Forging Pathways to Christ: The New Evangelization and Families

mother and daughter reading together

Talk of the New Evangelization is sweeping parishes and dioceses around the globe. We know it is necessary, but we can be confused about what it actually is, what it is not, and how to do it. There is often some confusion between evangelization and catechesis. Most people seem to respond to the “how” of evangelization by providing information about the faith and/or increasing opportunities to teach the faith. These are good practices, but they are not what is meant by evangelization.

Where catechesis involves primarily the teaching of the why’s and how’s of the faith, evangelization is primarily about introducing people to Jesus Christ. This is the difference between reading a biography about someone and actually going out for coffee with that person, where you can get to know him face-to-face.

This exhortation to engage in a New Evangelization highlights the fact that families need to have the opportunity to meet Jesus, to hear the Good News, to spend time with Jesus, and be inspired to orient their daily lives toward him. The most basic meaning of the New Evangelization is to foster situations where the individuals, couples, parents, teens, and children of our parishes can meet Jesus and fall in love with him.

But there’s a catch. Try as we might, there isn’t a lot we can do to make two people fall in love with each other. We all know this from our personal experience, but we often do not connect it with evangelization. Love just doesn’t work that way; neither does evangelization. What we can do is provide as many opportunities as we can for the parents and children of our parishes to meet Jesus face-to-face. The rest is up to them.

This might take the form of family-friendly adoration nights. While an entire hour of adoration may be a challenge for young children, there are many great ways to introduce parents and their children to spending sacred time with Jesus. For example, offer shorter times or a “break-out room” where younger kids can wander in for adoration-themed activities or hear Gospel stories.

You might also consider starting your sessions by leading your families through a simple Examen, encouraging them to ask Jesus “Where were you today?” and sharing with each other these grace-filled moments. This is a simple practice that families can be encouraged to do at home daily.

Finally, you might try leading your families through a simple, group form of lectio divina where, in small family groups, the Sunday Gospel is read slowly three times and everyone is invited to share a single word, phrase, or image from the Gospel. They can also share how the Gospel relates to an event from their day, or they can share something that they think God may be calling them to do.

The call to the New Evangelization is an exciting invitation to move beyond conveying just the nuts and bolts of the faith and to foster a deep, life-changing relationship with the person of Jesus Christ. How many different opportunities to encounter Christ might you be able to offer the families of your parish over the coming year?

A Culture of Service

May Day Basket

Joking with my students one day I said, “Jesus didn’t gather his apostles around him and say, ‘Lets do a service project!’” Jesus gave us an example of how to serve one another, and I like to encourage a culture of service in my classroom. Teaching service as a way of life can be challenging […]

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Teaching the Stations of the Cross

Stations of the Cross - By Tango7174 (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Children typically really enjoy Lent. It is a season of the Church when they can set practical goals to give up, give away, and pray more. But sometimes we forget to teach our kids the “why” of Lent. What is it that we are trying to achieve with our Lenten observations? What is the goal […]

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How to Use Mentoring as a Tool for Adult Faith Formation

older woman is mentor to young person

When the topic of adult faith formation comes up, we Catholics have a tendency to immediately shift to a default mode which is the classroom model: there must be a topic, a presenter, and “students.” The topic is usually doctrinal, the presenter is typically the only one who speaks, and the students are passive receptors […]

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The Catechist’s Backpack Is Here!

Joe Paprocki with Catechist's Backpack book

I’m thrilled to announce that my new book, The Catechist’s Backpack: Spiritual Essentials for the Journey, co-written with Julianne Stanz, is now available from Loyola Press! Here is an excerpt: Backpacking is a fun, healthy, and physically challenging way to enjoy a journey of discovery. Of course, anyone setting forth on a backpacking journey knows […]

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Informal Moments of Return for Young Adults in the Catholic Church

young adult woman leaning forward

We have spent some time delving into the formal moments of return for young adults, but what about the informal interactions we have with young adults at our parishes? We cannot underestimate the incredible opportunity that lies in these casual day-to-day interactions with young adults. There are many moments within our ministries when a young […]

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Choosing a Vacation Bible School Program

group of children

This is the first article in a four-part series about winning hearts and minds in the summer through Vacation Bible School. We start by looking at choosing a Vacation Bible School program. I’ve been looking at Vacation Bible School (VBS) flyers and previewing Web sites since Advent, when summer seemed a distant date on the […]

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Lessons in Teaching from Jesus

Sermon on the Mount stained glass window

We’re a little past the halfway point of the year in my parish’s program, and in reviewing the track of lessons, I noticed that I hadn’t yet used any skits this year. Our upcoming lesson on Jesus as Teacher will change that. Session 13 in Finding God, Grade 7, focuses on Jesus the Teacher. The […]

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Adult Faith: Moving to a Needs-Based Approach

flyer image - Moving from a Doctrinal to a Needs-Based Approach

One of the problems with adult faith formation, as I see it, is our “packaging.” We want our adults to have a good grasp of Church doctrine but the problem is that we present it as…drumroll please…CHURCH DOCTRINE! In other words, our adult faith offerings are most often too “churchy-sounding” to attract a wide or […]

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Echo: Grooming a New Generation of Catechetical Leaders


Recently, I had the opportunity to hear a presentation by Colleen Moore, the Director of the Echo program from the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Church Life. The name “Echo” comes from the Greek word for “catechesis” meaning “to echo into” or “to resound.” The Echo program assists the Church in strengthening faith formation by […]

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