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‘Talk the talk and walk the walk’

An Interview With the Diocesan Director of Evangelization

As director of evangelization, what does evangelization mean to you and why should we care about it?

Evangelization, to me, means bringing people closer to Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Go forth and make disciples of all nations.” In other words, go forth and evangelize. That’s not just for the Apostles, it’s for every single Catholic. In our sphere of influence, there might be one person, 10 people, or thousands of people. We should be doing whatever we have the opportunity to do to plant seeds about Jesus Christ — His life, His message, the Church — with the people who are in our sphere of influence in order to bring them closer to Jesus Christ.

Aside from programs and events, which are certainly needed and productive, you mentioned that the office’s mission is to make good Catholics, better Catholics; to bring fallen-away Catholics back to the Faith; and to bring non-Catholics closer to, and even into, the faith. How do you approach each group?

I have basically the same approach with each group. It’s just that each group will get something different out of what I have to say. I call it planting seeds. As Catholics, we don’t convert anybody, the Holy Spirit converts.

We throw the seeds out there and hope the seeds land on good soil. There will be some nuances, but basically the approach is the same — teach what the Church teaches and connect the Bible to Church teaching because every Christian knows the Bible is the Word of God.

When talking about evangelization, Bishop Raica explains that evangelization is imitating Christ to others. In other words, we are called to live a life that creates a desire in those we meet to find what we have found. On the surface, that seems very basic and simple, but to truly fulfill that vision is an immense challenge. What are your thoughts?

I would go farther. The number one prerequisite for evangelization is knowing that we have the truth. Knowing that we have the truth should give us the courage and the boldness to share that truth with others. Yes, we live our lives — we want to have a holy life. Regardless of the circumstances of our life, there should be this underlying joy if we truly understand our faith, but not everybody sees it.

Since they don’t necessarily see it, we have to “talk the talk and walk the walk.” That’s why I tell people to “always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.” (1 Pt 3:15)

Even if they see that we have a holy life, what are they going to do? They’re going to ask us a question: “Why are you like that?” We have to be prepared to answer the questions.

In terms of evangelization, what advice would you give the average Catholic in the pew?

Use common sense, simple logic, and the Bible. For Catholics around here, non-Catholic Christians are in the number one group of people we’re talking to about our Faith. We can’t use the Catechism. They don’t care what the Catechism says. They don’t care what Vatican II says. They don’t care what Pope so-and-so says. They ask, “Where is it in the Bible?” So, we have to know how to use the Bible to explain our faith.

Regardless of your education, your age, or your sex, you can use common sense and simple logic. Don’t be afraid to share the faith or to talk about the faith.

Why do you think so many are afraid to share the Faith? What can we do to heed the call to “be not afraid”?

We think we don’t know the Bible, but we know the Bible better than we think we do because we hear it at Mass all the time. We tend not to know the book, chapter, and verse, and that’s what we’re competing against. When a Protestant has 25 or 30 verses memorized to evangelize Catholics, the Catholic runs up against what they think is a scriptural buzzsaw.

We’ve been embarrassed because we couldn’t answer questions about our Faith. How do we handle that? If we don’t know the answer, say, “I don’t know the answer, but I’m going to find out the answer, and I’ll get back to you because the answers are out there.” We must have confidence that our Church has the answer. There’s nothing in the Bible contrary to anything in the Catholic Faith, and there’s nothing in the Catholic Faith that is contrary to anything in the Bible.

Don’t be afraid to share the Faith. Jesus said, “Do not be afraid.” When we share our Faith, are we going to get asked questions we don’t know the answer to? Yes. When we share our Faith, are we going to get into tough spots? Yes. “Do not be afraid.” Why? Because there’s actually an answer to all of those questions. We just sometimes have to go look.