.
Buffalo Bishop Richard J. Malone is certain faith will be found — yet he wonders, "What kind of faith will there be on the earth, in the Dioceses of Rochester and Buffalo?"
As he posed that question to approximately 380 religious leaders of the Rochester Diocese, Bishop Malone expressed hope that their evangelizing efforts will not only enhance the faith of others, but impel those people to spread their faith as well.
"We are helping to form other evangelizers," stated Bishop Malone during his keynote presentation, "Reflections on the New Evangelization," at the Gathering of the Ministerium held June 5 at the Burgundy Basin Inn.
"New evangelization" is a term first popularized by St. John Paul II in the 1980s and further advanced by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. It calls today’s Catholics to take an active role in their faith while helping others discover or rediscover the faith.
Noting that the call to evangelize came from Christ himself, Bishop Malone described Jesus’ exhortation "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19) as "the great missionary mandate."
He emphasized that fervent and constant evangelization is crucial based on "the urgency of the times," in an era marked by secularization. Bishop Malone remarked that our present culture is inundated with "isms" — relativism, subjectivism and consumerism — that undermine the importance of Christianity.
"We live in a time when there’s a bit of an erosion of the sense of the transcendent," the bishop said. He doesn’t feel this trend is an out-and-out revolt against religion, explaining that there are many good people in the world but "they don’t think of things through their divine Lord. Religion is one thing among others." He added that many people who stop practicing their faith are not at odds with their beliefs, but have simply lost religion in the shuffle of their busy lifestyles.
Bishop Malone said it is therefore incumbent upon us to introduce — and, in many instances, reintroduce — a relationship with Jesus as the top priority in people’s lives.
"How does everything about me, my life, my ministry serve to draw people deeper to Jesus Christ?" he said.
He cited what he considers the top two difference-makers in successful evangelizing: getting folks to realize that stronger faith will satisfy the deep craving for meaning and purpose in their lives, and offering them vibrant and welcoming faith communities.
“Everything that goes on in parish life has evangelizing potential and catechetical potential,” he said.
Bishop Malone serves on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, and also chairs the USCCB’s Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. He has headed the Buffalo Diocese since 2012, following eight years as Bishop of Portland, Maine.
His appearance at the 10th Gathering of the Ministerium continues a trend of well-known Catholic speakers who have keynoted the annual event, which is organized by St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry. The gathering was begun by Bishop Emeritus Matthew H. Clark as a means to unite priests, deacons, women religious, pastoral administrators, pastoral associates, religious-education coordinators, youth ministers, hospital chaplains, campus ministers, prison chaplains, Catholic-school principals and others with leadership responsibilities around the diocese.
This marked the first Gathering of the Ministerium for Rochester Bishop Salvatore R. Matano, who gave opening and closing prayers and remarks June 5. Bishop Malone told the audience that "you have just a remarkably faithful and bright man in Bishop Matano.”