Deb Bauer, Regnum Christi consecrated woman and President of Mater Ecclesiae College in Greenville, Rhode Island, writes about her experience at a conference in Washington, DC, the “Intellectual Task of the New Evangelization.” This conference is being jointly sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Doctrine and the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis.
Today I arrived to my first day at the Intellectual Task of the New Evangelization conference held at the Blessed John Paul II Shrine in Washington, DC. I am amidst 13 bishops from all over the United States and 48 theologians.
The conference started with a bus ride, as I was dodging rain drops from a late afternoon thunderstorm and boarded the bus and sat next to a bishop (He changed seats as the window of the bus had a leak so it was either get soaked or sit by me.) I vaguely recognized him, and then he said, “Oh, I saw you earlier down in the exercise room.” Ha! The man in the exercise room had been a bishop…. I knew it. But to ask this question at that moment seemed a bit absurd. (It’s good to know bishops need exercise too!)
At the conference, there was an introductory talk by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington on “Catechesis and Theology in the Service of the new Evangelization.” The Cardinal shared about how, in the New Evangelization, we are called to announce the good news, not by changing content (the message of Christ is always the same) but rather in the expression, ardor, and method.
As a Church, we are called to discern how to offer the message in a world filled with secularism, materialism, and individualism. The New Evangelization requires a personal renewal, affectively and intellectually, and finds its ultimate meaning when offered with a fresh confidence in our faith. This is the key to reaching a secular world, which seeks to make the faith irrelevant, out-of- date and unnecessary.
Near the end of his talk, the Cardinal listed the qualities of the New Evangelizer — any disciple that chooses to share the faith:
-Boldness — like the apostles in the early Church who were not afraid to share their faith and staked their lives on it, we need to have that boldness to actually believe the faith is true and share it with confidence.
-A Sense of Urgency — we need to set out in haste in a world that desperately needs our message.
-Joy – Our proclamation must be a joyful invitation, filled with enthusiasm. Who wants to follow a gloomy Christian?
-A Sense of Relevance to the World– the Catholic Church has the fullness of the truth, and if that truth is to be properly understood, it needs to be offered in the context of the Catholic Church. Who better to give the message?
Cardinal Wuerl said the propagation of the faith is ultimately up to us, to make it first intelligible for ourselves through prayer and study so as to proclaim it, and then to make an authentic, true Christian witness by our lives.
During the discussion period that followed, Bishop Joseph McManus of Worchester, Mass., and Bishop Salvatore R. Matano of Burlington, Vermont (ironically both born in Rhode Island) sat at my table. As a glimpse into our conversation, we discussed the following questions:
1. What are some signs you recognize today of a new Pentecost?
2. What do you see as the role and function of the bishop in relation to both the catechetical enterprise and the theological initiative? How can such collaboration be facilitated?
As you can imagine, the discussion was lively and went late. One reflection I will offer is from Bishop Motano, who shared that he sees the March for Life as a powerful example of the new Pentecost. Despite shaky catechesis, so many young people are willing to stand up for life. And as a side note on the young, Cardinal Wuerl mentioned that Catholic University’s initiative to invite students to serve their community brought 345,000 hours of service last year, followed by a revival of the faith as the students began to ask deeper questions of what is essential to life, what really matters.
More to come.