“This is the Church I want to be a part of. This is the Church that was envisioned by Vatican II.”… “In order to proclaim the gift of faith and strengthen the Church’s renewal, there are three moments of encounter and two pathways I consider crucial for new evangelization.”
Moments of Presence, Listening, Service, and Action: Keys to New Evangelization
An Address to the Synod of Bishops for New Evangelization
G. Gregory Gay, C.M.Superior General, Congregation of the Mission
Superior General’s Synod Address
The following address was presented by Fr. G. Gregory Gay, C.M., a delegate to the Synod for New Evangelization, on behalf of the Congregation of the Mission, the Daughters of Charity, and the members of the world-wide Vincentian Family:
The document Instrumentum Laboris for New Evangelization offers a central truth: “Announcing and proclaiming is not the task of any one person or a select few, but rather a gift given to every person who answers the call to faith.” (IL, # 92)
This truth came alive for me some thirty years ago when I was called to our Vincentian mission in the Republic of Panama. There, I experienced a Church alive; a church making sincere efforts to adapt the teachings of Vatican II to the reality of life in Latin America. The formation of the laity was carried out by the efforts of religious congregations, diocesan clergy, and bishops. In experiencing the Word of God come alive in basic Christian communities, I witnessed many simple people participate enthusiastically in their faith.
At that time, I said, “This is the Church I want to be a part of. This is the Church that was envisioned by Vatican II.” I was privileged to work in that part of the world for more than two decades. Working collegially with bishops, diocesan clergy, religious men and women, and the laity to achieve a common good, in the service of the Church and the world has been both the promise and gift of Vatican II for me. The Church of Latin America continues to inculturate the Gospel, as can be seen in its documents from Medellin to Aparecida, the most recent and often quoted document at this Synod. These times have been energizing and life-giving for me as a missionary of a religious congregation and now as its Superior General.
In order to proclaim the gift of faith and strengthen the Church’s renewal, there are three moments of encounter and two pathways I consider crucial for new evangelization.
- A moment of presence: Presence has two dimensions: the first is that Presence we call God, and the other is the presence we find in opening ourselves to the other. Those whom God puts in our path reveal the person of Jesus Christ, especially the poor, marginalized, and abandoned. In the Presence of God, we gain strength to be present to all members of the Body of Christ in a courageous and prophetic way.
- A moment to listen: Listening also has two contemplative moments: an inner and an outer one. The inner moment is given to the Word of God, the Eucharist, the prayer of the Church, and the experience of the poor. In this ‘inner room’ of our soul, we allow the person of Jesus to enter the quiet of our hearts to accompany us in our daily journey. This leads us to the outer rooms of deeper relationship with the world and one another. Before we can teach and preach, we must first listen.
- A moment of service: Being present and listening allows God’s grace to lead us into service. New evangelization calls us forth and unites us with an enduring element of our faith: love of God and service of neighbor. “Love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn. 13:34) Service in Jesus’ name is about action and advocacy, not only on behalf of the poor, but together with the poor. In the crucible of service, the Church finds its true identity and salvation.
- A pathway to service by virtue: We evangelize by entering into the world of the poor, and by growing in the virtues of humility, simplicity, charity, and justice. This is at the heart of our Vincentian heritage. The preferential option for the poor is fundamental for new evangelization. In the experience of community, we make visible and credible the person of Jesus, promoting a civilization of love. In living out these virtues, we draw nearer to God, each other, and the poor, our lords and masters.
- A pathway to action: With love for God and the poor who image his Son Jesus, we can bring new evangelization to fruition by revitalized popular missions. With religious, clergy and laity collaborating, we evangelize by being present, listening, and serving in the way of Jesus Christ, the first evangelizer. In following pathways of virtue, action and advocacy, we not only preach and teach the Good News, but we become Good News for the world. The words of Jesus to the young person healed will also ring true for us: “Go home to your people and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how he had mercy on you.” (Mk. 5: 19)
I humbly entrust these thoughts and our efforts at this Synod to Jesus Christ, Evangelizer of the poor, and to Mary, his Mother, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.
G. Gregory Gay, C.M.
Rome, October 2012