Several weeks ago, Father Eugene “Geno” Sylva, an official with the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, visited EWTN. During our interview, he spoke about a 2005 book, “Pillars of Faith,” in which Author Nancy Ammerman presented the results of a study of more than 300,000 U.S. congregations. She asked them if they thought talking about their faith with others was important.
Fr. Geo said the numbers broke down like this: “Conservative Protestants were 75 percent; African-American Protestants were 50 percent; Roman Catholics were 6 percent.”
SIX percent! Staggering, isn’t it? Yet, if you’re like most Catholics, this whole topic makes you profoundly uncomfortable. The question is: Why?
Fr. Sylva says it has a lot to do with a misunderstanding of what the world perceives as the greatest “value.”
“Cardinal George said four years ago in a beautiful chapter of one of his books that the most controversial line of the Creed is: ‘I believe in one God, the Father Almighty.’ Having an Almighty God flies I the face of what is perceived as the greatest value and that is individual freedom. Anything that is against my will is an affront to me and has to be changed or done away with. We’re afraid to offend. But I say to young adults I work with, ‘If someone was starving in front of you, wouldn’t you offer food? Your friends are starving for meaning and purpose and joy. Provide them with the food of Christ that will give them what they’re starving for!’”
Our world today has been greatly influenced by secularism and relativism and apathy, if not outright hostility, towards God. Fr. Geno says it’s going to take passionate, committed, Catholics who are in love with Jesus Christ and their Faith to counter such apathy.
Father Sylva said that, two years ago, the Diocese of Patterson, N.J. opened up a Catholic Center for Evangelization. One simple thing they did was host nights or days for people who had left the Church. “We would listen and try to heal without getting defensive – to just be present,” he said. “To me, this is part of the New Evangelization.”
Another program involved people recovering from various addictions. “Every Sunday morning, we invited people in any kind of 12-step program to come. We would take one of the 12 steps and reflect on it from Scripture and tradition. Then, Mass would be celebrated. If people wanted to come, okay. If not, okay.”
Father said many people chose to stay – and the healings were inspiring.
“I just hope that people don’t perceive our New Evangelization as being solely motivated by the numbers. Maybe that shocked us into an awareness, but the New Evangelization is a grace of the Church itself. It is why Christ founded the church. This is who we are!”
So, here’s the question, how do YOU bring people to Christ?