Whether it’s handing out food or healing the sick, as Catholics serve others, they should share with people why their faith compels them to serve, said Mary Dundas, diocesan coordinator of evangelization and sacramental catechesis.
That is one way that parishioners can participate in a movement called the new evangelization, Dundas said.
Though Christians have long been called to share their faith with others, the "new evangelization" is an understanding of faith sharing as a lifelong process of reaching out to those who have never heard of Christ, those who have fallen away from the Catholic faith and those who seek to grow in their faith, Dundas said. The new evangelization requires Catholics to take an active role in their faith, she added.
"Everyone is engaged to take this mandate from Christ to go and make disciples," Dundas said during the Aug. 20 webinar "Empowering Catechists and Families: Agents of the New Evangelization" for faith-formation directors, catechists and pastors.
The new evangelization will be the focus of the upcoming XIII General Assembly of the Ordinary Synod of Bishops in October. The synod also marks the beginning of the Year of Faith, which Pope Benedict XVI declared will run from Oct. 11, 2012, to Nov. 24, 2013, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
"We want this year to arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope," Pope Benedict XVI said in his apostolic letter "The Door of Faith" (Porta Fidei).
In that letter, Pope Benedict called on Christians to think of their faith as a public choice to stand with the Lord, and he recommended they use the catechism to learn more about the tenets of their faith. He emphasized the joy and enthusiasm that people experience when they encounter Christ.
The joy that comes from being a follower of Christ is contagious, Dundas said. "We must see ourselves as witnesses. Everything we do and say is seen by others. What sense of God do they walk away with?"
She said a culture of Christian witness should be created among all the baptized.
"Being a witness begins by being grounded in a relationship with God," Dundas said. "A Christian witness is one who sees and hears God."
Dundas said there are several ways that "everyday Catholics" can become Christian witnesses.
* Pray as a family at home.
* Invite visitors to join in saying grace before meals.
* Participate in service opportunities and share that experience with others, and connect what you do with your beliefs as a follower of Jesus Christ.
* Help your children recognize the presence of God in all of creation.
* Read the Bible and share with others how God is challenging you at this time.
* Go on retreats or seek spiritual direction.
* Seek out faith-formation opportunities, no matter what your age.
She said parishes could add adult faith-formation opportunities to engage both those who have recently entered the Catholic Church, as well as those who have been in the church for awhile, in the growth of their faith.
At St. Agnes in Avon, St. Paul of the Cross in Honeoye Falls and St. Rose in Lima, the clustered parishes regularly offer lemonade and cookies on the porch to give people a chance to connect with staff members, said Mike Drexler, pastoral associate for evangelization and faith-formation for the cluster. Drexler, who attended the webinar, said the porch events offer a welcome to newcomers to the church, as well as an informal setting for current parishioners to address concerns.
He said the talk offered a lot of useful examples that the parish can use to help parishioners grow in how they encourage people to become evangelizers.
"I think some people are intimidated by the word evangelization, and we need to remind them of the simple little ways that they are already evangelizing," Drexler said.