The Church’s mission is to evangelize. Evangelization is the Church’s deepest identity. Therefore, the Catholic school, parish schools of religion, and adult religious education programs which carry out the mission of the Church also exists to evangelize. “I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church’s energies to a new evangelization…” (Pope John Paul II).
The late John Paul II called all Catholics to join in what he called a “new evangelization and mission to the nations.” He stated that it is a call that “no believer or institution of the Church is exempt from, to proclaim Christ to all people” (Mission of the Redeemer, 3). Therefore, Catholic religious education is not exempt from proclaiming and celebrating Jesus Christ and evangelizing all who come through its door. This is what we are about in Catholic schools, parish schools of religion, and adult religious education programs, to help others discover the person Jesus Christ, so that they may be open to His Way and His Church.
“In face of a growing indifference to God, the “new evangelization” must not be about a social or political structure, but the person of Jesus Christ.” Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger made this statement to a world gathering of catechists and religion teachers in Rome on December 10, 2000. Six years later, now as Pope Benedict XVI, he would state that “the first apostles, like today’s, were not heralds of an idea but rather witnesses of Christ before the world” (Vatican City, March 22, 2006).
The evangelizing Catholic school and parish programs, not separate from the Church but in union with the Church, seek to lead others to accept the person of Jesus and His Way and His Church. Evangelization means helping people develop an intimate relationship with the Lord. Catechesis, as seen through the lens of evangelization, builds on this initial relationship, deepens it and brings it to maturity, ultimately in the adult person. Catechesis is the “preeminent moment” in the process of evangelization.
The challenge administrators and teachers/catechists, who minister in a culture growing more and more secular and relativistic, is to be much more conscious of how they evangelize and realize that everyone can be and needs to be evangelized. All teachers and all administrators need to be much more enthusiastic and intentional about sharing their faith in Jesus and His Church before effective catechesis can occur.
In 2018, Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis will celebrate 200 years of faithful and dedicated service to its mission to make Jesus known to children, youth, and their parents. Catholic schools, along with parish religious education programs, are compelled to be evangelizing institutions. Every faculty member, every student and every family has the right to be evangelized and, also, have the obligation to evangelize. Every Catholic school and parish program is entrusted with the responsibility of bringing every person entrusted to their care to a mature relationship with Jesus and calling them to conversion and discipleship.
For additional information contact:
Reverend Monsignor John M. Unger
Catholic Education Office
20 Archbishop May Drive
St. Louis, MO 63119