The New Evangelization - Notes From “Theo-on-Tap”

What an enjoyable experience meeting with the NE Philly Young Adult Theology-On-Tap contingency on October 15 at the Three Monkeys Cafe. The company was enjoyable, the atmosphere upbeat, the food delicious, the service hospitable and helpful, the conversation stimulating. Speaking on my behalf, it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening for me and my co-presenter Thomas Shakely who covered the technological and social media component of The New Evangelization.

Hope to see you all at a future Theology-On-Tap event.

As promised, the notes from my talk are presented below. Thank you to you all.

Fr. Zlock



October 15, 2012 – “Three Monkeys Café


(Thoughts from Bishop Edward Clark, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles May 18, 2006 (Origins) as well as Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI)


  1. Genesis of the term “New Evangelization” (TNE) and the idea of TNE.
  2. Background and context of the New Evangelization
  3. Goals of the New Evangelization
  4. Challenges facing the Church
  • The term “The New Evangelization” was originally coined by Pope Paul VI in 1975 his apostolic exhortation on evangelization entitled, Evangelii Nuntiandi (“Announcing the Evangelization”).
  • Heard again in 1983 from Pope John Paul II speaking to Latin American bishops in Haiti.
  • The New Evangelization that was called for by Pope John Paul II was larger in scope, more comprehensive and beyond the original vision of Paul VI:
    • New in ardor
    • New in methods
    • New in expression
  • 1990 – John Paul II fleshes out the vision further in his encyclical on the Church and its Mission called Redemptoris Missio (“The Mission of the Redeemer”)
  • Pope Benedict has continued to address and emphasize TNE even within the first year of his pontificate
  • With the announcement of the “Year of Faith,” this is THE VISION, the raison d’etre of the pontificate of Benedict XVI.


  • Examples of the Old: “Pagan Babies” and European missionaries evangelizing America, Africa, Far East, etc…
  • Why is a NEW Evangelization needed? 88-5 / 17-2 (30 years ago, 88% of Catholics attended Mass weekly and had an average of 5 children per family. Today 17% of Philadelphia parishioners attend Mass and have an average of 2 children per family).


  • It is not directed at non-Catholics, non-Christians, non-believers but squarely directed at believers.
  • It is not about on passing on doctrine. Does involve catechesis but from a different perspective and for a different purpose (later).
  • It is not about proselytizing, baptizing new converts, increasing numbers of new church members.
  • It IS ABOUT completing the mission of Christ; revitalizing the members of the Church by leading them to a personal/intimate relationship with Jesus.


  1. Know Christ and be his follower:
    1. How to foster individual, mysterious, mystical encounters with the risen Jesus.
    2. Small groups (finding, forming, engaging, formation within- and interaction among them).
    3. And only THEN sharing faith with others.
  1. Deeper individual conversion. Deepening religious experiences and commitment.
    1. Explore dark corners of my soul where the Gospel has not penetrated.
    2. Examples: Where do we bristle at people, events, teachings that challenge our personal opinions and preferred beliefs?
    3. Contemporary Fault Line – Church teachings buttressing against contemporary culture and political initiatives that run counter to Church teachings and beliefs.
  1. Call to marginal members and those barely evangelized.
    1. Goal is to introduce them to Christ, the community and then the teachings (Focus here is intellectual / catechetical)
  1. Search for those who have left the church or ceased practice (Focus here is liturgical)
    1. Goal is to welcome them back.
  1. Engage cultures previously identified as Christian (North America, Western Europe)
    1. Their cultural and human values ARE Christian values!
    2. Justice, peace, human dignity, mercy, charity, aka the “Civilization of Love.”
  1. Methods of communicating the Gospel.
    1. Technology.
    2. Social Media.
  1. Focus on the laity.
    1. There simply are not as many priests and sisters today as there were previously.
    2. Friends, family, work colleagues, fellow Christians are the focus but also the solution.


  • Evangelization is the core mission.
    • The church exists for NO OTHER REASON than to proclaim the Kingdom.
    • Quote, “The church does not have a mission from Christ; rather the mission of Christ has a church.”
    • So we need to RECAST THE MISSION of the church – and each parish – within the call to evangelize. This means reevaluating everything we do as a church – and as a parish – in light of evangelization
      • Bishop Clark: “There are many tasks and priorities that we as a church should undertake; but unless what we are doing is not specifically advancing Jesus’ mission of evangelization, then we ought to be asking ourselves whether we should be doing that specific task or project at all.”
      • The “Order of Evangelization:” Establish a relationship first - which leads to Baptism - which then leads to deeper catechesis (Confer Matthew 28:19-20 “Go make disciples; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; teach them to observe all that I have commanded you.”).
      • This is not understood by the majority of American Catholics.
      • Catechesis is an essential responsibility of the church:
        • Most adult Catholics don’t know enough intellectually about their faith to pass it on to the next generation.
        • Most adult Catholics don’t participate fully enough liturgically to understand what life in a faith community “feels like.”
        • TNE challenges THE WAY we will need to do catechesis in the future:
  1. It begins with teaching ourselves FIRST, before teaching others.
    1. We will need new approaches and tools to further adult faith formation.
    2. “Whole family catechesis”
    3. How do we foster religious experiences (Example 1980s young adult Charismatic movement)? Examples:
      1. Teaching adults and young people how to pray.
      2. Retreats and prayer experiences.
      3. R.C.I.A. adapted as the model and method for all catechesis.

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