I’m on the e-mail list for the Archdiocese of Washington, and about five weeks ago, Cardinal Wuerl sent out a letter on “The New Evangelization at Work in the Archdiocese of Washington.” I was pleased to see this part, and wanted to share it:
In order to be an evangelizer, one must not only have encountered Christ but also have understood and appropriated his teaching. The greatest challenge of the New Evangelization is that for the last 40 years or so, many have had little or no catechesis. I hear this from lay faithful all the time. In the Archdiocese of Washington we have revised our school and religious education policies and standards to improve our teaching of the faith and to ensure the Catholic identity of our academic institutions. The September 2008 pastoral letter, Catholic Education: Looking to the Future with Confidence, was intended to provide direction and oversight of our faith formation initiatives.
At the most local level, powerful examples of the New Evangelization can be seen throughout the archdiocese. Many parishes have established evangelization committees. Some have begun door-to-door outreach for inviting and welcoming neighbors to come to Church. Examples abound of the creative ways people are witnessing to their faith. For example, the parishes of Charles County made bumper stickers inviting people to visit the website www.charlescountycatholic.com, where visitors can find the parish closest to them as well as other links.
For the campus ministries at our secular universities, we have dedicated resources and effective priests to creating cultures of fidelity and apostolic zeal. At The George Washington University, a highly secular university in the center of Washington, D.C., the chaplain has challenged each of his students to bring a friend to Mass each week. The University of Maryland in the past years has produced many priests and seminarians for the archdiocese.
Color me impressed. All too often, it seems that those wanting to enter the Catholic Church have to push past the Catholics first. Not only are we often bad at evangelizing, but many converts describe feeling unwelcome when they did attend Mass. The idea of door-to-door Evangelization, serving as a sort of missionary to our neighbors, is a beautiful way of correcting this problem. I’d love to see the rest of the country follow suit, particularly in those places where people are more open to religion to begin with.
While more can always be done, I’ve got great hope, both because these are good ideas, and because they show that the Cardinal gets what’s wrong with the American Church (and has some idea how to fix it).