When Fr. James Mallon took the podium at the CCSTA Catholic Education: A National Conversation conference last month in Ottawa, he started the conversation that would appeal to video gamers.
The Nova Scotian parish priest opened his keynote address with this XBox Commercial:
His point, however, wasn’t about video games; rather, he used the “Life is short” quote to help describe the New Evangelization concept.
“Life is short, because we’re not made for this world, we’re made for somewhere else,” he explained. “We are a part of God’s bigger plan. That is the New Evangelization.”
Fr. Mallon used interactive presentation tools and everyday language during his keynote address, which reviewed the New Evangelization and how it needs to play a more active role in Catholic schools across Canada.
He first gave the 300 conference attendees a simple breakdown of evangelization.
“To evangelize means to announce the Good News. Good news is the most natural thing to share and it’s not a burden.” Fr. Mallon then asked the audience to come up with one sentence to summarize the Good News before offering his own synopsis. “The Good News of Jesus is Jesus himself and the proclaimer has become the proclaimed.”
Referencing Pope John Paul II’s New Evangelization, Mallon discussed its history and then outlined the Cycle of New Evangelization:
Disciples ——> Renew the Church ——> Learning, Serving and Giving ——> Make Apostles ——> Evangelize
“We are not just believers, but also disciples,” he said. “Disciples learn and give, and generate apostles who then evangelize and become disciples.”
EVANGELIZING AT SCHOOL
The Church has a five-step formation process, which includes evangelization, encounter, conversion, sacraments and catechesis. Fr. Mallon says the Church and Catholic schools have dropped three of the five processes, only focusing on catechesis and sacraments.
He argued this approach is what has barricaded students from having personal encounters with God.
“If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to keep getting what you get. There has to be an invitation to become missionaries.” He said rather than review the ritual, return to Jesus. “We have to get back to the words of Jesus, which is ‘make them disciples and then baptize them.’”
Fr. Mallon challenged the trustees, educators, clergy and support staff at the conference to make disciples of our students, and offered advice to accomplish just that.
“The goal within the Catholic school is to spread the message plus give the students a personal encounter with Christ which then leads to conversion and discipleship,” he explained, adding that monthly school mass works as one example.
“Kids don’t want to be there, teachers don’t want to be there, so change it!” He suggested hosting more retreats and having conversations with students about the message. He also highlighted the Alpha program as another way for students to connect with the Catholic faith.
Creating this community life within the Catholic schools as well as connecting with local parishes will ultimately guide each student to experience a personal encounter with God and turn each one into a disciple who wants to share the Good News.
And, that, said Fr. Mallon, is the New Evangelization.