Breaking the Silence on Using the Word “Evangelization”

young adults talking

The word evangelize comes from the Greek word meaning “to bring the Good News.” Simple enough, right? And yet it seems that many Catholics are afraid of the word evangelization and barely use it at all.

“Maybe we can call it something else,” I have often been asked, “something not quite so scary, so intimidating.” The word it in this context is the key and holds the clue to why many Catholics are afraid of sharing their faith with others.

Many parents often remark that they feel ill-equipped to pass on their faith to their children or to answer questions about Catholicism, particularly in regard to the moral issues. They struggle with cultivating a home where faith is placed firmly at the center. When listening to parents share their struggles, I often ask them what they are most afraid of about sharing their faith. “I won’t be able to answer all of their questions;” “I don’t have the right words;” and “I don’t know what it means to hand on the faith” are common responses.

If you find yourself having conversations like these, you are certainly not alone. All of us have had them at some point. It is important to witness to our faith. If we fail to do so, the culture that we live in will continue to impress values contrary to the teachings of the Church upon others, especially our children. Secular culture will steal our children’s innocence, their values, and even their time. Faith, while personal, is not a private affair and must be freely shared if we are to transform the world.

In working with those who find the word evangelization off-putting, I have found that their difficulty comes in thinking about faith as a construct, that is, as a set of beliefs and doctrines. Our faith, however, is a life-giving relationship of love. Evangelization is not about an “it;” it is about a “who.” Evangelization is the communication of a person: Jesus Christ, who loves us, died for us, rose from the dead, and walks beside us each day. Evangelization is about sharing our heartfelt understanding of how our lives have been touched, changed, and transformed in Christ; because of who he is, we cannot keep from sharing this joy and peace with others. Evangelization is not about having all of the answers or having a neat and coherent response to every question that we may be asked; nor is it the ability to regurgitate what we may have been taught in fifth grade. Evangelization is about sharing who we are as the people of God, sharing why our lives speak to a different and often counter-cultural set of values, and who Christ is and how he has changed us. This is what having a personal and living relationship with Christ is all about!

Do you find the word evangelization difficult to use in your ministry? If so, why? How do you introduce people to the term evangelization, and what do you think are the biggest roadblocks that Catholics have in sharing their faith? Post your responses in the comments section so that we can continue the dialogue and break the silence on using the word evangelization.

About Julianne Stanz 22 Articles
Julianne Stanz is the Director of New Evangelization for the Diocese of Green Bay and a consultant to the USCCB Committee on Catechesis and Evangelization. Julianne infuses her talks, retreats, and seminars with humor, passion, and insights from her life in Ireland. A popular speaker, storyteller, and author, Julianne is married with three children and spends her time reading, writing, teaching, and collecting beach glass. She is the co-author, with Joe Paprocki, of The Catechist’s Backpack.

4 Comments on Breaking the Silence on Using the Word “Evangelization”

  1. Thank you, Julianne for the two great articles on Evangelization. As Catechists, we have a huge opportunity to evangelize the parents/families of our students. In-person interactions with the student’s parents are often limited to a few parent-student grade level meetings, or an occasional, quick greeting at the beginning or end of a class session. I find that regular email updates to the parents provide an opportunity to awaken/re-awaken their relationship with Jesus. Our DRE gave us the following framework which I try to incorporate in my communications to parents:

    1) building relationships – convey what I am learning about the students on their faith journey, and inviting parents to review parts of our lessons with their son/daughter;
    2) shared prayer – I include a Scripture verse (this is 6th grade Salvation History) and often a quote/prayer from a Saint connected to a recent lesson
    3) customized learning/formation – highlight a lesson activity or discussion which reflects that we are “meeting the students where they are” in their faith development and helping them bring Jesus into their daily lives
    4) shared mission – affirm and thank the parent’s for their support and interest; I occasionally invite them to join the class for an activity (e.g., reciting Stations of the Cross during Lent)

    God bless you in your ministry!

  2. I have had this very discussion in the past with our Pastoral Council. Many expressed their difficulty with the term evangelization and even talked of not using the word. I have tried to put it in terms of our walks, our faith journeys, and the ability to “break the silence.” Everyone’s story is unique and valuable. Once we get past the term evangelization and realize it about our relationship with God and each other, greater faith understanding is possible. We have a ways to go! Thanks for the article Julianne. God bless. Joe

  3. Jean writes:

    You asked if we were all comfortable with the word. I am not….perhaps it’s because of the age gap – and the memories that the very word brings to mind – store front evangelical sects that were part of my early years in CCD……I’m still not comfortable with it – It brings to mind an old saying: I can’t hear what you say because what you do speaks so loudly. Why are “words” so important to this new generation of Catechists……Jean Lewandowski

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