Monday, October 3, 2011

Cardinal Wuerl: The New Evangelization at Work in the Archdiocese of Washington

October 3, 2011

Dear Friends,

After Jesus' Resurrection his disciples began to preach the Gospel and establish his Church around the world. Most often they faced hostile or indifferent listeners. Yet they had the courage to be Christians because they knew the Risen Christ. They also understood the joy that comes from introducing others to Jesus. Many in our world have never encountered Jesus. Many others know him, but not well enough to tell others about him. Igniting in others the joy of those early believers, who were willing to give everything to follow Jesus, is called the New Evangelization. I want to share with you some of the encouraging things that are going on across our archdiocese, and I hope you will be inspired to bring others closer to our Lord.

When our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, visited Washington, D.C. in 2008, he prayed during the Mass at Nationals Park that his visit would "be an occasion for all Catholics to reaffirm their unity in the apostolic faith, to offer their

contemporaries a convincing account of the hope which inspires them (cf. 1 Pet 3:15), and to be renewed in missionary zeal for the extension of God's Kingdom." His prayer is now being answered by many in our archdiocese.

In an attempt to provide a framework to implement the challenge of our Holy Father and to offer pastoral direction for the local Church of Washington, I

published a pastoral letter in August 2010 on the New Evangelization entitled, Disciples of the Lord: Sharing the Vision.

On the archdiocesan level we have begun wide-reaching initiatives during Advent and Lent. In Advent 2010 we introduced the "Find the Perfect Gift" campaign. With yard signs, as well as radio and bus advertisements, we hope to remind people that Jesus is the true gift of Christmas. We have developed a website — — that has engaging catechetical and

apologetic content. Since 2007, we have "The Light is On for You" campaign, during which every parish church in the archdiocese is open for Confession on Wednesday evenings. Again utilizing advertising on radio and buses, we invite people to come and find the Lord's forgiveness. Both of these initiatives have been very successful.

Recognizing that the parish is an important key to the success of the New Evangelization, the archdiocese has begun a parish pastoral planning process. Pastors and parish leaders are invited to make a parish self-assessment focusing on the areas of worship, community, education, service and

administration. We call these the "Indicators of Vitality," and they assist the pastor and parish in forming short-term and long-term goals to improve the life of the parish and increase the evangelizing potential of each local community.

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, 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.

Perhaps the best news of all is that, due to the evangelization efforts and the hope reignited by the visit of our Holy Father, the archdiocese has had such strong numbers of men applying to study for the priesthood that we have opened Blessed John Paul II Seminary. Adjacent to the seminary will be a new shrine dedicated to Blessed John Paul II. With his intercession, all of us, here and around the nation, should once again feel the joy of those first disciples and have the courage to proclaim the crucified and Risen Christ.

Many do not join us at the table of the Lord because they have never been asked. This is where you come in. Perhaps there is someone you might want to invite to go to Mass with you. Inviting someone to meet the Lord will be a grace both for them and for you. Think of those early disciples sharing the Good News. It is our turn now.

With prayerful best wishes, I am

Faithfully in Christ,

Donald Cardinal Wuerl

Archbishop of Washington

Archdiocese of Washington

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