Cardinal Wuerl discusses new evangelization at leadership gathering

By Amber Backus | Special to The Compass | November 6, 2013

Convocation provides parish leaders with guidance on new evangelization

GREEN BAY — Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C., delivered a powerful keynote address on the new evangelization at this year’s Leadership Convocation held Oct. 29 at the KI Convention Center.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., speaks to a Leadership Convocation attendee Oct. 29. In his keynote address, the cardinal, author of “New Evangelization: Passing on the Catholic Faith Today,” outlined three main stages of the new evangelization. (Scott Eastman | For The Compass)
Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., speaks to a Leadership Convocation attendee Oct. 29. In his keynote address, the cardinal, author of “New Evangelization: Passing on the Catholic Faith Today,” outlined three main stages of the new evangelization. (Scott Eastman | For The Compass)

“This opportunity to speak about the new evangelization, to speak about what is happening in the church today is, for me, truly a privilege and a joy,” Cardinal Wuerl told the crowd of nearly 500 parish leaders. “(Bishop David L. Ricken) is one of the leaders in our conference in the whole work of catechesis and evangelization and we’re just so grateful for what he brings to this effort in our church throughout the entire country.”

Cardinal Wuerl began his address by recalling his participation in the March papal conclave that elected Pope Francis. The process confirmed to him that the election of the pope truly is the work of the Holy Spirit, he said.

“During that entire time … it’s always about the needs of the church,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “There are no campaigns, no candidates, no nomination speeches, no balloons. … When the doors to the Sistine Chapel close, there is no more speaking, no more talking; there is just prayer and voting.” Cardinal Wuerl was advised that if he listened with his heart, he would know what name to write on the ballot.

Fr. Maximos Davies, right, and Br. Ambrose Vargas, members of the monastic community of Holy Resurrection Monastery in St. Nazianz, stand at a table with religious artwork at the Leadership Convocation held Oct. 29 at the KI Convention Center. The monks were among numerous vendors selling religious goods at the annual conference. (Scott Eastman | For The Compass)
Fr. Maximos Davies, right, and Br. Ambrose Vargas, members of the monastic community of Holy Resurrection Monastery in St. Nazianz, stand at a table with religious artwork at the Leadership Convocation held Oct. 29 at the KI Convention Center. The monks were among numerous vendors selling religious goods at the annual conference. (Scott Eastman | For The Compass)

He recalled that not “one single, major media outlet” had the name of then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio on its list of top prospects. “When they announced Bergoglio, you heard people say, ‘Who?’” Cardinal Wuerl said. It was “the work of the Holy Spirit. I believe that’s what’s happening in the church right now. … Isn’t there a sense of the presence of the Spirit … at work in the life of the church today? That’s what the new evangelization is all about; that’s what the Year of Faith, that concludes this coming month, is all about … opening our hearts to that presence of the spirit.”

Cardinal Wuerl said the work of the new evangelization was the hallmark of Pope Francis’ ministry in Buenos Aires and continues in his new role. “Since he has become pope, we hear over and over again, ‘Go out into this world, don’t stay wrapped up in yourself. Go out and give people the beauty of the Gospel,’” Cardinal Wuerl said. “His papacy is the new evangelization in action. We really don’t need a definition. We just have to look and see. He presents the Gospels in a way that is new. …  He just says what he is doing is telling the story of Jesus in a way that is more simple and profound.

“At times we lose people because they don’t understand what we are saying,” Cardinal Wuerl continued, “because we have forgotten the language of simplicity. We have imported into the church an intellectualism foreign to our people.”

Cardinal Wuerl stressed that Catholics need to “build bridges, not walls” and establish dialogue with all people, including those who do not share the same faith. Being an evangelizer can be as simple as teaching a child the sign of the cross, he said.

“All we have to do is bear witness and people can look, and then as we begin to tell them why, they can begin to see,” Cardinal Wuerl said. He cited four main qualities of a new evangelizer: boldness or courage, connectedness to the church, a sense of urgency, and joy.

Cardinal Wuerl spoke about three main stages of the new evangelization.

n Renew the faith: Cardinal Wuerl said Catholics must proclaim the Gospel to those who have never heard the message and re-propose it to those who have drifted away, but they must renew their own faith first.

n Be confident in the truth of the faith: “We have to once again, all over again, say to ourselves — it’s true,” Cardinal Wuerl said.

n Share the faith: Sharing the faith can take many forms and can be as effortless as asking a friend to come to Mass, he said.

The work of the new evangelization primarily takes place in parishes, Cardinal Wuerl said. “(Parishes) are the natural center of the new evangelization. We are called to recognize that. As your bishop has proposed in his pastoral letter, ‘Parishes: Called to be Holy, Fully Engaged, Fully Alive,’ we recognize that is where this action is taking place.

“This is a new moment in the life of the church; it’s a new Pentecost,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “It’s our turn now to reinvigorate our faith not only today but every day as we move forward. … It’s our turn in that long history of the church simply to say and believe what you and I say and believe all the time, ‘Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again.’”

In addition to Cardinal Wuerl’s keynote address, the Leadership Convocation included Mass, vendor exhibits, lunch and three rounds of workshops. Workshop topics included ecumenism; the Eucharist; reality of human trafficking in Wisconsin; social communications; stewardship; evangelization; leadership skills needed for making disciples; how to be married and stay engaged; engaging children in a culture of distractions; end-of-life care issues; Mass attendance; creating pastoral plans; marriage and family; catechesis; and cultural awareness.

MORE PHOTOS: To view more photos from the Leadership Convocation, go to our Flickr page.

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