Thursday, May 8, 2014

Easter and the New Evangelization

By Ted Furlow, Director
Diocesan Office of Planning

Easter Sunday has always been my favorite, He is risen! It doesn’t get much better.

I can remember them as a young boy, as an altar server, as a young dad, and now as a grandfather. My Easter Sundays have been cold, rainy, and impossibly hot, with the only constant being that they are always “crowded”. On Easter, my Mom was a “pop out of the pew and get to the altar early” kind of gal, always worried that they might run out of hosts due to the overload of strangers.

This Easter was no exception, my church was packed like the 91 on a Friday afternoon, and I was lucky to receive a half a host from a rapidly emptying ciborium. But it was great to see a full church for a change, and despite the jostling in the pews, working around people unsure whether to stand or kneel, and not getting to sit in our “usual spot”, it was good to see new faces. The pews were packed with relatives, friends, and out-of-towners.

Most important, were the CEO Catholics – you know, Christmas and Easter Only. Important, because they are who Pope Francis is calling us to evangelize, to reach out for, and to renew as part of our community. In Evangelii Gaudium, Francis repeatedly refers to the “others”, and our duty to respond to them. These occasional Catholics are a ready example of the target of that evangelization; they are the “others”.

Both the New Evangelization of Francis and the mission of our Diocese call us to proclaim gospel values so that people’s lives may be filled with Hope. On Easter I had a single mom and her darling daughter, perhaps a six year old, sitting in front of us. There were the telltale signs that Sunday Mass was not a regular part of their agenda – the uncertainty of what to do next, the visible curiosity of the little girl about the liturgy, and unfamiliarity with the worship guide.

We have Little Church for the kids on Sunday’s, and the girl was encouraged by her Mom to go with the others. She returned wearing both a wide ribbon banner with “Alleluia” letters glued to it, and a huge smile. It was clear that her Easter experience of God had been a success.

At the kiss of peace, we engaged both the Mom and the girl in conversation, introducing ourselves, welcoming them to our church, commenting on the girl’s enthusiasm, and just trying to be a friendly face in what appeared to be an unfamiliar setting. We continued our conversation at the end of mass and out into the parking lot where we thanked them for coming and hoped that we would see them again.

For Catholics, a bit out of touch on this evangelization thing, there is bound to be a question of how to begin. While theologians and catechist drone on about formation and methodologies, let me offer my thought.

It starts with a smile and saying “hello”.

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