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The call to evangelize

Evangelization Sunday reminds us of our baptismal call

In ancient times, when two strangers met, one might discreetly sketch a rough and curved line in the dirt or sand.

By crossing that line with a line of his own, the second could complete the fish — and signal to the first that he was a follower of Christ.

A single line could either build up the infant church . . . or result in betrayal and a violent death.

We are the living legacy of those who crossed that line. Perhaps it’s time we asked what lines need crossing now.

by Kara Hansen

Evangelization Sunday is coming.

And you don’t have to go any further than your home parish to celebrate it.

Evangelization Sunday — a chance to learn more about the call for all Catholics to spread the Gospel — will be observed at Masses around the archdiocese the weekend of May 3-4, the feast of the Ascension.

The day was selected, said Matt Karr, archdiocesan consultant for evangelization and catechesis, both to coincide with the Ascension and because of the relevance of that weekend’s readings.

“The Gospel that day,” said Karr, “is the passage where the apostles are given the mandate to go and make disciples of all nations.”

That mandate, through baptism, is passed on to all Catholics. Yet statistics show that Catholics are far less likely to actively evangelize than their Protestant counterparts.

In fact, some Catholics might not even be familiar with the term. According to Webster’s, evangelization is first defined as spreading the Gospel and then secondly, as converting people to Christianity.

Evangelization can take many forms, said Karr, some of which — like offering to pray for someone in need — come easily to Catholics.

But many times, he believes, Catholics are reluctant to evangelize because it makes them uncomfortable or because they’re afraid they will not be able to adequately explain the faith or answer questions about it.

Still, said Karr, all Catholics are called to do exactly that.

“It’s an awareness [that] there is something good here happening to me with what God is doing in my life, and I want others to know about it and have a chance to experience it too,” said Karr.

Parishes have been provided an array of materials to invite participation in Evangelization Sunday. Bulletin inserts will help inform parishioners about ways and means to evangelize, and individual surveys will lead them to reflect on their role in evangelizing others.

“I’m excited because this is a day that focuses our attention on the essential mission of the church and we’re bringing that information to all Catholics in the archdiocese,” said Karr. “It’s a day where each Catholic has the opportunity to reflect on how God has worked in their life and how they might be able to share that with others.”

Karr said Evangelization Sunday is just one component of a larger pastoral initiative on evangelization that started in 2007, encompassing all regions of the archdiocese, and will become more visible in the parishes this fall. “Catholic CDs, books and tapes, or even Web sites you can pass along can be simple ways to evangelize without having to know all the answers,” said Karr.

Karr said it was important to remember God works differently in each person’s life, and all evangelization does is provide the opportunity for a person to hear about the Catholic faith. “We know sharing the faith with others is important. Hopefully, people can come away with an idea of what it looks like and how to do it,” said Karr.

About the author

Kara Hansen

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