Go Make Disciples
Before his Ascension into Heaven, Christ commissioned his disciples, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). In doing so, the Lord handed on to the Church his own mission of drawing the world into a living and saving relationship with himself. Indeed, the Church exists for this mission, she exists to evangelize. She is the living and efficacious sign of God’s desire for man’s salvation and her mission is to gather the world into the embrace of God in Christ.
Nowhere is this mission more present than in the parish. The parish is where the gift of salvation in Christ reaches out and touches the concrete lives of the men and women of every time and place. In the parish, the human race finds the doorway into the saving mystery of God’s love. It is in the parish, then, that evangelization finds its privileged place of expression. We can say in the same spirit of Pope Paul VI that the parish “exists to evangelize.” Echoing this, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops calls its parishes to:
- Consider how to give their present ministries a clearer evangelizing focus.
- Create new ministries to achieve the goals of the Evangelization document.
- Develop an evangelization team.
- Designate a trained person as a full-time coordinator of evangelization. (Go Make Disciples 136)
One simple way for a parish to evaluate how well it is enacting the call to evangelize is to take any particular ministry or group in the parish and insert it into the following statement:
“ [INSERT NAME] exists in order to evangelize.”
For example, can we say with confidence, “The religious education program exists to evangelize” or “The parish finance council exists to evangelize”? The way each of these entities will evangelize will look different, but each is called to recognize its fundamental vocation to draw closer to Jesus Christ and help others to do the same.
Parishes are called to look to three groups in their work of evangelization. First, practicing Catholics are called to deeper and deeper transformation in their life with Christ. Second, the parish is called to reach out to those Catholics who have fallen away from the practice of their faith. Third, the parish is called to reach out to those who do not yet know the love of Christ, who do not believe in God, or who find faith irrelevant to everyday life. The parish must assume it as her fundamental identity to bring Christ’s love to people who find themselves in any of these situations.