Evangelization: one step at a time…

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In a parish parking lot in Wilton on June 14 and during a diocesan Eucharistic Procession to downtown Davenport five days later, Catholics took steps toward evangelization. “Proclaiming the Gospel with your actions is evangelizing,” Deacon Dan Freeman said during an interview after he blessed tractors and their drivers in the parking lot of St. Mary Parish-Wilton, where he serves as parish life coordinator.

Evangelization is the centerpiece of Bishop Thomas Zinkula’s episcopacy. His Vision 20/20 initiative led to a well-received diocesan convocation in 2019 that reflected on our call to be “Spirit-filled evangelizers,” looking to the peripheries of our communities, to be Christ and to bring Christ to others. “Evangelization is not a new fad,” he has told us. “It is the mission Jesus gave us.”

In his Pentecost 2020 homily, early on in the pandemic, Bishop Zinkula cited a writing of St. Paul VI, who spoke of the new evangelization. “He calls each of us to deepen our faith in God, believe in the Gospel message, and proclaim the Good News to others.”

Now we are navigating the waters toward a post-pandemic life. Like the walkers in the Eucharistic Procession and the volunteers who provided hospitality to tractor drivers and riders making a pit stop at St. Mary-Wilton, all of us are called to step out, to show the face of Christ to others. That is where we begin, but Christ calls us to do more.

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A column in America magazine on “Evangelization Today” by Bishop William A. Wack, C.S.C. of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, provides additional insight on the journey toward evangelization. He writes, “First, before we can share the depth of our faith with others, it is vital that we grow in our awareness of the love that God has for each of us.”

Bishop Wack acknowledges, “Catholics have not always been comfortable talking about a ‘personal relationship’ with Jesus Christ. But we know innately that this is what God wants for us. We can start by asking God to help us grow in our relationship with Jesus in the Holy Spirit.” Convinced of “God’s never-ending love for us, there would be nothing we couldn’t do or overcome,” the bishop writes (America, June 2022).

“Personal” is not the same as “private.” Our faith is communal; it is meant to be shared and lived together. This year, for example, we began taking steps toward getting comfortable with talking about our faith in listening sessions that took place in parishes, schools, universities, coffee shops, religious communities and other places in our diocese from January through April.

More than 6,000 people participated in these sessions. We shared what breaks our heart and fills our heart about the Catholic Church for our Diocesan Synod in response to Pope Francis’ request to Catholics around the world to reflect on what it means to be a Church that listens to one another (read the draft report at https://tinyurl.com/36sdamv7).

The listening sessions have concluded, but we should not stop the conversations with people we encounter anywhere on our journey in this life, including people who have left the Church or drifted away. It is easier for us to commiserate with one another in the pews about the people missing from our congregation than to initiate a conversation about our love for Jesus with those who have left. Jesus calls us to be bold, to risk rejection as he did.

We gain courage in prayer, reading and reflecting on Scripture, participating in small-faith communities, such as Emmaus groups, and seeking adult faith enrichment in our parishes or our diocese. The diocesan Faith Formation office provides terrific resources (davenportdiocese.org/faith-formation).

Not all of the tractor drivers accepted a blessing from Deacons Freeman, Jeff Schuetzle and Terry Starns during the Tractorcade pit stop at St. Mary Parish in Wilton. However, Deacon Freeman said he felt more comfortable each time he asked.

Barb Arland-Fye, Editor
arland-fye@davenportdiocese.org


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