PROVIDENCE – A new advisory committee has been formed to continue evangelization efforts throughout the diocese and strengthen the faith of active Catholics by providing increased opportunities for faith formation and spirituality. The committee will build upon the “New Evangelization” popularized by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI challenging Catholics to “proclaim Christ to all people.”
The Diocesan Evangelization Committee, led by Msgr. Jacques L. Plante, director for Evangelization and Pastoral Planning, was established to build upon the accomplishments of the Diocesan Year of Evangelization Preparatory Committee, which conducted the “Catholics Come Home” program with faith formation classes, parish evangelization initiatives and other events held throughout the diocese
“We have so many Catholics who don’t know their faith,” said Msgr. Plante, adding that for those who live in Western countries, “religion has become something somewhat private” and faith is seldom shared or discussed in public.
“In the United States, it’s just about forbidden,” he added. “The goal of this committee is to help parishes and Catholics see that evangelization is the work of the entire church.”
Emphasizing that “society no longer supports our faith,” Msgr. Plante said many children only attend religious education classes to receive first Communion and confirmation, and do not attend Mass at other times.
“Kids do not learn about Jesus Christ in public schools,” he said. “They learn about Roger Williams but not that he was moved by faith.”
Msgr. Plante said the committee will be discussing ways to strengthen parish religious education programs for younger students, developing new opportunities for adult education and individuals who have completed the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults as they continue their faith journey. The committee will also assist parishes in conducting Day of Evangelization programs, similar to those that have already been conducted in several diocesan parishes.
“We want to incultrate a sense of Catholic life,” Msgr. Plante emphasized, adding that Catholics should integrate their faith into every aspect of their lives and just not be attentive to God for an hour a week at Mass.
Noting that Pope Benedict XVI has chosen “new evangelization” as the theme for the 2012 Synod of Bishops that will take place on the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, Msgr. Plante emphasized the importance of the new diocesan committee.
“The world would like us to be quiet about our faith,” he said. “The reality is that we have something good to share.”
Dr. Aurelie Hagstrom, chair of the theology department at Providence College and a member of the Diocesan Evangelization Committee, said that one of the committee’s objectives is to help Catholics become aware that evangelization is everyone’s mission and just not the responsibility of the church hierarchy.
Hagstrom emphasized the vital role that the laity plays in the church.
“It’s one of the best kept secrets in the church that the laity has both a vocation and a mission,” she noted, adding that the work of the committee will help renew the call for lay participation and evangelization.
“This is not a one year campaign,” Hagstrom continued. She said while Catholics Come Home and other programs conducted during the Year of Evangelization “were a way to reignite the flame,” evangelization is an ongoing process that never ends.
David Gillis, a parishioner of St. Joseph Church, Providence, where he co-chairs the parish’s evangelization program, said that he was “incredibly honored and excited to serve” on the new diocesan committee.
Gillis added that especially in our troubled and secular world, Catholics need to “quietly and practically “ live their faith and live according to the Gospel message.
“This is something that we have to do,” Gillis stated. “This world needs God and we as Catholics need to show that … and that he can turn people’s lives around.”