THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
The Call to Come Home
It has been said that if all the non-practicing Catholics were a separate religion, they would be the second largest denomination in the U.S.!
How this must sadden the Sacred Heart of the Good Shepherd! There are so many who have strayed away, who consider religion a very low priority, or who just don’t care. So many children are growing up without knowing about Jesus, without knowing about His Blessed Mother. Does this strike a chord in your heart?
Yes, these people need to be brought back to the Good Shepherd and His Church. The image of a shepherd and a lamb may seem foreign to many of us. So, think of a mother whose little child is lost. She wouldn’t just say, “If he wants to come home, he’ll find his way.” If she did, we would be horrified at her neglectful attitude. Rather, she’ll do all that she can to find him. She’ll look all over, call her neighbors and relatives to help in the search, probably even call the police. She’ll worry about whether he’s cold, whether he’s hungry, whether he’s scared. When he’s found, she’ll rejoice, hug the child over and over, and spread the good news to her friends.
We, too, need to look for the straying Catholics and help them find their way home to Jesus. We can’t just say, “They know where the church is. If they want to come, they’ll come.” The Good Shepherd would never say that.
When we die, the choices we made in this life will determine how we are judged and whether we’ll enter for all eternity the presence of our loving God. This ancient truth is often forgotten in this day and age. Concern for one’s soul and its eternal destiny is more important than concern for material goods, sports, health, technology, and a host of other things that will end when our life ends. Souls will live forever, and are meant for God and heaven! That’s why evangelization is so important! That’s why we need to find and help the neglectful Catholics!
Pope Francis so often reminds us that "it is not enough simply to open the door in welcome...but we must go out through that door to seek and meet the people...beginning with those who are farthest away, with those who do not usually go to church."
Pope Benedict XVI created the Office for the New Evangelization, that is, the re-evangelization of non-practicing Catholics. Pope John Paul II also had this concern in his heart, as did Pope Paul VI in his 1975 document on evangelization. Pope John XXIII put it into everyday words: “The church of God needs to knock on every door, especially that of the average man.”
Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate, since our foundation in 1920, have always known of the huge numbers of Catholics not living their faith, the spiritually neglected children, the straying or lost sheep. These persons are often unknown to the parish priests. With contemplative hearts and in a gentle, non-threatening way, we seek for them in the name of the parish pastor, help them return to Jesus, and instruct them in the faith.
Many stories could be told of people like Joe, returning to confession after 45 years, of Meg accepting baptism on her deathbed, of Ashley finally being allowed by her parents to be instructed and baptized at the age of nine, of Kathy who had felt that God had forgotten her, and Dave, angry at God for the death of his little boy but finally finding peace. These stories, and so many others, will never make the newspapers or television; their publicity is only in heaven. Our apostolate, like confession, is a hidden apostolate dear to the heart of Jesus.
Yes, there are other ways to evangelize, such as through Catholic schools, books and media, and so on, but the Parish Visitor way is to evangelize directly, “face to face and heart to heart,” as did the Good Shepherd.
“The harvest is ready but the laborers are few,” Jesus said, and that’s still so true today. Evangelizers like the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate are needed to gather in the harvest. Will you spread the word to young women with compassionate, faith-filled hearts? Will you pray for more vocations to our community, and for many people to come home to Jesus?