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  My Witness

Vol. 6, No. 4, November, 2001

Pope John Paul II: The Role of Women as Evangelizers and the Need to Evangelize through a Life of Service
by Sr. Angeline Bukowiecki, S.N.C.

Sister Angeline Pope John Paul II continues his call to the Church for a new evangelization, new in its fervor, expression, and methods. In his various homilies and addresses, the Holy Father stresses the importance of all men and women in carrying out the mission of the new evangelization but, at times, he stops to focus on the important role of women in this mission.

A. Women as Evangelizers

  • "How can we forget the important role played by women: their work in the family, in schools, in political, social and cultural life, and especially their teaching of Christian doctrine? Indeed, it is necessary to recognize and it is a title of honor that some Churches owe their origins to the activity of lay men and women missionaries" (Redemptoris Missio, #71).

  • "I extend a special word of appreciation to the missionary Religious Sisters, in whom virginity for the sake of the Kingdom is transformed into a motherhood in the spirit that is rich and fruitful . . . The example and activity of women who through virginity are consecrated to love of God and neighbor, especially the very poor, are an indispensable evangelical sign among those peoples and cultures where women still have far to go on the way towards human promotion and liberation. It is my hope that many young Christian women will be attracted to giving themselves generously to Christ in order to bear witness to him among the peoples who do not know him" (Redemptoris Missio, #70).

  • "Men and women missionaries who have devoted their whole lives to bearing witness to the Risen Lord among the nations must not allow themselves to be daunted by doubts, misunderstanding, rejection or persecution. They should revive the grace of their specific charism and courageously press on" (Redemptoris Missio, #66).

  • "The mission is carried out above all by men and women who are consecrated for life to the work of the Gospel and are prepared to go forth into the whole world to bring salvation" (Redemptoris Missio, #79).

  • "Mary is the model of that maternal love which should inspire all who cooperate in the Church's apostolic mission for the rebirth of humanity. Therefore, strengthened by the presence of Christ, the Church journeys through time towards the consummation of the ages and goes to meet the Lord who comes. But on this journey . . . she proceeds along the path already trodden by the Virgin Mary" (Redemptoris Missio, #92).

May the Holy Spirit push us from within and attract us from without to take the Gospel to all nations beginning with where we live, work, and socialize.

B. Evangelizing through A Life of Service

Pope John Paul I I continues his call for a new evangelization, new in its fervor, expression, and methods, directing it now to a life of service that every member of the Church is called to engage in by virtue of the commandment of love Jesus gave us: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:12f). Making disciples of all nations, the Pope says, "is the Church's most fundamental and lasting norm in giving service to people of all ages."

  • "Our Lord's mandate, 'Go, and make disciples of all nations' (Mt. 28: 19) is the Church's most fundamental and lasting norm in giving service to people of all ages. Standing at the twilight of Christianity's Second Millennium, we must see our commitment to evangelization as more urgent than ever" (Angelus Address on World Mission Sunday, Rome, October 23, 1988).

  • "The Church appeals to all who have the future of mankind at heart to unite in serving to bring about material and spiritual improvements" (Angelus Address at St. Peter's, Rome, December 3, 1989).

  • "As 'apostles' of their peers, young men and women should be encouraged to invest both time and talent in programs of voluntary service" (Ad Limina Visit of the Bishops of India, April 6, 1989).

  • "To fulfill her pastoral mission in the areas of prayer, evangelization, catechesis, education of children and young people and in caring for the sick and elderly, the Church has tremendous need of those women who accept God's call with faith and generously dedicate and totally consecrate themselves to him and to the service of others" (Address to Young Peope of Apulia, Italy, October 29, 1989).

  • "I would like to say to every parish and movement that the Pope is relying on you to give growth to the branches of the vine that the Lord has planted. May every lay person carry their own share of responsibility for giving service to everyone in the Church and to the whole of society" (Homily in Burkino Faso, Africa, January 30, 1990).

  • "Today's priests must live a spirituality continuously nourished by unselfish and impassioned service to humanity" (To the Congregation for the Clergy, May 28, 1993).

  • "Our generous role of service to the needy gives proof of the evangelization mission of Christians" (Ad Limina Visit of Lithuanian Bishops, February 27, 1993).

  • "Let us constantly present Mary, our Mother of Perpetual Help, as a model of service inspired by holiness" (To Bishops of the Ruthenian Byzantine Rite, November 26, 1988).

May the Holy Spirit inspire and grace each and every member of the Church to put themselves at the service of the needs of their brothers and sisters. And may we all heed the exhortation of St. Paul, "Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests (needs) of others" (Phil. 2:3f).

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