Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay, Wis., recently established a Department of New Evangelization for his diocese.
He responded to questions from the Register in writing about how he and his flock are reaching out to those in need of hearing the Gospel of Christ.
From where did the idea for the Department of New Evangelization come?
The idea for the Diocese of Green Bay’s Department of New Evangelization is the fruit of much prayer and guided by the Holy Spirit.
This new department was created to align more closely with the diocesan pastoral plan which I promulgated on June 12, 2011 — the Solemnity of Pentecost. The plan, entitled "Parishes: Called to be Holy, Fully Engaged, Fully Alive," focused on six pastoral areas that the diocese and its 157 parishes would commit themselves to develop during the next five to seven years, so they can better carry out the mission of the Church — of bringing the Gospel to the world. One of the focus areas was evangelization. This plan to renew parish vitality began back in 2009, as leaders within the diocese set out to develop a diocesan visioning process that could identify how and where parishes were prepared to grow.
Although it will take many years to see the totality of the abundance of fruits connected to these efforts, there are beginning to be clear signs of growth in our parishes.
We step forward in confidence, understanding the vital role of each and every parish, and commit ourselves to assist them to realize their dreams and strengthen their mission into the future.
The work of the New Evangelization is integral to the life of the Church — indeed, the Church exists in order to evangelize, and we in the Diocese of Green Bay are committed to creating a culture of intentional discipleship in our homes, parishes and communities.
Please define what you mean by "New Evangelization."
The New Evangelization calls each of us to deepen our own faith, to believe in the Gospel message, to seek opportunities to grow in faith and to go forth to proclaim the Gospel with courage and joy.
The New Evangelization invites each Catholic to renew his or her relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church. The New Evangelization is often a matter of reaching out and inviting someone who may not have come to church for some time, to let them know that they are missed, that we want them and need them in church, so that they can journey with us.
The New Evangelization calls us ever deeper into a life of holiness, so that we can truly be engaged in our faith and our communities in order to be fully alive in Christ.
What are the department’s main objectives?
Taken from my pastoral letter, the goals of the Department of New Evangelization include: developing a missionary approach to our outreach to both those who are not familiar with the Gospel or the Church (evangelization) and to those who may have fallen out of familiarity with the Church (the New Evangelization); "re-proposing" the faith to those who have fallen away, with a personal invitation to return to church; helping our parishioners to evangelize others by telling them about Jesus, who is the Son of God, the Savior of the world and the one who forgives our sins (we will help our parishioners to invite others to our churches and invite them to become Catholic); showing our people how to overcome the fear of sharing their faith with others and how to converse about and live the Gospel in various real-life situations.
In addition, a strategic-ministry plan will be created for the Department of New Evangelization focusing on support and specific initiatives to create an intentional culture of discipleship in the Diocese of Green Bay.
What are the department’s biggest challenges?
As Cardinal [Donald] Wuerl has stated, we are experiencing a "tsunami of secularism" in the current culture. This is a challenge that the Church must confront with the Gospel message of hope and love.
All ministries of the Church will face this challenge, but it is only by the power of Christ, through the holy Church and her authentic witness of believers, that we can confront this tsunami of secularism and claim the culture for Christ.
What are your hopes and expectations?
It is my hope that all of our parish Masses throughout the diocese will be full every Sunday with faithful who are truly walking with Christ.
It is my dream and hope that youth and young adults are fully accepted as an essential asset to our parishes, becoming fully engaged and fully alive in faith.
It is my hope that our parishioners are so joyful in their faith that they bring home to the Church many of their family members and friends who have fallen away and that they return to full participation in the life of the parish.
Our faith is filled with hope! Let’s open our minds and hearts to Christ, so that, through us, he can make these dreams and hopes a reality. This is the mission of Christ, carried out in the life of our parish communities. This is the work of the New Evangelization.
Marge Fenelon writes from Cudahy, Wisconsin.