There are tangible things that can and must be done to turn the tide of moral decline in our world…
In July 2007, Dcn. Ralph launched NEM and set out to begin the work of evangelization. Having a fundamental understanding of evangelization, he began to serve parishes. In his efforts to assist their varied needs and paradigms, it didn’t take long to realize that more knowledge and refined methods were needed. In other words, he had to continue in his ministry, but it was also a time for growing in knowledge and understanding. The complexities of parish life are different for every parish. Therefore, the “one program fits all” approach won’t work.
In the Spring of 2010, Dcn. Ralph set out to articulate what he has learned thus far. It was a challenging document with a difficult message. Who wants to read a document that describes the issues that explain why our current methods don’t work? For those who are brave of heart and sincere in their efforts to bring authentic transformation for the Gospel of Christ, we have provided excerpts for your consideration. This is not an indictment of any person or office. It is, we hope, an honest evaluation of our “normal operations” and the effects of the worlds’ influence on them.
The original work is entitled For Your Consideration and was written as an attempt to serve our priesthood in their effort to lead their flocks.
The document re-describes St. Thomas Aquinas’ four reasons why the life of the Holy Spirit does not flow through the hearts of believers. In addition to those reasons; we added three critical issues that are evident in our churches today. We humbly provide this for you with hope that it will help you with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to identify the problems and seek creative solutions to overcome the efforts of the enemy to destroy the Church.
Responding to the Church’s call for a “New Evangelization” and the call of the Holy Spirit to go, I set out 7 years ago into the full-time ministry of evangelization. This preaching and consulting ministry has afforded me the opportunity to travel around the country and see firsthand the issues plaguing our Pastors, their Staff, and the parishes as a whole. It is my sincerest hope that New Evangelization Ministries can become a resource for local Pastors, assisting them in their effort to bring about a revitalized Community, firmly established in God through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Is it possible for one to receive the Holy Spirit and still not know Him? This is the crux of this discussion. Given that we are Baptizing infants who have neither cognitive knowledge nor memory of this event in later years, the answer to this question is an obvious YES. While pointing out key elements of the breakdown of faith seen by all in parish ministry, we will discuss four causes originally cited by St. Thomas Aquinas for why the Holy Spirit does not flow through the life of a Baptized believer. Surrounding these causes we have also identified three critical issues that we believe must be addressed to bring about effective and fruitful evangelization of our Parishioners.
Critical Issue #1 – Lack of Sacrifice and Suffering for the Kingdom
We somehow have lost sight of the fact that ministry is a war in which sacrifices need to be made for the building of the body. Too often, lay and clerical ministers had grown comfortable within their ministry assignments, seeking only to maintain what was currently under way. We must regain our fervor to see those we minister to come to intimate union with Christ!
Critical Issue #2 – The Absence of Testimony
The absence of credible witness from those who know him is a conspicuous void in the ministry of the Church. We lack in our training of Disciples of Christ the instruction of the purpose and methods for giving witness to Christ’s presence now in their everyday lives.
Critical Issue #3 – Parishes Do Not Appear to be Led by the Holy Spirit
We no longer appear to be communities who follow a living God. We appear to be communities who follow a set of rules, programs, and schedules. This leaves little room for something new because “this is the way we have always done things”. One would find it difficult to see signs of the leadership of the Holy Spirit in many of our parishes.
Aquinas Cause #1 – Poor Catechesis and Lack of Devotion
Great efforts are underway by our Bishops to restore substance to our catechesis. Within this substance we need to provide specific material describing and leading our faithful to initial conversion by enacting their free will to ratify the baptismal “Yes” spoken by the parents. Absent of this action, we will strengthen the content without leading them to establish a loving relationship with Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Aquinas Cause #2 – Sin
Sin obviously destroys our relationship with the Holy Spirit and must be addressed. At the core of this cause is the relationship that must be restored. Preaching will be critical but even more important is the experienced presence of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our believers who will reveal to them the truth about sin.
Aquinas Cause #3 – Demonic Influence
Of all causes cited by St. Thomas Aquinas, this cause is the one that is least acknowledged within the local Church. Rarely will I see parishes where acknowledgement of the existence of Demons is openly taught. The forces of evil no longer have a holy nation keeping them at bay. We must not only engage the enemy but also catechize our faithful on their presence and methods for bondage.
Aquinas Cause #4 – Lack of Faith
The results of the previous three causes have reduced our faithful to a limited understanding and little dependence on the person of God for their everyday lives. Faith seems to be more about understanding historical facts and rules than responding to a trust relationship with Jesus, through the Holy Spirit. We must help them establish this relationship.
Conclusion & NEM Response
There are tangible things that can and must be done to turn the tide of moral decline in our world. Parishes need to begin to lead their faithful to the person of the Holy Spirit and instruct them on how a Disciple of Christ walks in the experience, power, and love of the Spirit. New Evangelization Ministries (NEM) is dedicated to assisting local parishes by providing training for Parish Staff (Clergy and Laity working for Parish) and Pastoral Teams (Clergy, Staff, and volunteers in Leadership). We are currently developing Seminars to respond to the critical issues and causes identified above. These seminars are all designed to instruct the staff on how to catechize their faithful into a viable relationship with Christ, through intimate union with the Holy Spirit.