All posts tagged: New Evangelization

Fund-Raising Is Always a Call to Conversion

If every Catholic in the U.S. gave generously, proportional to their means, the Church—and dare one say, the world—would be transformed overnight. The impact this kind of giving would have on the work of the New Evangelization is, without hyperbole, incalculable. The Situation in the Pews As it stands now, charitable giving by U.S. Catholics is not in a good state compared to other Christian ecclesial communities, as well as other religions. According to a report by Notre Dame’s Institute for Church Life, only 15% of Catholics tithe 10% or more of their income to charity, compared to 44% of Evangelicals and 75% of Mormons.[1] Looking deeper at Catholic giving in parishes, Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate reported that 34% of Catholics give approximately $1.92 or less per week. Another 33% give an average of $5.78 a week, and the final 33% give on average $9.64 or more a week. What’s more, only 17% of Catholics reported giving regularly to their annual diocesan appeal. [2] It goes without saying that apostolates …

Relegating the Faith to the Private Sphere Generates a Distortion

Culture in the broadest sense can be defined as a way of life. The great historian Christopher Dawson created an entire corpus focused on the intersection of religion and culture. He claimed that four central pillars form the foundation of culture: people, environment, work, and thought.[1]  He describes how “the formation of culture is due to the interaction of all these factors; it is a four-fold community—for it involves in varying degrees a community of work and a community of thought as well as a community of place and a community of blood.”[2] When Dawson refers to the importance of thought, he means especially religious thought, which provides the inner form for the material organization of society. He describes how “every social culture is at once a material way of life and a spiritual order,” because “it is the religious impulse which supplies the cohesive force which unifies a society and a culture.”[3] Although Dawson recognizes that we live in the first secular culture in human history, he also rightly claims that the modern world …

The Strange Myths of the New Evangelization

More than forty years after the publication of the encyclical Evangelii Nuntiandi by Pope Paul VI and six years since the establishment of a new Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, it is a good time to pause and evaluate how the New Evangelization project is proceeding. While many doom-and-gloom prophecies abound in casual Catholic conversation, a serious analysis of our current situation is essential. I would like to suggest that the common understanding or “conventional wisdom” among new-evangelists about the New Evangelization’s status is not based on well-documented evidence. While statistical studies are often cited with pessimistic relish, I will report on recent statistical and sociological research that may point in another direction—though a comprehensive sociological analysis of Catholic evangelization efforts is still lacking. Unfortunately, despite large investments of institutional energy in the New Evangelization, many Catholic communities are still evangelically ineffective. Later, I will suggest possible strategic shifts that could be implemented in order to improve the outcomes of our efforts. On the one hand, a renewed effort at full implementation of the …

The Formation of the Imagination

Robert Macfarlane, a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge University, has reignited the discussion on the connection between nature and the imagination. In Landmarks, his most recent book on the unique regional words used to describe English landscape, Macfarlane comments that “Our children’s vanishing encounters with nature represent a loss of imagination as well as a loss of primary experience.”[1] If Macfarlane articulates a concern for the disconnection between the decreasing number of experiences in nature and the imagination’s vigor in secular culture, is it such a great leap to question the connection between the imagination and the spiritual life? This very question was pondered by Father Conrad Pepler, O.P., a member of the English Dominican province, who addressed this topic some 60 years ago: There is a need of an imaginative response to life, a training of the imagination, not merely in a few cases of poetic talent, but as a common function in every member of society. Incalculable harm can be done to men generally by the perversion or deadening of this faculty. When …

The Importance of Geographic Stability for the Church

In documents such as Christus Dominus, Apostolicam Actuositatem, and Presbyterorum Ordinis, the Catholic Church discourages parochialism, emphasizing the importance of apostolic activity.[1] At the same time, Paul VI observes in Evangelii Nuntiandi that “legitimate attention to individual Churches cannot fail to enrich the Church.”[2] His words suggest a possibility that local focus might lead, not to insularity, but to goods that extend beyond the particular community, perhaps even to evangelization and apostolic endeavor. We will examine how the practice of geographic stability can impact a community’s ability to evangelize. Geographic stability is defined as maintaining individual physical proximity to a community sufficient to afford long-term embodied interaction. This essay focuses on the American Catholic parish context and argues that geographic stability fosters two supports for evangelization: strong priest-parishioner relationships and predictability. Drawing on the work of Alasdair MacIntyre, the Benedictine experience, and findings from a study of three parishes in the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana, this essay argues for a connection between stability and evangelization in two sections. The 1st section concerns this connection in terms of …

Sacramentalized but Not Evangelized?

The phrase “sacramentalized but non-evangelized” has entered into contemporary ecclesial parlance. The unevangelized person who has received the sacraments is formally part of the Church. But such a person does not quite grasp his or her new identity as “baptized into Christ.” The sacraments have been ontologically “efficacious” but not subjectively so. The reason this phrase has been so quickly adopted is its value in capturing a problem in ecclesial life in the post-conciliar era. The sacramental life was once part of a broader formation into Catholic identity grounded in the family and the local neighborhood. The milieu was Catholic. After the Council, significant social and cultural changes unfolded in which the Catholic milieu crumbled. Simultaneously, the Church articulated in the Council documents a high bar for fruitful participation in ecclesial life. It was not enough to just enter the Church, to attend weekly Mass, and to receive the sacraments before death. One was called to sanctify the entire created order. In this sense, the phrase “sacramentalized but not evangelized” captures this new era of …

“Repent and Believe”: Moral Preaching in the New Evangelization

The Archdiocese of Detroit, to which I belong, has recently taken as a motto for its New Evangelization initiative in the lead-up to a diocesan synod held in November 2016, “Unleash the Gospel.” Borrowing this motto, the idea of which is rooted in 2 Timothy 2:9—“the word of God is not chained”—my proposal is a simple one: that the whole Church is called to “unleash the Gospel” in its entirety. Put another way: what could it possibly mean to “unleash the Gospel” if we leave Our Lord’s moral teaching very much on the leash? To some readers, perhaps the idea of “leashing” the moral component of our Catholic faith sounds far-fetched. It has been my experience, however, that an increasing number of voices these days seem to downplay the role of moral preaching at this moment in the life of the Church. Some experts on the New Evangelization, which has generated its own particular rhetoric, emphasize that the Church is not “about rules” and that we must “lead with love”—i.e., offer an essentially positive message—before …

The Art and Science of Ministry

Ministry is an art and a science; it’s both at the same time. The minister may be called to shift from one to the other seamlessly, as a dancer moves from foot to foot. In a parish setting, which is where I carry out my role in the ministry of pastoral care, the movement between the two is so swift it’s dizzying. The particularities in the care of each person call on the minister to embrace the art and science of ministry and put the two into practice concurrently. Ministry is an Art. The art of ministry is like how we’ve come to think of an encounter with a painting or lovely hymns—ministry flows out of the heart and employs the gut. As we think about artists, ministers trust their instincts, hone inborn talents, and embrace uninhibited creativity. To accompany someone spiritually, what is needed is a minister who has a personal relationship with Christ, a compassionate heart, the patience to listen, and confidence in the power of prayer. The single requirement is, very simply, …

The Bread and Wine of Liturgical Evangelization

Not to put too much pressure on anyone, but after you read a few hundred pages of the Compendium on the New Evangelization and study Pope Francis’ encyclical letter The Joy of the Gospel, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the popes are expecting us to bring about, with God’s help, a total transformation of culture worldwide. This renewal of all reality is to organically grow out of the personal relationships with Christ of lay disciples who put their faith into action in our vocations of work, family, and community life. This isn’t to say that the clergy and religious don’t have a role to play. A world evangelization mission requires a laity that is formed in accordance with the Gospel and the Catechism. Thus we will be able to “Observe, Judge, and Act” our way through the myriad situations of our shared lives. That won’t happen without the experience of sacraments and especially the Mass as moments of grace, holiness, and formation. Consider two of the Americans Pope Francis recommended to us during …

The New Evangelization in Suburban Detroit: A Sociological Case Study

In response to Pope John Paul II’s call for Catholics to implement a New Evangelization (NE) in order to revitalize the Church, parishes in the Archdiocese of Detroit have been attempting to implement the NE through the day-to-day efforts of parishioners, lay leaders, and pastors. In particular, beginning around 1992 and gaining momentum from around 2005 to at least 2012, evangelization committees increasingly have been formed in Detroit parishes as part of the broad push of the Catholic Church’s efforts at the NE. Among church leaders, professionals, and academics, it is often taken as common sense that if new ideas or policies need to be implemented, then they should set about the task of informing people through educational efforts. Yet field observations and the theorists I draw upon point in another direction. Rather than educational or implementation efforts guided primarily by rational communication and bureaucratic procedures, I observed affective/emotional communication and practices as more accessible, more widely shared, and as a more effective means of evangelization. In the case study that follows, participant observational methods …