62. Having taken a look at today’s world in terms of the values contained in our charism, let’s now consider some possible lines of evangelizing action.
63. First of all there are our parishes; they are the ordinary context for “new evangelization”. As we know, the percentage of regularly practicing Catholics is small (about a third); the majority practices only occasionally. It is at this majority and its need to be renewed in faith that the new evangelization is aimed (see EN 52 &56; RMi 33d). And those who practice regularly have a special and important miss ion of sensitizing
and trying to get those who are distant more involved in church life. For this task they need a strong missionary spirit which the pastoral leaders must inspire and sustain.
64. There are many possible ways of reaching those who have been evangelized very little or not at all: preparation for the sacraments of initiation, home visits, parish missions, saints’ feast days, the mass media, and any other means which pastoral creativity can come up with.
65. The liturgy plays a very important role in evangelization project. As the II Vatican Council (SC 10) stated, the liturgy is the source and high point of the Church’s life. Besides the value of collective prayer the liturgy is a privileged time for evangelization. This is so not only because a lively can be a strong call to faith, but also be cause it includes the proclamation of the Word. This is especially important and valuable for those-and they are the majority-who relate to the faith community almost exclusively through the sacraments. The sacraments offer an excellent opportunity for calling those at a distance to draw near to the Lord. The sacrament of reconciliation deserves special attention; through it conscience experiences the call of renewing grace.
66. The homily has a privileged place in liturgical celebrations. Evangelizing Servants work at enriching this moment of grace through an intense and prolonged preparation.
67. Besides the homily there is also catechesis which contributes to the growth of the Word in the hearts of all-children, young people and adults. Blessed John Angelo Porro is an inspiration and example for the Servants in catechetical work.
68. In parish work the ordained Servants will never forget that they are religious who are priests and not the opposite. The exercise of the priestly ministry should be dearly marked by the style pro per to religious. Part of the local church, the Servant’s horizon is universal and the Servant is always ready to go where the major superiors see a need. In parish leadership work every Servant is guided by the prophetic charism that
belongs to religious life and that constantly draws attention to new approaches to the challenges facing evangelization today.
69. And there is more. All evangelizing work must be carried out in the style of our charism, i.e., in community, in a spirit of humble service and always inspired by Mary (see Const ., 1). The Mother of Jesus should always be present in our preaching and in all our apostolic work. She is the one who brings the Lord to others, especially those furthest away. In our world divided between the opulence of a few and the misery of many we can’t forget that the Messiah brought by the Virgin is the Liberator of the Magnificat. For this reason the Servants will imitate Mary of Nazareth “who didn’t hesitate to proclaim that God vindicates the lowly and oppressed and overthrows the powerful of the world from their thrones” (MC 37b).
70. Marian sanctuaries are also privileged places for evangelization. This is so, first, of all, because people, often people who do not practice regularly but who are moved by need or a sense of gratitude, come there with an open heart to receive the Word and the Grace of the Lord. Secondly, they come be cause they sense there the power of Mary’s intercession. She calls them to conversion and to obedience to the Word and bestows on them healing and salvation. The ministry carried out in the sanctuaries is of increasing importance in our mobile society, especially on weekends. For many people the sanctuaries are the places where they encounter God, especially through the sacrament of reconciliation and the Eucharist. The preaching of the gospel will strive to arouse in the faithful a commitment to Jesus Christ and to the demands of his kingdom of love, justice and peace.
71. The mission “ad gentes” has always been a specific form of evangelization in the Church and the Order. From centuries-long missionary experience, and especially from the five hundred years of evangelization in the Americas, we can draw some important guidelines:
72. First of all, dialogue. Faith witness must happen in a context of dialogue. The evangelizer must also be evangelized. Dialogue presupposes a listening and receptive attitude, so as to discern “the seeds of the Word”, “the riches that God in his bounty has given to all peoples” (AG 11).
73. Then, there is the matter of inculturation. The evangelizing Servant “becomes incarnate like Christ in his people” (1989 General Chapter, n. 94). Inculturation of the faith and the church is impossible unless the evangelizer is steeped in the people’s culture.
74. Lastly, justice. The proclamation of the Messiah cannot be cut off from the proclamation of the liberation of the oppressed. Jesus himself, “the first and greatest evangelizer” (EN 7) conducted himself in this way: “The Lord has sent me to evangelize the poor” (Lk 4, 18). A privileged sign of the coming of the kingdom is that “the good news is proclaimed to the poor” (Lk 7, 22). In this way evangelization creates a new society according to the kingdom of God at the same time that the church is implanted.
75. All of this must happen with a style of missionary existence characteristic of our Order. This includes: compassion, fraternity, central reference to the Mother of God, and humility in service.
76. The importance of the missions demand that superiors encourage those members who want to go “ad gentes”, even for a limited period of time. The superiors must also sensitize the members “to the missionary commitment of the Order” (1989 General Chapter, n. 97).
77. Besides these areas of evangelizing activity “new forms of service” (Const., 76b) are suggested to the Servants by the Spirit. What are these new forms that our charism calls us to take on today? Here are a few categories of persons who are especially in need of our apostolic service:
– young people , especially the victims of drugs and AIDS;
– children who have been abandoned and who are counted in the thousands in the Third World;
– immigrants in the industrialized world;
– women , particularly those in demeaning or un rewarding situations; our Marian spirit calls us to solidarity,
– minorities of every kind: racial, ethnic, sexual, religious;
– the world of culture : the mass media and the universities-these are the “modern areopagus” (RMi 37).
78. Evangelizing Servants, last of all, cannot hold themselves back from the major problems stir ring the contemporary world-peace, ecology, racism, the search for an authentic new world order, and, especially, the overcoming of famine and misery. The world’s joys and hopes, especially those of the poor and suffering, are also the joys and hopes of the Servants of Mary (see GS 1).
Questions for community reflection
1. What can be done to revitalize the evangelizing capacity of our community in the context of its specific pastoral activity?
2. If the charism affects all our activity, what aspect of our charism needs development for the sake of the evangelizing work to be done?
3. What are some of the new frontiers of apostolic service which Servants of Mary have yet to get involved in?