Evangelization has always been important for the Church, based on Jesus’ missionary mandate given to the disciples which is found in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go, therefore,- and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Since the conception of the Church all followers of Jesus were called to adopt this mandate as their own, and today the call remains the same.
For years in my ministry I used Matthew’s passages at the beginning of the year whether it was for catechists or PCLs because it contains the two important ministries of the Church – to sanctify and to bring the Good news of Jesus to all the nations. Saint Paul wrote: “But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach?” (Romans 10:14). These ideas were brought into the modern period when Pope Pius VI stated, “Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize…” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14).
The General Directory for catechesis calls catechesis “an essential ‘moment’ in the process of evangelization” (#63), therefore we cannot be engaged with catechesis without also evangelizing. The change of the USCCB’s office structure in 2008 included both under the Office for Evangelization and Catechesis, and since that time many diocesan catechetical offices have been tasked with this dual role and have changed their names to reflect this, while in other dioceses evangelization offices have been established.
It is for these reasons that I believe NCCL needs to seriously explore how we reflect this reality. We have taken steps towards this in rewording in our mission statement to include evangelization, by offering sessions at the Annual Conference that focus on evangelization and catechesis, by creating the Evangelization Committee, and by adding the New Wineskins Award for both parish and diocesan levels.
With all of these changes can diocesan or parish offices of Evangelization find a home in us? Are we just dating or are we ready for marriage? I don’t ask these questions casually but do think that as an organization it is time to grapple with these questions and come to an answer, whatever it may be. All of us as members and owners of NCCL must be involved in such a discussion. Shall we continue dating or get ready for marriage?