Pastoral Letter on Evangelization

Evangelization Sunday
Feast of Christ the King
November 26, 2000

Dear Friends in Christ,

Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King and call to mind that Jesus and His teachings must be the center of our lives. We are grateful to God that He has given us faith so that we can believe in His Son, Jesus, and our Church which He founded. Our Catholic faith not only guides us and helps us in this life but leads us to the joy of life eternal.

But God wants us to share our faith with others and to pass it on to our children and grandchildren. Jesus said to His apostles, "Go and make disciples of all nations and to baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 28, verse 19)

Today we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the powerful document on evangelization of Pope Paul Sixth (Evangelii Nuntiandi) issued in 1975. Pope Paul defined evangelization as proclaiming Christ to those who do not know him and deepening the faith of those who already believe. It includes any activity that aims at bringing the Gospel values into every aspect of society. It means we must reach out to people with no church family and to share with them the teachings of the Lord. It also means that we invite back Catholics who, for whatever reason, ceased to practice their faith. As your Archbishop, I could not emphasize enough the importance of evangelization in our Archdiocese. We must be grateful to Pope Paul Sixth for this important document. Pope John Paul II urges us during this Jubilee Year to bring fresh energy to a new evangelization in the new millennium so that Christ will be better known and followed. In fact we are all called to be evangelizers and to share our faith.

The Beauty of Our Catholic Faith

If we are to be evangelizers, we must believe in our Catholic faith with all our heart. The reason someone is a Catholic is that the Catholic Church contains all the elements Jesus and the Apostles intended for the Church. Perhaps the idea of the fullness of the truth of the Church can be expressed in a very simple way. I believe that our Church has the whole pie, not just a piece of it. Other Churches certainly have important slices of the pie. They believe in Jesus, the bible as the Word of God, preaching, fellowship and moral living - but we have those slices of the pie in the Catholic Church too. Plus we have the great blessing of the Eucharist or the Mass which is what inactive Catholics miss the most. We have the seven sacraments of our Church, mentioned in the Bible and instituted by Jesus. We have the important slice of the pie which we call the Magisterium, the Holy Father and the Bishops, who are the successors to Peter and the Apostles.

Know that Christian revelation is incomplete unless there is a place for Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who is mentioned in the bible at all of the important moments in the life of her Son. We also have a place in which to honor the holy women and men who have gone before us whom we call Saints. We have the slice which we call tradition, the distilling of the riches of the 2,000 year heritage of the Church. We have great teachings on social justice in which we respect the dignity of each human person. The Church speaks often and eloquently about the dignity of unborn human life and defends life in any area in which it is being threatened.

By being part of the Universal Catholic Church we have the whole pie, not just a part of it. We must believe we have something to offer if we are to share our faith with others. At the same time we, as the Holy Father, are committed to respect other Churches and religions and to believe in ecumenism and interfaith efforts.

Parish Evangelization

The parish is central to the effort of evangelization. Our parishes must seek to be welcoming and hospitable places that invite back the inactive Catholic and are attractive to the unchurched. We must show hospitality, welcoming all ethnic groups and races of people. Our Churches must work diligently to have good liturgy through effective preaching and appropriate music. There is no better way to evangelize and bring in new people than to have good liturgy. There must be a variety of ministries provided for the people and the priests and other ministers to help meet the spiritual needs of people. There should be special ministries that reach the youth, the families, the immigrants, the elderly and others with special needs. There should be a parish evangelization team in every parish that will focus on the evangelization of the inactive and be creative in reaching them. You who listen to me today are already evangelized but there is always room to strengthen your faith life and your involvement in your parish, so that you can evangelize others. Finally we must have in the new evangelization, which the Holy Father challenges us with, a kind of renewed enthusiasm for sharing the faith and good old fashioned zeal for souls.

Our beautiful Catholic Church has a profound attraction in terms of spiritual food for those who have found a secular lifestyle unsatisfying and unfulfilling. I believe that the richness of our Catholic heritage offers the most complete, compassionate witness of Jesus Christ possible. Following the challenge to evangelize, let us live our Catholic faith joyfully and share it with others!

Sincerely yours in the Risen Lord,
Most Rev. Michael J. Sheehan
Archbishop of Santa Fe