Building on Pope Paul VI's call to evangelization, St. Pope John Paul II called for a new evangelization. "Evangelization, he insisted, cannot be new in its content, since its theme is always the one gospel given by Jesus Christ. If it arose from us and our situation, he says, it would not be 'gospel' but mere human intervention, and there would be no salvation in it. Evangelization, however, can and should be new in its ardor, its methods and its expression. It must be heralded with new energy and in a style and language adapted to the people of our day." (John Paul II and the New Evangelization by Ralph Martin and Peter Williamson, editors, Servant Press 2006, p 5)
In our day, many of baptized and confirmed Catholics, even those who regularly attend Mass, do not have a personal relationship with Jesus. They have yet to encounter the Person. These practicing Catholics may not feel confident enough in their faith to be comfortable in sharing it with others. Because of this, many of the things that we used to take for granted, such as the faith being passed from generation to generation, or even that most parishioners know the basic story of salvation and can articulate it, is no longer necessarily the case. For many of our parishioners, faith is not something that influences their day-to-day lives. Faith has become an hour at Mass on Sunday, and a checklist of sacraments to be completed. If the faith has little or no impact in how we live our lives, how can the faith touch those around us? If our faith has become stale and without flavor, how can it flavor the culture? Therefore, the first focus of the New Evangelization must be a renewal of faith for ourselves, an encounter with Jesus Christ, so that we may become witnesses of the love of Christ for our neighbors, friends and families.
In the New Evangelization, we also need to use all the new tools and methods at our disposal. We need to use new media as our Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI challenged all of us in his address to Catholic bloggers at the recent Digital Witnesses Conference. He said "Without fear we must set sail on the digital sea facing into the deep with the same passion that has governed the ship of the Church for two thousand years. Rather than for, albeit necessary, technical resources, we want to qualify ourselves by living in the digital world with a believer's heart, helping to give a soul to the Internet's incessant flow of communication."(Vatican Radio)
No matter whether we use modern technology or speak face to face, we must remember that evangelization is primarily about introducing people to Jesus. It is all about relationship. In order to reach out to anyone, we "must touch the lives of others, interact with them, and show them how the faith answers the deepest questions and enriches modern culture...Christ is the one who teaches us to evangelize, to invite people to communion with him, and how to create a culture of witness: namely through love." (Disciples Called to Witness)
The Office of Evangelization exists to help parishes, groups and individuals in the diocese to become confident and empowered to share the story of Christ anew in our parishes and beyond. We offer assistance and training in forming Parish Evangelization Teams, Workshops, and Resources. In addition, the Office of Evangelization works in collaboration with other Diocesan offices and ministries to assist parishes in their ministry.