Witnesses better than initiatives in parish-based evangelization, Pope Francis says
By Hannah Brockhaus
Vatican City, Nov 18, 2019 / 09:57 am (CNA).- Having a lot of parish initiatives is not the best way to reach people on a deeper level, Pope Francis said Monday, adding that evangelization is about giving a witness to personal encounter with Christ.
“Our parishes are invaded by many initiatives, where often, however, it does not affect the lives of people in depth,” he said Nov. 18 in the Vatican’s Pope Paul VI hall.
Speaking to Catholics who take part in “parish cells,” small, neighborhood-based prayer and study groups in Italy, he said, “you too are entrusted with the task of reviving, especially in this period, the life of our parish communities.”
“This will be possible insofar as [parishes] become, above all, a place to listen to the Word of God and celebrate the mystery of his death and resurrection,” he explained. “Only from here can we think that the work of evangelization becomes effective and fruitful, capable of bearing fruit.”
He noted that many people, for different reasons, are no longer attending their parish, arguing that “it is therefore urgent that we recover the need for the encounter to reach people where they live and work.”
“If we have encountered Christ in our lives, then we cannot just keep it for ourselves. It is crucial that we share this experience also with others; this is the main road to evangelization,” he said. “When the encounter is the fruit of Christian love, it changes lives because it reaches the hearts of people and touches them in depth.”
Parish cells are a ministry begun by Msgr. Michael Eivers, an Irish priest who served as a missionary in Nigeria before becoming a parish priest in Miami. Eivers died in 2017 at the age of 87. Parish cells can now be found around the world.
The pope urged Catholics to “never tire of following the paths that the Spirit of the Risen Lord” puts before them, including initiatives which allow for a deep witness of Christian discipleship, but he warned against expecting to always see the fruits of one’s evangelical labors.
Though it is human to want to see positive outcomes and results, he reminded Catholics that there is no promise from the Lord they will see them.
“Jesus did not tell the disciples that they would see the fruits of their work. He only assured that the fruits would endure. This promise also applies to us,” he stated.
“Do not hold back any fear of the new, and do not slow down your steps [among] the difficulties that are inevitable in the way of evangelization,” he added.
“When one is a missionary disciple, then enthusiasm can never fail!”