Sharing our faith: Bring it on
BY JULIE CARRIGAN
Evangelization: A couple of years ago, I never would have imagined myself being able to say and use that word comfortably with others.
If asked to explain evangelization, my answer would have been swift and sure: a man in a black suit standing on a street corner passing out pamphlets or that same man knocking on your door on a Saturday morning with a black Bible under his arm, or a television minister pounding a podium and telling people to repent or risk hell.
What changed? For me, it came when our pastor, Rev. Art Becker, called upon our parish graduates of the diocesan Formation for Ministry Program to come together and form an evangelization committee.
As our group discussed all of the reasons people stay away and why people leave, I realized we need to reach a multitude of people who have as many reasons for staying away.
We need to share the Good News.
We share the good news of reconciliation and forgiveness and that Jesus is the greatest lesson. But it doesn't end there. We need to share the good news of who we are and what we do.
We need to remind everyone that we are more than just a weekend faith. We are a seven-day-a-week, 365-days-a-year, year-in and year-out faith.
We need to share the good news of how our food pantries feed the hungry, our bereavement ministries comfort the grieving, our knitting and crocheting ministries provide warmth and our service committees deliver meals to homeless shelters.
Our faith formation ministries make faith come alive for our young people; our senior outreach ministries support caregivers and visit shut-ins; and our eucharistic ministers bring the body of Christ to those who cannot come to the table themselves.
But it doesn't stop there, either. I believe that we need to open our doors and invite everyone in to see for themselves.
At our parish, we have had an open house and we are planning a family day, a senior day and a parish retreat for next Lent. A couple of evenings of open discussion and interaction for those who have been away would be great.
There are many ways to do this; we simply need to realize that the time has come to start. For me, evangelization is all about open hearts, open arms and open doors.
More than ever before or certainly more than I can remember in my Catholic lifetime, we need to shake off our reticence and speak up about what is good and right and wonderful about our faith.
We can't sit and wait for someone else to do it. It is up to each of us to let it be known what we as Catholics are really all about: an amazing God and an amazing love; reconciliation and forgiveness for all; open doors and open arms.
Come in. All are truly welcome in this place. Catholics: more than 1.16 billion strong and growing every day. Evangelization: bring it on.
(Julie Carrigan is a member of Holy Trinity parish in Cohoes and is active in several groups there. She is a graduate of the Diocese's Formation for Ministry Program.)
The Albany Diocese recently launched a three-year evangelization and renewal program, "Amazing God," which will feature parish evangelization teams. Read a previous story here.