[Updated Nov. 29, 2023 with video link]
By Jon Perez
The call to evangelize was the main subject of a second session of an adult faith Awaken series entitled “The Church of the New Evangelization” currently underway in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.
Marilyn Jackson, diocesan Director of Ministry Services, discussed Saint Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (Evangelization in the Modern World) during the presentation Nov. 1 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon.
The evangelization-themed document was written 10 years after Vatican II by Saint Pope Paul VI, and was issued on Dec. 8, 1975. It was written to strengthen the aims of Vatican II to reinvigorate the Catholic Church and reignite missionary zeal among all of the baptized.
Pope Francis has described Evangelii Nuntiandi as one of the greatest pastoral documents, noted Jackson, adding that it is well worth reading for its insights into how to evangelize in the modern world.
“When I stumbled across Evangelii Nuntiandi, it changed the way I thought of myself as a Catholic and it was a time of transition in my life – a time of seeking – and it led to what I call my real moment of conversion,” said Jackson.
“Vatican II was supposed to foster renewal in the Catholic Church. They thought the idea of evangelization would be more effective in the modern world but what had happened was the opposite. Ten years after Vatican II, there wasn’t renewal happening. It was chaos,” she said.
The document was presented by Paul VI as “a matter of encouraging our brethren in their mission as evangelizers, in order that, in this time of uncertainty and confusion, they may accomplish this task with ever increasing love, zeal and joy.” (Evangelli Nuntiandi #1)
Paul VI stressed that the Church exists to evangelize and be a channel of grace to reconcile sinners with God, pointing to Christ’s call in Matthew 28 19:20 to “make disciples of all nations.”
The document begins a focus in the Catholic Church on what has become known as the “new evangelization” – the need to evangelize even those already baptized and in the pews, noted Jackson.
In the exhortation, Paul VI writes: “The Church is an evangelizer, but she begins by being evangelized herself. She is the community of believers, the community of hope lived and communicated, the community of brotherly love, and she needs to listen unceasingly to what she must believe, to her reasons for hoping, to the new commandment of love. She is the People of God immersed in the world, and often tempted by idols, and she always needs to hear the proclamation of the ‘mighty works of God’ which converted her to the Lord; she always needs to be called together afresh by Him and reunited. In brief, this means that she has a constant need of being evangelized, if she wishes to retain freshness, vigor and strength in order to proclaim the Gospel.” (Evangelli Nuntiandi #15)
Grounded in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the pursuit of holiness, the document stresses that evangelization must also be done with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who appeared in tongues of fire to the followers of Jesus on Pentecost, and who continues to animate evangelization today, said Jackson.
“The Holy Spirit works in people. Our actions incite curiosity. We need to speak and own the mission. We must take it seriously and the challenge is to brush off the dust,” said Jackson.
During a discussion session, she posed the question “Why do you think Catholics do not evangelize?” That brought mixed answers, as some said there is a perception that evangelization is only a task for clergy and consecrated religious, while others maintained that Catholics do evangelize, pointing to activities, organizations and ministries that help in evangelization.
The “Church of the New Evangelization” diocesan Awaken Adult Faith series held in fall 2023 is now available on the diocesan YouTube video channel:
- Part 1 – An overview of Vatican II, with Sr. Mirasol Abala: video / article
- Part 2 – Evangelii Nuntiandi (Evangelization in the Modern World), with Marilyn Jackson: video / article
- Part 3 – Spe Salvi (Saved in Hope) with Bishop Mark Hagemoen: video / article
- Part 4 – Christefideles Laici (The Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful) with Sr. Malou Tibayan: video / article
- Part 5 – Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) with Fr. David Tumback – Video link / article coming soon.
Awaken adult faith programs in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon are supported by gifts to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal.
Reporter Jonathan Perez is a parishioner at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon.