So often evangelization is considered just the work of the priest or those paid to do ministry. Here in the archdiocese, Cardinal SeŠn is inviting all of us to see ourselves as evangelizers, as disciples of Christ.
Last week I shared the first part of a webinar sponsored by the Amazing Parish organization whose commitment is "to supporting pastors and their leadership teams in parishes as they strive to live Christ's great commission to 'Go and make disciples of all nations.'" To fulfill that commitment, the organization offers free webinars, free resources as well as hosting a conference for parish leadership teams. Through these varied offerings, they strive to uplift, improve and help parishes turn from functioning solely in a maintenance mode to becoming missionary communities.
Last week's article addressed "Three Building Blocks" that are important to making parishes strong in their mission orientation. The second half of the webinar focused on "Critical Keys to Success." These keys were spoken of in reference to a leadership team and parish staff, but they are very applicable to all of us who are Catholic and want to be true disciples of Christ.
So often evangelization is considered just the work of the priest or those paid to do ministry. Here in the archdiocese, Cardinal SeŠn is inviting all of us to see ourselves as evangelizers, as disciples of Christ. To many Catholics, being an evangelizer is seen as something difficult and complicated or may require some personal sharing about faith. To broaden our understanding about evangelization and to see how we can become a disciple, these "Critical Keys to Success" that were spoken of in the webinar give us some simple steps to follow.
The first key is "Don't complicate it." Some of the world's best evangelists do not have degrees in theology. They simply love Jesus! They realize that their lives are based on their relationship with him, and they want to share the joy that comes from that bond. The Gospels are full of examples that show that Jesus responded in the moment to those he met. Be it a widow burying her only son, or Peter's mother-in-law who was sick, or the hungry crowd who had been with him all day -- Jesus' response was unplanned yet immediate. His example shows us that we do not need to wait to be asked to be of service. Opportunities abound and are right before us. The initiative is ours to take. Just don't complicate it.
The second key to success is "Don't be too busy to care." This key is closely connected to the first. Life is full of activity, but it is important to take time with loved ones and friends to know what is happening in their lives. Take the concerns that you hear from your family and friends to your own prayer or pray with them about their concerns. Slowing our lives down so that we really take time with others may be just what people need. Jesus never gave the impression he was too busy to care.
The third key is "Step out of your comfort zone." This is perhaps the hardest for people to do. It requires that we put aside our fear of the unknown. Stepping out of our comfort zone can help us make changes to our lives that lead to being more responsive disciples. It can be as simple as reaching out to that person whom you find difficult to speak to, or visiting someone who is sick and dying. It can be as simple as asking someone if there is something they want you to pray for or asking another to pray for you. Look to Jesus for help in stepping out of your comfort zone.
The fourth key is "Put yourself out there and go first." Don't wait until you see someone else ask for prayers. Look around you for opportunities to reach out to another and "go first." Don't wait for the crowd. Take the initiative and go first!
The last key mentioned was "Make it a habit." Research tells us it takes 28 days to develop a new habit. It takes practice to be a disciple. Jesus sent his followers out to practice being his disciples. They came back surprised at what they were able to do in his name. If we begin now to make these "keys" part of our daily lives, imagine the difference it would make in our parishes and families. Pray for the grace to live with the conviction that Jesus is still doing his work within and through us, his disciples.
Sister Pat Boyle is associate director of the Archdiocese of Bostonís Office of Pastoral Planning.