As the Church looks ahead to both the Year of Faith (Oct. 11, 2012-Nov. 24, 2013) declared by our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in his Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei (Door of faith) and the October 2012 Synod of Bishops on “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith” our pastor, Father John Cregan, gathered in Rome last month with thousands of participants from around the world at a conference to discuss efforts in the New Evangelization. The meeting was organized by the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, established by Pope Benedict in June 2010, with the theme “New Evangelizers for the New Evangelization - The Word of God grows and spreads.”
Father Cregan said he was invited because he is a spiritual director for the international group Youth 2000. “The whole purpose was to gather input for this new office they have for the New Evangelization initiative and that will be presented to the bishops next year when they come for the Synod,” he said. On Saturday, Oct. 15 the conference participants met the Pope in the Paul VI Audience Hall and on Sunday, Oct. 16 they attended Mass celebrated by the Pope in Saint Peter’s Basilica.
Knowledge of the faith was a key message of the conference. “If we are going to evangelize, we have to know our faith -- make sure that you are truly a faithful Catholic follower of Jesus, that you embrace all the teachings of the Church and that you know your faith,” said Father Cregan. “We can’t give what we don’t have.”
The Pope himself described the world’s need for the New Evangelization in June 2010 when he established the new Pontifical Council, saying its “principal task will be to promote a renewed evangelization in the countries where the first proclamation of the faith has already resonated and where Churches with an ancient foundation exist but are experiencing the progressive secularization of society and a sort of ‘eclipse of the sense of God.’”
Father Cregan pointed out, “Where secularism and relativism come together is this loss of the understanding of moral absolutes, that there is Truth. It is a reality. … If we don’t embrace the Truth and see that there are moral absolutes it hurts us and we lose an awful lot. The secular world basically doesn’t look up, they look this way (horizontal) and values are lost.”
How does someone participate in the New Evangelization? Father Cregan explained, “To me it’s one on one. It’s (through) the people that God brings into your life and He wants you to be an instrument of the truth coming to these people. (It’s through) little things, like you go to work and say to someone ‘I hear your mother is very sick. I want you to know yesterday at church I prayed for your Mom.’ We’re showing ourselves as people of faith.” He also encouraged families to have and read the Catechism of the Catholic Church and for young people to read YOUCAT, a catechism for youth that was distributed at the 2011 World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain.
“When issues come up that are contrary to the teachings of the Church we can speak in a kind, compassionate but very direct way … to help people to see that people don’t go along with the flow,” he added. “You give people something to think about. But then through the joy of your life you make (the faith) very attractive.”
Father Cregan also stressed the importance of the Eucharist and how necessary it is “to develop a love for this gift because it’s a gift of love, it’s a sacrament of love. It is a life changer because it brightens our life with hope and lifts us up above our weaknesses. It’s such an incredible gift …If we stay in holy communion with Jesus through this sacrament, it’s a sure way to Heaven.”