The Holy Spirit and Evangelization

One of the primary works of the Holy Spirit is to bring all people into a meaningful encounter with the Risen Christ. Guided by His Spirit, we can truly discover Jesus Christ and develop a genuine relationship with Him if we generously respond with utter submission. Soon enough, Christ’s love becomes the center of our lives, saturating us with joy and peace. Hence, when we have had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ by the Spirit’s power, our greatest desire is that our loved ones may also enjoy a similar experience. Nevertheless, we’re often unsuccessful when attempting to evangelize to those closest to us. Consequently, we sometimes feel impatient or discouraged, confused or frustrated, saddened or hopeless.

The Holy Spirit pours within us the zeal to give witness to Christ and to evangelize to our loved ones. Moreover, it is only this same Spirit that can empower us to do so effectively. However, we must become cognizant of those sins and obstacles in our lives that impede the Spirit from guiding us freely. Once we perceive what they are, we ought to seek out the Lord’s forgiveness in Confession, collaborate with the Spirit in removing these barriers from our lives, while permitting Him to empower us to bear witness to Christ regardless of the circumstances and consequences we endure in His name.

Christ commissions His followers to evangelize and give witness. While this ought to occur instinctively as a result of our new life in Him, it is beneficial to consider how the Sacred Scriptures offer a number of passages on giving witness to God and evangelizing through our manner of living. In particular, Paul the Apostle shares with us some foundational instructions for witnessing and evangelizing:

“Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun set on your anger, and do not leave room for the devil. . . No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. [And] be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.” (Eph 4:25-27, 29-32)

This scriptural passage identifies five suggestions for evangelizing effectively and giving witness to Christ:

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            Recently, a lay minister reflected upon an experience she underwent at her parish. They had assembled an Evangelization ministry to begin offering Bible and Faith Formation classes to adults. One Sunday, she was requested by the celebrant to briefly speak about this formational opportunity to the parishioners before the final blessing and inquire who would be interested. When she asked the congregation of about 150 people, less than five individuals raised their hand expressing a desire to participate. She was certainly disappointed.

            The lack of interest some Catholics have in deepening their understanding and appreciation of the Catholic Faith is a cause for concern. If Catholics do not know why the Church teaches what it teaches, then it becomes increasingly difficult to comprehend, explain, and defend the Faith. Consequently, it increases the likelihood that they will gradually become less dedicated to the Catholic Church and her teachings.

            As pastoral ministers, we ought to examine why this has been occurring in our parishes, determine what should be done about it, and respond prudently to this crucial issue. We must begin by looking at what the history of our parish is when it comes to evangelization. How have we attempted to motivate our parishioners in the past and how can we effectively encourage them today? How have we endeavored to engage them in the parish’s various catechetical and faith forming programs and services? How do the faithful presently understand and celebrate the sacraments? What instructions and teachings have they heard and received on Catholicism? How have we used the opportunities that have arisen to form our parishioners in the Catholic Faith? These are some of the questions that an Evangelization ministry may need to discuss not only to better examine the cause of the disinterest or lack of enthusiasm some of our churchgoers have in faith formation but to also formulate the necessary pastoral approach to Evangelization that their particular parish needs. 

Do you want to proclaim the Good News convincingly and to transform lives for Christ?

Then, the following six things are essential for an effective Evangelization program and ministry: 

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How can we minister more effectively…

…to young Latino Catholics and help them increase their participation in the Church? These are key questions that are frequently raised and that must be acknowledged and studied carefully as we consider the future of the Catholic Church as well as her numerical growth. If we bear in mind that 44% of all Catholics under the age of thirty in the U.S. are Hispanics (according to the 2013 Pew Research Center survey of Hispanic adults) it would certainly seem that increasing Hispanic teenagers’ participation in the Church would be beneficial not just for Hispanic families and communities, but also for the future Church in general. Therefore, it is crucial that we comprehend what is happening in their lives to effectively minister to Hispanic teenagers. Indeed, family plays a big part, but what we often neglect is how significantly culture impacts the life of an adolescent. 

Latino Catholics are currently the largest youth segment under eighteen.

The available statistics suggest that many of these young U.S. Latino Catholics are children born to foreign-born parents, while some Latino teenagers are themselves foreign-born. Hence, these adolescents are constantly exposed to two differing cultures, requiring them to discover how to adequately navigate life while interacting with their culture of origin as well as U.S. mainstream culture. Certainly, this presents a major challenge for most teenagers given that these two cultures are dissimilar in their customs, dress, social norms, values, and views of life…

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The Need to Reflect as We Serve

            Our ministerial life and “work” do not necessarily begin or end during the hours we have designated for active service: we are always ministers of God. The calling we have received from Him is an invitation to be present for the Lord and for others at all times. Therefore, true ministering demands sacrifice, generosity, and commitment. Sacrificial service requires us to renounce our self-interests and to attend to the interests of God and His people. Generosity puts sacrificial service into motion with great liberality, and commitment encourages us to do so continuously with dedication and perseverance.

            These three characteristics serve to remind us that an indispensable part of our ministry is when we are not actively ministering. Indeed, it is at those moments when we process more fully what happened and what did not. This processing is not simply an intellectual exercise—God is at work, speaking to us and revealing once again how He is always present in our lives. Therefore, it is a period of reflection that is guided by the Spirit to help us comprehend what God is doing and what He wants from us. He brings to light His loving, active plan of salvation, and His desire through our willing sacrifice, generosity, and commitment.

            Because we are called to serve and want to do so well, it is necessary to create time for reflection outside of our active service because this helps us grow as ministers. However, theological reflection’s effectiveness depends upon putting God at the center and not putting our desire to acquire knowledge and insight above God’s glory—for its ultimate purpose is to praise, love and follow Him more. Once we put God at the center of theological reflection, we realize how God makes Himself—and His thoughts—accessible to us to lovingly guide us. Over time, a willing service that precedes and succeeds theological reflection will convince us of the truth that we are always ministers of Jesus Christ, called to reflect and to serve with sacrifice, generosity, and commitment to God’s glory and our salvation.

An Experience Full of Reflection

            As ministers, we will occasionally have moments of epiphany in which we encounter a person whose situation would bring us to deeper theological reflection. For many years now, I have known this person named “Mary.” She is an older parishioner that, for a long time, has struggled with a host of health issues. The ability to consistently and effectively cope with her numerous physical illnesses has been a grinding battle for her due to the inner combat she confronts on a daily basis because of her depression. Sadly, her physical illnesses and depression have created in her life a vicious cycle of unhealthiness. There have been many occasions in which I have sat with her to pray with and for her. Very often it would be after her return to the church following an extended period of absence in which she sought to isolate herself. Sometimes, it would be during her self-exclusion.

            One Friday long ago, Mary left me a voicemail informing me that she was not going to church that day because she was at the hospital. She stated that she had gotten severely burned with hot cooking oil that previous Wednesday and was currently being treated at the hospital’s Burn Center. Though she left me a telephone number where she could be reached, I kept getting a busy signal every time I called. I was not only frustrated that I could not speak with her but also concerned that she would probably think that no one cared for her. For six days I prayed and thought about how she was doing—physically, mentally, and spiritually—while I was unable to speak with her until I was finally able to visit her at the hospital a week later…

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How This Site Was Born…

Catholicism FELT is a result of years of prayer, discernment, study, and ministering, which in turn serve to inform the content presented here. Catholicism FELT endeavors to examine the relationships between Catholicism and faith, evangelization, life, and theology. This site hopes to share insights and experiences that relate to the invitation to be faithful, well-informed Catholics. It seeks to make sense of what we believe and sense of the challenges we experience daily as we attempt to follow Christ. For this, we turn to 4 important words for us as Catholics…

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