The New Evangelization encourages us to forego a one-size-fits-all approach to proclaiming the Good News of salvation from sin and death by the suffering, death and Resurrection of Jesus. We are encouraged to consider three separate but related audiences: the unchurched, the alienated (i.e. Catholics who aren’t practicing for one reason or another) and the faithful or practicing Catholics. In considering the role of evangelization in our National Conference for Catechetical Leadership I tend to focus on three areas: 1) discipleship; 2) catechesis as a moment in the process of evangelization, and; 3) collaboration.
Regarding discipleship, I find this word or concept very helpful in doing the work of evangelization. Discipleship immediately calls to our minds and hearts a relationship–the relationship between disciple and Master or Teacher. Evangelization and catechesis are about relationships, most importantly the relationship that each person has with Jesus. The more we incorporate discipleship in our catechetical efforts – reminding folks as last year’s conference in St. Louis pointed out so well: that God isn’t just an idea but rather a Person with whom we can have an authentic relationship – the more we’ll essentially evangelize while we catechize.
This priority of discipleship brings to mind what the National Directory for Catechesis makes clear: that catechesis is a privileged moment on our lifelong journey of evangelization. Each time we teach the Faith or as leaders help others engage in catechetical ministry we need to make connections between the What that we’re teaching (doctrine, content, the Deposit of Faith) and the Who that each person longs for: Jesus! Jesus is the ultimate Revealer of God’s revealed truth. So keeping in mind the evangelization folks have experienced before coming to us (This we seldom if ever control.), we teach the Faith with an eye toward the ongoing relationship with Jesus that participants in our catechetical sessions will have for the rest of their lives – for eternity! We invite those enjoying a catechetical moment to deepen their real, authentic relationship with Jesus and participation in His holy, Catholic Church.
Finally, the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership must collaborate with those whose primary focus is the unchurched or the alienated. Parish catechetical leaders oftentimes aren’t the ones who go door to door in the neighborhoods surrounding their church, touching base with all God’s children as to whether they have a church home. PCLs aren’t the only point of contact between those who’ve fallen away from practicing the Faith and the Church of their youth. But PCLs and diocesan staff including directors can and should collaborate with folks reaching out to these two audiences while we ensure that practicing Catholics (the main participants in our catechetical sessions) are continually renewed by the message of the Gospel. By contextualizing our identity and our efforts (without making silos) we can collaborate fruitfully with various individuals and groups such that evangelization and catechesis work hand in hand when seeking to win hearts, minds, bodies and souls for Jesus.