By ANDREW LICHTENWALNER | Published January 21, 2022 | En Español
Starting on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (Jan. 25), the archdiocesan Office of Formation & Discipleship will have a new name: the Office of Evangelization & Discipleship. What’s this about, and what’s in a name?
The Office of Formation & Discipleship or OFD (soon to be OED) supports catechetical and other ministry leaders who serve young and old at parishes and college campuses, seeking to assist the renewal of parish/campus life and family life. In recent years, OFD has been making an effort to focus more intentionally on the mission of evangelization, which is at the heart of all the ministry support offered by the office (and at the heart of the church herself). See www.evangelizationatl.com for more information.
In 2020, Pope Francis approved the release of a new “Directory for Catechesis.” The directory guides all those responsible for catechesis and formation, and it states clearly: There is a pressing need to frame everything in terms of evangelization, as the fundamental principle that guides ecclesial activity as a whole. (no. 297)
The time has come to bring more intentionality to the centrality of evangelization in all areas of the church’s ministry, especially her catechetical ministries. Hence, the name change from formation to evangelization. Formation is still essential. We understand that term to embrace everything meant by the word “catechesis” or “discipleship formation.” However, catechesis is part of the work of evangelization and must seek to be ever more intentionally “evangelizing” or as Pope Francis says “kerygmatic” (pertaining to the proclamation of the Gospel).
To evangelize means to proclaim and share the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, and to introduce people to the adventure of a relationship and union with Jesus through his church. Every one of the baptized is called to evangelize and to be transformed by the Gospel in an ongoing way.
In his book, “Rescued,” Father John Riccardo speaks of four basic dimensions of the Gospel message or kerygma—the story undergirding each of our stories—with the following four words: created, captured, rescued and response. We are created out of sheer love and have been rescued by Jesus Christ from the entrapments of our own sins, death and the devil. Jesus invites a response from each one of us, to become his disciples and to make disciples of all nations.
The church’s mission has never changed, but the culture has changed, which necessitates a self-examination by all in the church (families, parishes, dioceses, etc.). Do we know and live by the story? Are we on fire with the Holy Spirit? How are we, in the lived example of our lives, evangelizing and making disciples? How are we accompanying others in their personal healing, helping remove potential roadblocks to evangelization and fostering a culture of encounter with Jesus Christ?
In his book “From Christendom to Apostolic Mission,” Msgr. James Shea quotes Pope Francis: “Brothers and sisters, Christendom no longer exists!” The cultural supports that used to reinforce connection to the church and growth in the faith and in discipleship are largely gone. A new intentionality is required by families, parishes, schools and ministries to foster a real relationship with the Lord Jesus, to encounter Jesus and his Gospel anew, and to grow as disciples together in the family of the church.
As this archdiocesan office begins a new chapter in service to parish, campus and family life, may we all pray for what St. John Paul II called “a new springtime” of evangelization throughout the church and in this archdiocese, starting with the deeper conversion of our own hearts. Come Holy Spirit! St. Paul, pray for us!
Andrew W. Lichtenwalner is director of the Office of Formation and Discipleship, soon to be Office of Evangelization and Discipleship. To learn more, go to archatl.com and search “evangelization.”