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Book Review: New catholic agenda detailed for parishes

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As facilitator of my parish spiritual book club, I am always looking for books to discuss that promise to inform and inspire. Father Robert Hater’s latest book, The Parish Guide to the New Evangelization: An Action Plan for Sharing the Faith, does both.

In eleven chapters, Hater defines “the new evangelization,” places it in Catholic historical context and contemporary culture, and then offers practical ways to transform parishes into vibrant faith communities that attract and retain members. None of this happens overnight, Hater wisely counsels.

With clear writing and appealing stories from his own pastoral and teaching experience, Hater makes a compelling case for parish leaders and their flocks to develop an evangelizing spirit. He tackles the new evangelization and: ministry; the parish; the ministries of Word, worship and service; family and workplace; Christian spirituality; conversion; Catholic style; and pastoral life.

Hater defines evangelization as “the Christian’s call to share the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness, made possible because of Jesus’ dying and rising from the dead.” Our invitation to share the Good News, he says, is “essential to our lifelong journey with God.” The call for a new agenda for the Church’s evangelizing and missionary responsibilities came from Pope John Paul II in a homily delivered to the Polish people in June 1979 and later from Pope Benedict XVI during an international synod of bishops in 2012. This call for a “new evangelization” challenged church leaders to discover “new ardor, methods, and expression” to reawaken Church efforts to increase missionary activity and evangelical activity. A new agenda is needed, Hater proposes, because of the challenges presented to the Church today by a culture that is more secular, more technology driven, and that exhibits a continued need to address key issues of poverty, healing and reconciliation throughout our world.

What makes The Parish Guide to the New Evangelization so valuable and desirable as a parish tool is what Hater included at the end of each chapter: “Pastoral Reflections” that pose questions for parish leaders and any Catholic, really to ponder (“If someone asked you to describe how evangelization happens in your parish, what would you say?”) and “Action Steps” that offer very do-able ways for parishes to strengthen their evangelizing efforts and invite all parishioners on board (“Consider developing a short course of six one-hour sessions on the ‘why and what’ of the new evangelization. Or use a video-based program on evangelization, such as ‘Sharing Christ,’ available at www.ChristLife.org.”).

Hater, a priest of this archdiocese who teaches seminarians, is recognized across the United States as a master catechist and religious educator. His many books serve as resources for ministry, evangelization, catechesis, and spirituality. His latest book on the new evangelization should be available in every parish for pastors, parish staffs, and lay volunteers to read, absorb, discuss, and implement.

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Father Hater will discuss his book and answer questions about the new evangelization on Sunday, Nov. 17, at 1:00 p.m. in the parish center of St. Boniface Church in Northside, where he will be guest author of the St. Boniface Spiritual Book Club.

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Lisa Biedenbach leads LAMB Editorial Consulting and serves on the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Communications Committee. She is a fourth-generation member of St. Boniface Church in Northside.

This review originally appeared in the October 2013 edition of The Catholic Telegraph

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