Thursday, June 20, 2013

New Evangelization Begins with the Clergy

The term "New Evangelization" has few rivals in the number of times it's used in our Catholic World, and for good reason. Evangelization is the reason the Church exists and is our constant mission; no other words are necessary. Adding  the word 'new' to 'evangelization' does not change the meaning.  Society has been changing drastically and to keep up with these changes the word evangelization was modified. The Peace Weekly, in its editorial on this continuing mission of the Church, which discussed a recent seminar on the topic, held in a Korean diocese, begins with the headline, "The First Step of the New Evangelization is the Renewal  of the Clergy."

Since clergy were singled out to be the object of concern for the new evangelization, some may think they are not in step with the times and should be brought up to date, that they should use more of the tools from  modern culture, or get more involved with what is happening in society. But the drift of the seminar was not in that direction, the editorial pointed out.

One of the speakers said priests have to witness to Christ. The Christians are not looking for a great administrator, or for one who gets involved in movements in the  greater society that are secondary to his calling. If these pursuits are taking away time and the interest he should have for evangelizing, this will limit him in the work he should be doing, and the Christians will not be seeing Christ.

Another participant suggested that the administration of the parish should be handed over to the laity, and the priest should be solely concerned in making Jesus known. Since sermons are extremely important in fulfilling this function, as much time as possible should be devoted to their preparation. Another suggestion, strongly expressed, was that the exterior expansion of the Church should be resolutely avoided, otherwise we are likely to have trouble in the future. Though admitting this proposal seems difficult to implement presently, the participant thought it important enough to merit careful attention.

In the same paper, another article on the seminar considered the priests' relationship with the bishop. The relationship should be one filled with respect and trust, otherwise the priest's fatherly relationship with the parishioner will suffer because of a lack of confidence and peace of mind.  One participant saw the relationship as one of  master  and servant, a vertical relationship that makes it difficult to approach the bishop. It is hoped that the new focus on clergy renewal will go a long way to not only improving the priestly relationships, but improving the relationship between priests and bishops.

The Christians want to see Christ in their priests, who need to make an effort to fulfill this calling by imitating Jesus. And the Church has to prepare the conditions where this is possible. This imitation of Jesus on the part of the priest is the first step in the renewal process of the new evangelization. Whatever way we choose to modify the word 'evangelization',  or however the world changes, evangelization must begin with meeting Jesus. And the renewal of the clergy, concludes the editorial, will begin when this first step in meeting Jesus is taken.

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