There is a disturbing reality occurring in our nation, within our Catholic churches: Catholics are losing their faith. Somewhere in the recent history of the Church, the faithful have lost sight of the mission that Christ entrusted to all of us, the mission to evangelize. Instead of striving for true discipleship and drawing others into the life of Christ, Catholics are simply going through the motions and doing what is minimally required to retain their “Catholic” identity. The sacraments have become steps towards “graduation” from the faith, instead of initiation into the life of the Trinity. Catechesis has become a matter of memorizing abstract formulas and random faith facts, instead of a means of putting people in touch with the Person of Jesus.
Some common pitfalls that pastors and parish staff may encounter when attempting to renew their parishes:
- They look to programs to solve the problems.
- They expect to evangelize by inviting parishioners to church activities.
- They fall into the temptation to avoid the more difficult course of action — Relational Ministry.
Pastoral teams may find themselves making some critical mistakes as they genuinely work to implement renewal:
- They fail to establish a prayer warrior team to combat the efforts of evil forces that are already present.
- They fail to create a comprehensive plan for renewal.
- They then drop the plan when they encounter struggle.
The ministry of NEM works to combat these common pitfalls and critical mistakes.
Everything we do within the doors of our churches assumes one critical point: That everyone who participates in the life of the Church has already experienced the conversion that occurs when one encounters Jesus in a personal relationship! But if this initial conversion never takes place, then whatever catechesis is presented makes no sense and only becomes a burdensome list of rules and obligations. If this initial conversion never takes place, Jesus remains someone who they know about, but they may never come to know him in a profound, life-changing way. If this conversion never takes place, the baptized never become evangelists, because they cannot give what they do not have themselves! We cannot lead others to Christ if we do not personally know Him or know the way to Him!
Following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Paul VI, our late Holy Father John Paul II continued to call attention to these issues and challenged every member of the faithful to work towards a solution, which he referred to time and again as the “New Evangelization”:
…There is an intermediate situation in countries with ancient Christian roots, and occasionally in the younger Churches as well, where entire groups of the baptized have lost a living sense of the faith, or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church, and live a life far removed from Christ and his Gospel. In this case what is needed is a “new evangelization” or a “re-evangelization.”— Redemptoris Missio, para. 33