Phil Lawson, director of evangelization and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington, will present a series of August workshops throughout Vermont on evangelization.
Asked to define evangelization, he said “it is simply the sharing of Jesus Christ with those around us.”
“Let’s Talk about the New Evangelization” is the title of the workshops open to all but especially beneficial to parish staff, volunteers, parish committee members, directors of religious education, priests, pastors and interested lay people.
Topics will include: What is the New Evangelization? Why is the Church calling for it? and How does it apply to Vermont?
The free diocesan workshops are being offered to provide history and insight into what this new evangelization is and to equip the faithful with tools and ideas to enrich their parishes and communities.
Each workshop will include the “what, why, who and how” of evangelization. The goal is to begin the conversation among Catholics with regard to evangelization in Vermont. Participants also will spend some time in prayer and brainstorming as they look to move forward.
Father Julian Asucan, administrator of Our Lady of Grace and Holy Cross churches in Colchester, said he agreed to host the event because it is an opportunity for parishioners and others to learn more about their faith.
But evangelization is a particularly pertinent topic currently because “at this time of challenges” in the Diocese of Burlington and in the Church in general “lots of young people are lukewarm in their faith especially in attending church regularly.”
He welcomes parishioners of other area parishes to attend the evangelization program at Holy Cross Church.
Every follower of Christ is told to go out and share the joy and mercy they have received. “The Church has always sought to spread the Good News. This is our particular calling and opportunity in Vermont,” Lawson said. “One look at the statistics tells a striking tale, as in 2003, an average of roughly 44,000 Catholics attended Mass each weekend. By 2013, that number had dropped to 24,000.” The numbers for yearly baptisms, first Communions, Confirmations and marriages have all followed a similar pattern.
“Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus. The people of God is a people of disciples because we receive the faith and a missionary people because we pass on the faith,” he said.
“We have to go to where the people are! That’s what Pope Francis is calling for, right?” Lawson commented. “In addition, the Church sees the parish as the center for its evangelization efforts…If we’re going to assist with that, we need to go to the parishes themselves.”
After the conversations, “we see where the Lord is directing our efforts and the next stage in the adventure of Christian life, discipleship and mission begins,” Lawson said. “While Christ is the center of all our efforts and lives, the concrete efforts will vary from parish to parish.”
The goal is for each parish to have this conversation and prayerfully move forward in deeper lives of faith and intentional outreach in their communities.
“Think about when a couple gets engaged. They can’t help but share their joy with everyone around them,” Lawson said. “In a similar way, our relationship with Jesus should change our life and be visible in how we conduct our lives. And much like the newly engaged couple, we should be happy to share our joy with others and invite them into it.”
For more information about the free workshops, call 802-658-6110 or go to www.vermontcatholic.org/ne/img/TheNewEvang_Poster_1.pdf
Article written by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer.