Evangelisation is a word that evokes fear in many Catholics. The thought of going out to share the faith is a daunting task for many.
To some, faith is a personal thing with it being up to the individual to live the faith the way one sees fit. To others, one is born into the faith – “my grandfather was a Catholic and my mother is a Catholic, I am a Catholic and my son will be a Catholic” – and this linear progression fulfils one’s part in spreading the faith.
Many think that they are simply not equipped to evangelise. Yet many others think that it is the work of the clergy or Religious or a group who are tasked to perform this function of the Church.
Despite this dismal situation, there are bright sparks every now and then created by those filled with the desire for Jesus and fuelled by the Holy Spirit venturing out to proclaim the Good News.
The truth is that everyone has the obligation to evangelise. It is not an option. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be an evangeliser. Catholics often give the excuse that they are not ready to evangelise. If this is indeed so, should one not begin to prepare oneself to proclaim the Good News sooner or later?
If we look to the Acts of the Apostles, the example of John Mark who initially followed St Paul on his missionary journey but turned back half way should be of inspiration to us because later he changed his mind and followed Barnabas on his missionary journeys. This is the same John Mark who is credited with writing the Gospel of Mark.
The archbishop set up the Office for the New Evangelisation when he took office to implement his vision of a vibrant evangelising Church. The New Evangelisation, as proposed by the recent popes, is to be the cornerstone of the work of the office.
Seeing the evangelical duty of the Church as being so important and central, the Archbishop saw fit to appoint an Episcopal Vicar to oversee this work. The Episcopal Vicar speaks for the Archbishop in this crucial aspect of the Church. After going through a process of dialogue with priests, Religious and the laity, the office launched the New Evangelisation Tenets on Aug 22. This enables us to speak the same language as we embark on this journey. As our Pope encourages, we can reach out with newness and vigour to everyone who has heard or yet to hear the Good News of salvation!
Some of our Singapore Catholics, who want to reach out to others, are sometimes at a loss. “I don’t know where to start with evangelising to a friend,” said a 40-something finance professional who is married with two children.
“The Church has so many teachings and practices, but I don’t know where to start. I also feel awkward trying to emphasise the personhood of Christ and relationship with Him. My friend might think that my faith is built on an imaginary friend!”.
Another 40-year-old, Jason, adds “I think evangelisation comes foremost from the way we live our lives in evidence of Christ’s love. The Church could possibly do more to encourage the faithful to infuse our faith with our lives at work and in social settings. That, perhaps, is the most effective way for Christ to be visible to non-Christians.”
There is strong and clear desire amongst a segment of the people of God to follow the Pope’s exhortation to re-evangelise Catholics and bring the Good News to those who have yet to hear it. Since its inception in September 2013, the Office for the New Evangelisation has been working with those parishes that have contacted us to clarify and contextualise the vision of the Archbishop.
This exciting work is taking us to new possibilities in the parish. There is a strong and clear desire amongst a segment of the people of God to follow the Pope’s exhortation to re-evangelise Catholics and bring the Good News to those who have yet to hear it.
In these people there is a real and deep aspiration to reach out to those who have heard the Word of God our Father but who have yet to fully embrace it or understand it. The work of reaching out to people – even as we deepen our own understanding of the Word of God our Father in a stable community – is demanding as it is rewarding. Those aspiring to evangelise need a stable, welcoming and loving community to facilitate their own ongoing growth in Jesus. After all, when touched by testimonies, examples of Christian living and proclamations they encounter, they naturally want to know more about Jesus Christ.
There is much work to be done, but without a foundation it may be hazardous. To work out a plan of action may not be difficult but to lay the foundation and to build it up takes time.
In Singapore, where efficiency is a requirement, the work of laying the foundation may not look expedient. It has been seen for instance, when new MRT lines are being constructed. If one can recall, the Marina Bay area was left to stand idle for 20 over years before anything was built on it. The reason for this is that the piece of reclaimed land had to settle firmly before any construction could take place.
Likewise when it comes to the important role of evangelisation, we first need people to be formed and this takes time. As we move forward in building communities in our parishes and organisations, we must be mindful this work of building communities takes time. We sow the seeds, only God our Father can make the seed grow as the individual makes a continual response.
The Office for the New Evangelisation was set up to facilitate, promote, coordinate and align the work of evangelisation. We strive to be all that we have been tasked to be. We look forward to those who have a great desire to spread the message of Jesus Christ to come forward to join us.
We are in the process of setting up a resource centre for all seeking to understand the New Evangelisation as well as looking for ways to establish communion in your parish or organisation. We hope that parishes and organisations that require assistance in building communion will be contacting us.
If you have a yearning to speak about the Good News of Jesus Christ to others and help build the foundations for evangelisation, please call us. If you do not know where you can serve and you do not belong to any organisation, we are here to advise you.
The Office for the New Evangelisation is at 2 Highland Road, #02-02, Catholic Archdiocesan Education Centre. Our contact number is 68583011. We are waiting for your call.
By Fr Terence Pereira
Fr Terence is the Episcopal Vicar for Evangelisation