You may have noticed that our churches are not as full as they once were. The reasons for this drop in attendance and in the practice of the faith are myriad but rather than become discouraged, we can choose to see the opportunity before us:
How can we fulfill the urgent mission of evangelization that’s been entrusted to us? How do we share Christ with those who don’t know Him?
And that’s where it gets exciting. We’ve got the best news in the whole world — God loves us and sent His Son Jesus to redeem us and free us! We don’t have to live in fear or despair or darkness.
That’s the message of hope that needs to be shared with love. Yet sometimes it seems like the Catholic Church is known only for what it opposes instead of what it proposes. That’s unfortunate because getting bogged down in the “thou shalt nots” threatens to overshadow the Good News. The Church need men and women to follow what St. Peter tells us, that we should “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope (1 Pet. 3:15).”
My mind goes back to an account I once read about St. John Neumann. When he was bishop of Philadelphia, he asked priests to offer incredibly early Sunday morning Masses to accommodate the pressmen who wanted to keep the Lord’s Day holy but still needed to report on time for their shift at the newspaper plant.
It was a brilliant move that showed how the Church can adapt so as to meet people right where they are and minister to them. “But we’ve never had a 4:30 a.m. Mass before!” “Well, now we do,” I can imagine St. John Neumann gently telling pastors who may have objected to rising well before the rooster.
Innovation. Creativity. A fervent love of God and determination to overcome obstacles in offering that love. These are the marks of an evangelizer eager to share the saving message of Jesus Christ with others. It’s what we’re called to in this challenging time, for as Pope St. Paul VI wrote in Evangelii Nuntiandi, the Church “exists to evangelize.” And that means you and me and every other baptized Catholic.
It’s time we adopt that creative genius of St. John Neumann and try a fresh approach. If people aren’t coming to church, why don’t we go to where they are?
That’s exactly what’s going to happen when thousands of football fans begin wending their way through the streets of downtown Phoenix toward the Phoenix Convention Center Feb. 9 – 11 to participate in the NFL Super Bowl Experience event.
Situated directly across the street from the Diocesan Pastoral Center, the three-day extravaganza poses the perfect opportunity to meet people right where they are and offer them faith, hope and love. To carry out that mission, the Diocese of Phoenix will have an evangelization table on Monroe Street in front of the DPC Feb. 9 – 11 during the hours of the NFL Super Bowl Experience event.
Trained volunteers will offer pamphlets, flyers, rosaries, Miraculous Medals, St. Benedict Crucifixes and information about how to participate in the Christ in Our Neighborhood small-group Scripture study program. They’ll also engage in conversations and pray with people who stop by the table. Priests will be nearby to hear confessions or just to talk with people who need some spiritual guidance.
The Super Bowl evangelization mission won’t be a time for debate but rather for connection as we reach out to those on the margins who don’t know Jesus or who have wandered away from His love.
We take as our model St. Frances Xavier Cabrini who once said, “I will go anywhere and do anything in order to communicate the love of Jesus with those who do not know Him or have forgotten Him.”
How about you? How will you share the hope of Christ today with those you encounter?
Information about how to volunteer and more details about the NFL Super Bowl Experience evangelization event: [email protected].