“Pentecost to Pentecost” is the phrase that appears on the Vision 20/20 logo of a diocesan initiative that began three years ago with listening sessions and reflections about evangelism. We approach Pentecost this weekend with a pandemic on the wane because of a growing number of people vaccinated, which in turn allows our diocese to ease restrictions on our celebration of the Mass and other gatherings. We cannot help but feel the same sense of inspiration of the Holy Spirit that the early Christians experienced as they spread the joy of the Gospel, growing the new church.
“Jesus gave the disciples a straightforward mission, to be his witnesses to the ends of the Earth. Their reaction was to stand around looking up. The angels appear and ask, ‘Why are you standing there looking at the sky?’ They’re almost shouting, ‘Go do something!’ I feel like that is where we are now,” observes deacon candidate Ryan Burchett of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport.
He believes the coming weeks and months “might just be the greatest opportunity for personal evangelization in our lifetime. What are we going to do? Vision 2020 helped us wrestle with evangelism and our understanding of why it must be part of our everyday lives as Catholics.”
We are moving from the “why” to the “how,” he says. “How are we going to evangelize in our homes, in our parishes, at our places of work? Most importantly, how will we witness to the ends of the earth?” None of us has the perfect answer, but as Ryan suggests, the answer is “along the lines of ‘Go do something!’ Jesus left that mission to his apostles 2,000 years ago. It’s the same mission that Pope Francis regularly challenges us with. It’s where Bishop Zinkula has been pushing us through Vision 2020. It will be a little different for everyone.”
Yes, it will be a little different for everyone. Paul tells us in his first Letter to the Corinthians, “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit …” (1 Cor. 123b-7, 12-13).
For all of us, evangelism begins with what we do for our loved ones and ourselves. We pray regularly, read and reflect on Scripture, participate in a Bible study, join or initiate an Emmaus group, an initiative developed in response to the pandemic that provides an opportunity for us to experience the love of Christ through a handful of other people.
During the pandemic, those gatherings often occurred over the internet. That created a challenge for parishioners in some rural communities with internet connectivity issues. “Given where we are at now with masks and social distancing after the recent changes in CDC guidelines, people who are vaccinated can more readily gather in an in-person parish setting in small groups,” Bishop Zinkula said. Learn more about Emmaus groups and other opportunities on the diocesan website (davenportdiocese.org).
Evangelism takes place when we invite someone to attend Mass with us or to participate in parish activities. Evangelism happens when we volunteer or lend a hand or a listening ear to someone who needs our assistance. Evangelism happens during events such as “Tulip Time” in Pella where Father Troy Richmond, pastor of St. Mary parishes in Pella and Oskaloosa, served up Dutch ribbon potatoes while wearing his clerics (covered by an apron, of course!) and engaged in “some good conversations and interactions with festival attendees I would not have otherwise.”
Evangelism takes place during informal witness talks, such as the recent virtual Theology on Tap, where diocesan seminarians Cameron Costello, Dominic Nguyen and Isaac Doucette shared their stories of discerning a call to the priesthood.
Father Rudolph Juarez, pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Davenport, recently reflected on the passage from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:1-11) that Ryan spoke of earlier in this editorial. “… For me, the message of the angels is pretty clear: ‘Don’t just stand there! Do something!’” He gave the example of some 40 volunteers who had helped beautify the parish grounds recently. “It was an amazing experience of sharing and working together,” the pastor said. “Pray, share, love, care, forgive, give witness, encourage, rejoice — for Christ is in heaven, and the work of his hands on earth must truly be our own.” That is a vision of Pentecost.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor