In his 2013 apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis discusses the church’s missionary focus and introduces us to a simple strategy of evangelizing. He calls it the art of accompaniment.
What does Pope Francis mean by this?
“In our world, ordained ministers and other pastoral workers can make present the fragrance of Christ’s closeness and his personal gaze,” he said. “The church will have to initiate everyone — priests, religious and laity — into this ‘art of accompaniment’ which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other” (169).
Pope Francis offered another example of accompaniment while in Brazil for World Youth Day in 2013.
“We need a church capable of walking at people’s side, of doing more than simply listening to them; a church which accompanies them on their journey,” he said. “A church which realizes that the reasons why people leave also contain reasons why they can eventually return. But we need to know how to interpret, with courage, the larger picture.”
Bishop David Ricken has also challenged us to undertake this “art of accompaniment.” His method follows a four-step process:
- Discover Jesus.
- Follow Jesus.
- Worship Jesus.
- Share Jesus.
Every year, the Bishop’s Appeal, the Diocese of Green Bay’s annual fundraising campaign, practices the art of accompaniment by supporting the ministries and services of diocese. In this issue of The Compass, we share the story of Beth Snyder, financial health program coordinator for Catholic Charities in Manitowoc. Through her work, Snyder assists people of all faiths, like Ginny Bauer, whose family nearly lost their home due to a financial crisis.
Catholic Charities accompanies people like Bauer every day on their journeys, thanks to the support of the Bishop’s Appeal. The Compass has been fortunate to report on other stories that demonstrate this art of accompaniment. One of my favorite stories took place last summer.
Ted Phernetton, Catholic Charities executive director, was contacted by Jayne Syrjamaki, who coordinates volunteers at Aurora at Home Hospice. She was hoping Catholic Charities could help make a dream come true for David Marosek of Oshkosh, a hospice patient with terminal cancer. With the help of other diocesan employees, Phernetton was able to provide two tickets for Marosek to see the Green Bay Packers play the San Francisco Giants last September.
“We work hard to bring the Gospel to life and to help where we can,” Phernetton told The Compass. In November, Phernetton received word that Marosek passed away. We hope that his lifetime wish to attend a Packers game made the news of David’s passing somewhat easier for his friends and family.
The art of accompaniment can happen in different ways, but a common denominator can be found in the Bishop’s Appeal, which funds such opportunities, thanks to the generosity of everyday Catholics.
Please contribute to the Bishop’s Appeal this year. Know that your donation goes to support the work of people like Ted Phernetton, Beth Snyder and many others, “missionaries of hope” who walk with people on their journeys, seeking to share Jesus in any way they can.