Because evangelization is “at the very heart of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Gregory Aymond has established an office whose mission will be to coordinate archdiocesan evangelization efforts and promote eucharistic renewal.
“Jesus specifically told us to go into the world and bring the good news and baptize others,” Archbishop Aymond said. “While all of our various ministries include evangelization, I am pleased to announce that this new office will coordinate and oversee this important effort. I can’t think of a better time to begin this than in the Year of Family and Faith.”
The new Office of Evangelization and Eucharistic Renewal, headed by Todd Amick, will direct, facilitate and coordinate the work of the new evangelization and promote its “essential relation” to Christ in the Eucharist. Within the next six months, Pope Benedict XVI will promulgate an exhortation in response to the recent Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization.
Amick has served since 2008 as the director of the Office of Eucharistic Renewal, which was established by former Archbishop Alfred Hughes to address some of the challenges facing the local church, including lower Mass attendance and “people not really understanding what it is to enter and participate fully in the Mass,” Amick said.
“One of the first insights we had was that these were symptoms – this wasn’t the initial problem,” Amick said. “It was a lack of intimacy with Christ in his Eucharist. If people understand the gift of love that is the Eucharist, the gift that is Christ and that is communicated through the church, and if you realize you are in a family, that changes everything. God invites you to participate in his work.”
One of the working principles of the new office will be “to meet people where they are,” Amick said.
“Christ is the answer to every single question of the human heart,” Amick said. “If we’re going to really meet people in this age and time, we’ve got to know those questions. That is the call of the new evangelization.”
Amick is doing doctoral studies in the new evangelization at the Maryvale Institute in Birmingham, England, the site of the first seminary to reopen in England after the Protestant Reformation. Students from around the world conduct most of their research and do their writing at home, but they gather for two weeks each year in England to share their insights.
“It’s a similar theme – how do we proclaim the good news in this age and in this time?” Amick said.
One of the ideas that came up was to train teams of “intentional disciples” in each parish who could help answer the questions of those who are searching for a deeper faith or seeking to return to the Catholic Church after a long absence.
Amick said a concrete example is what happened during the Catholics Come Home campaign that was launched throughout the archdiocese last year. Some parishes, he said, felt unprepared to reach out to those who came back.
“It would be helpful if there was a group of people of various ages and experience to help people understand what they’re coming home to,” Amick said. “This is one of the ways that teams of intentional disciples could help. One of the largest groups out there is fallen-away Catholics. These are not people who would necessarily go through RCIA because they’ve already received the sacraments of initiation.”
Amick said the members of the evangelization team could help make a “compelling proclamation” of why they are Catholic.
“The question is, ‘Why am I a Catholic?’” Amick said. “That answer needs to have love, Christ and the church. The new evangelization leads to conversion, to formation and then to mobilization.”
If formation is to be successful, Amick said, it needs to be “humble and accessible.”
“If the only time somebody has is driving to and from work, that person needs a CD resource,” Amick said. “He’s not going to come to a weeknight program.”
It’s also important that members of the evangelization team have a diversity of age and life experiences, Amick said.
“If you have some young person saying, ‘I’ve just gone through the motions, but if this is real, it can change everything,’ you want to have a young adult as the point of contact,” Amick said. “If it is a widower, it would be helpful to have someone who has had that experience. The same thing with a young married. Quite often this is not someone looking for a program but a relation. We always have to have the answer to the question, ‘What is the next step?’
“People are seeking the gift that is the promise of Christ. Our job is to lead them to Christ and then get out of the way. We’re not talking about a new program but about a way of being.”
The role of the Eucharist in these new evangelization efforts is pivotal, Amick said, because there are 17 perpetual adoration chapels across the archdiocese available to offer a haven for prayer and contemplation.
“We can bring someone to these chapels so they can spend time with (Jesus),” Amick said.
One bishop told Amick that while good formation is essential in nurturing a relationship with Christ, spending time in eucharistic adoration was equally important.
“The bishop told me about one person, ‘The sacraments made him a Catholic, but his time in adoration – his union with Christ – made him a very good Catholic,’” Amick said.
Amick will meet with various archdiocesan offices over the next several months to assess what each office can do to “share in the work of the new evangelization.” He has formed a new evangelization advisory board, with members ranging from college professors and school principals, to glean additional ideas.
The New Evangelization Society, a group of Catholics interested in promoting their faith, is growing in size and has been reviewing Father Robert Barron’s “Catholicism” video series during its most recent meetings.
“We’ve got these hidden opportunities,” Amick said. “If we miss them, it’s on us.”
For more information on the Office of Evangelization and Eucharistic Renewal, contact Amick at 482-8010. Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.