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  My Witness

Vol. 2, No. 3, July, 1997

The Challenge is Evangelization!
by Sr. Angeline Bukowiecki, S.N.C.

Sister Angeline Today, no matter what you are reading or hearing about the Church, the word 'evangelization' is there! We are being confronted with great challenges but also with some very great difficulties.

We are almost 35 years away from the Second Vatican Council and nearly 25 years,from Evangelization in the Modern World (E.N.) by Pope Paul VI. And we have yet to respond to the urgent call of the Church to dynamically answer the great challenge of evangelizing the world for Christ and to arouse the Catholic Church from its lethargy. The challenge is evangelization!

I say that because with evangelization comes:


  • Commitment to the Lord and to his Church;

  • a Christian lifestyle;

  • Vibrant worship of the Lord;

  • Appreciation of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist;

  • Witnessing to Jesus Christ with power, as we see evidenced in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles;

  • and finally, Fellowship in community.

With evangelization comes renewal of the person and an explicit attachment to the person of Jesus Christ. Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical: "Mission of the Redeemer," (R.M.) has this to say:

"Those who are incorporated in the Catholic Church ought to sense . . . their greater obligation of bearing witness to the faith and to the Christian life . . . and if they fail to respond to this grace in thought, word and deed, not only will they not be saved, they will be judged more severely" (R.M. #11, para, 5).

In #49, paragraph 2 of this same encyclical, the Pope says:

"A radical conversion in thinking is required in order to become missionary and this holds true both for individuals and for entire communities."

The need is to help mobilize the whole Catholic Church to fulfill its first obligation: to evangelize. This is the only way to evangelize the world. This is a task that requires the effort of the whole body of Christ: the dynamic evangelization of the whole world. Our people need to be trained in the "how to" of evangelization. But isn't it amazing that we call evangelization the:

  • Great Mandate (Matthew 28:19).

  • First duty of the People of God (Ad Gentes #35).

  • Reason the Church exists (E. N. #14).

  • Church's fundamental function in every age particularly our own (R. M. #10).

And yet, our Catholics cannot easily find where to be trained to accomplish this task. When we look at where the Church has been in regard to missionary activity, we soon recognize that:

  • Despite the numerous teaching statements,

  • Despite the clear command of Christ to "go into all the world and preach the Gospel,"

  • Despite the urgent need for the transformation of societies by the saving truth of the Gospel, and

  • Despite all the millions who have never heard the Good News,

  • Despite all of this, there has been a great decline in missionary activity.

The facts speak for themselves. Just when the world seemed so ripe for evangeization; just when the need seemed so urgent, we stopped being a missionary Church. There are many reasons why this happened. But the important thing is that the Church has been reminded of the urgent priority of missionary service by:

  • the Second Vatican Council,

  • Pope Paul VI, and by

  • Pope John Paul II.

With the advent of Pope John Paul II's encyclical, Mission of the Redeemer (Redemptoris Missio), in December of 1990, the entire Church was strongly reminded that we are called to "Ad Gentes" -- the mission to all peoples, to all nations; and there is no way that we can get out of it. All are called to missionary activity. As Pope John Paul II says:

" . . . the urgency of missionary evangelization is the fact that it is the primary service which the Church can render to every individual and to all humanity in the modern world . . ." (R.M. #2, para. 4).

Pope John Paul II points out that this universal mission of the Church is the source of inspiration and support for the new evangelization:

"For missionary activity renews the Church, revitalizes faith and Christian identity, and offers fresh enthusiasm and new incentive. Faith is strengthened when it is given to others! It is in commitment to the Church's universal mission that the new evangelization of Christian peoples will find inspiration and support" (R.M. #2, para. 3).

In addition, mission must become the point of reference, the criterion of discernment for determining the effectiveness of ecclesial efforts:

"The effectiveness of the Church's organizations, movements, parishes and apostolic works must be measured in the light of this missionary imperative. Only by becoming missionary will the Christian community be able to overcome its internal divisions and tensions, and rediscover its unity and its strength of faith" (R.M. #49, para. #2).

In #86, Pope John Paul II, having contemplated the immense needs of the world, has no hesitation in reaffirming the priority of missionary effort, by again stating:

" . . . For each believer, as for the entire Church, the missionary task must remain foremost . . . ."

But the big question that needs to be answered is this: can our Catholic people become missionaries to those who have never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ in other countries, if they are not seriously concerned about those who have not heard the Good News of Jesus Christ at home?

And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every infirmity. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest" (Matthew 9:35-38).

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