This is your moment to evangelize, convocation delegates told

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Carol Zimmermann

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl urged participants at the “Convocation of
Catholic Leaders: The Joy of The Gospel in America” to take a look at each
other in the hotel ballroom and realize that they, as lay leaders in the
church, are responsible for spreading the Gospel message and they shouldn’t
waste the moment.

“This is not something new
that we haven’t heard before,” he told the delegates in Orlando in a July 2 keynote address.

The cardinal stressed the sense
of urgency of evangelizing and inviting others to Christ, stressing that
Catholics have a perfect role model for this in Pope Francis, who has
continually presented the church as inviting and open.

Cardinal Wuerl also acknowledged
that Catholics are not always comfortable with the idea of evangelizing but
they need to be willing to step out of themselves and talk with people about
their faith as part of an encounter often spoken of by Pope Francis.

An encounter is not meant to
tell people “they can be as wonderful as we are,” the cardinal said.
It is about telling them about Christ. He also noted that as people take this
Gospel message out to the peripheries that doesn’t just mean economic peripheries
either but spiritual ones as well.

People need to be asked about
their faith and encouraged in it, he added.

He spoke about an experience he
had on a plane where a woman sitting beside him asked him if he was “born
again.” When he said he was at his baptism, his seatmate said: “You
Catholics are big into this church thing, aren’t you?”

She then asked him to tell her
more and joking, he told the crowd: “You asked for it!”

His point was that many people
have questions or even misconceptions about faith and need to be part of a
conversation about it.

Stressing that church members
today, as always, are called to be evangelizing disciples, the cardinal said
this role requires courage, a sense of urgency, compassion and joy.

A panel of church leaders who
spoke just before the cardinal, similarly stressed the need to evangelize in
simple ways of sitting and eating together, sharing conversion stories, and
also reaching out to parishioners and urging them to be more involved.

The cardinal and many of the
panelists also emphasized that reaching out to others requires a reconnection
of one’s personal faith.

Or as Bishop Frank J. Caggiano
of Bridgeport, Connecticut, said: “If you want to go out in world, start by
going in.”

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