‘Everyone called to evangelization,’ says speaker

By | March 21, 2012

The new evangelization served as the theme for the two-day conference. In the opening session, Msgr. East explored the roots of evangelization in Scripture. He then progressed into putting evangelization into practice.

Msgr. East pointed to Jesus as the teacher of the new evangelization. He used John 4:39, the story of Jesus and the woman at the well as an example.

“God does not call the perfect to evangelize,” said Msgr. East. “God perfects those who are called. The first principle in the life of an evangelizer is conversion. (The woman at the well) changed her life. We start to channel Jesus and his power.”

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Msgr. Ray East, pastor of St. Teresa of Avila Parish in southeast Washington, D.C., talks with Deacon David Kowalski from Stella Maris Parish in Egg Harbor at Team Days March 15. (Rick Evans | For The Compass)

 

Msgr. East added that the home is the center for evangelization. He also stressed the importance of having a testimony to share as a form of evangelizing.

“You need to share the story about how you realized that you needed church and became committed to Christ,” he said. “Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior? We do every time at Mass.”

The use of technology was both encouraged and on display at Team Days. Msgr. East emphasized the value of good parish websites and the use of social networking, such as Facebook and Twitter. He promoted Pope Benedict XVI’s Lenten Tweets, www.twitter.com/Pope2YouVatican, which he works into homilies. Matthew Livingstone, web and social media administrator for the diocese, posted Twitter updates during the conference.

Evangelization requires the faithful to “ignite, invite and trust,” explained Msgr. East. To ignite, we must “bring about in all Catholics such an enthusiasm that we want to share it with someone else.”

Catholics must invite all and be willing to take risks, he said. “We are a little scared. If God is calling you, he is going to help you.”

The San Diego native took an interactive approach throughout, inviting participants to share comments, suggestions and examples. Parish staff, leadership and volunteers offered the best practices from their faith community.

Examples ranged from door hangers inviting people to the church to programs that unite people by serving those in need. Participants were encouraged to post their best practices on the new website, http://parishes.gbdioc.org.

Msgr. East also spoke about the importance of “take away things” at the parish. When someone visits the parish office, “I like the idea of sending them home with a bag of items or a packet of information,” he said. His parish has its own religious goods store. St. Teresa also does its own publishing of both recordings and print materials to help connect with people.

Parish websites and favorite Catholic websites were displayed on a large screen for discussion at Team Days. Msgr. East also invited participants to share parish bulletins. He praised the creativity of the parishes dealing with the challenges of linked parishes with multiple worship sites. To stay connected to college students from the parish, he encouraged sending the bulletin by email.

Another suggestion from the featured speaker involved Internet browsing.

“We parish shop,” said Msgr. East. “My parish is on the shopping list. When someone is searching (online) for a parish in our area, we float to the top of the Google list. Try to make sure your website pops up at the top of the list.”

In addition to all being called to evangelize, we must evangelize to all, said Msgr. East, even those who appear to be engaged Catholics.

“For those who are on fire, why aren’t they more on fire?” he asked.

He also addressed the challenges of reaching those who have left the church for various reasons. Msgr. East shared that he has six siblings and even though he is a pastor, some of his family members are not active in their faith.

“I pray every day that everyone would be engaged Catholics,” he said. “What’s missing? What are the challenges? What needs to be done? We need to create pathways to get them back.”

In closing one particular session, Msgr. East pointed out the personal flaws of Noah, Jacob, Isaiah and others who were called.

“Lazarus was dead,” he said. “God used them all. No more excuses. Let’s go out and evangelize.”   

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