The word “evangelization” has meant different things to different people in various places and at various times in history. Today, the Church has a refreshed emphasis on what she calls “the new evangelization” in keeping with the trends and challenges of modern society.Pope Francis describes the new evangelization in The Joy of the Gospel as an invitation to all baptized Christians to be ministers of the Gospel who go out from the confines of the parish grounds and give witness to the many women and men who have drifted away from the Church because they are confused or indifferent or hurt or angry.
There are several reasons why “the new evangelization” matters to all Catholics and to leaders of parishes living in the 21st century.
Fewer people participate in Mass and view themselves as disciples on a mission. Studies indicate that only about 24 percent of Catholics in the United States attend Mass regularly. Of those, many of them come and go without accepting the invitation to a personal relationship with Christ or the call to participate in the evangelizing work of the parish. In fact, only a small percentage of Catholics who do regularly attend Mass, even those active in ministry, self-identify as committed disciples of Jesus Christ.
Plus, many Catholics lack confidence to share and live their faith. Adults are called to pass on the faith to their children and give witness to it in their families and work places. If they do not feel comfortable doing so, many children might never might never hear the word of God proclaimed, might never receive the sacraments, and might never have the opportunity to experience the fullness of joy in the Lord and his Gospel.
Yet, our world needs evangelized Catholics. We live in a time when consumerism and secularism are pervasive, a time when violence and injustice are too common. It is only through evangelization that the Church, the people of God, can continue to build up the reign of God on earth.
This is why evangelization matters today more than ever. Parishes and individuals can approach evangelization in a purposeful way by focusing on Five Key Areas that Matter for an Evangelizing Parish.