Evangelization Commission equips the called
December 26, 2017
Daniel Cardinal DiNardo processes out of the closing mass of the USCCB Convocation of Catholic Leaders, July 4. Several members of the Evangelization Commission attended the conference with a delegation from Galveston-Houston. file File photo by James Ramos/Herald.
HOUSTON — To accomplish the Great Commission that Jesus set forth for all Christians, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19), the Evangelization Commission of the Archdiocese is responsible for equipping the faithful that are called to carry out this mission.
“Evangelization is the duty and responsibility of every Catholic Christian stemming from their baptismal call,” said Jim Barrette, director of the Pastoral & Educational Ministries who has overseen the Evangelization Commission’s efforts for 19 years. It is one of 60 ministries supported by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF).
“Responding to that call, Catholics that experience a personal relationship with Jesus and are on fire with the Holy Spirit are prompted to share that experience with others,” Barrette said. “Their witness of their faith story is what is evangelizing to others, and that encounter with other folks opens the door for Catholics to accompany another in their journey to Christ.”
According to current chairman of the Evangelization Commission, John White, its mission is directly linked to the words of Pope Paul VI, who in 1975 asserted the importance of these efforts for the Church: “Evangelizing is, in fact, the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists to evangelize....” (Evangelii Nuntiandi 14)
According to White, the Evangelization Commission for over 25 years has been responsible for: 1) advocacy of evangelization within the Archdiocese; 2) development, oversight and evaluation of evangelization initiatives, and 3) fostering discussion between Archdiocesan departments and parishes on how to maintain an evangelizing focus in all efforts.
“The Evangelization Commission supports our local parish priests in their efforts to help parishioners encounter Christ and grow in union with God through the Church,” White said.
Currently, the Evangelization Commission is a collaboration of 15 people from a cross-section of the Archdiocese, including staff, clergy and laypersons representing a variety of ministries, such as Liturgy, catechesis and social justice. Every three or four years, commission members may move on and are replaced with new representatives who continue to provide feedback about the needs of the current faithful and fresh perspectives.
“There are a lot of ways that a parish can get involved in bringing evangelization efforts and best practices into its many ministries,” said Barrette. “The Evangelization Commission is a clearing-house of sorts that seeks new and innovative resources that are available locally, nationally and worldwide, and communicates them back to the parishes. This includes approved lists of speakers, training opportunities, workshops and resource materials that follow the Catholic tradition and faith.”
One example of a unique training opportunity was a summer leadership convocation held by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for a cross-section of people, including several hundreds of bishops, priests, deacons and lay people from across the nation.
“The focus was on how we, as a Church, can better reach the people who are on the periphery, those who are often overlooked and neglected,” said Barrette. “Many elements of the program involved best practices on how to evangelize these folks. This is an example of how our commission doesn’t have to do all the work, but rather, send representatives to these workshops and training opportunities to learn about what is available, and bring it back home to their parishes.”
Both White and Barrette agree that while DSF allows the commission to fulfill its own mission, it also allows Catholics living in the Archdiocese to have the opportunity to become better equipped to fulfill their baptismal call, the primary mission of the Church.
“The DSF supports most of what we do and who we are as Catholics,” said White. “We do not always see it when we attend Mass and participate at our local parish, but supporting DSF enables us to encounter our Lord and experience the richness of our faith.”