The Archbishop of Detroit has issued a pastoral letter for his local Church which aims to encourage evangelization as an “outward, mission-focused” Church through proper formation and evangelical charity.
Issued June 3, the Vigil of Pentecost, Unleash the Gospel is the fruit of a diocesan synod held in 2016.
The missionary conversion at which the letter aims “entails making one’s relationship with Jesus and alignment with his will the central guiding principle of every aspect of life,” Archbishop Allen Vigneron wrote.
The letter was written in preparation for the coming years and is a reflection on the Detroit diocesan synod which met Nov. 18-20, 2016.
Encapsulating the prayers and discernment of the laity, clergy, and religious who gathered for synod, Archbishop Vigneron expressed hope that this project may help bring “every person at every level of the Church” to share the Gospel.
Unleash the Gospel deals with a foundational conviction, catechesis, 10 “guideposts” to guide the new vangelization, and propositions for action in families, parishes, and the archdiocese as a whole in being evangizers.
The archbishop identified vices of the local Church, the foremost of which was to see the Church as a wholly human institution, “a life enhancer” which is reduced to a social program. The root of the crisis facing the Church, he said, is the view that God is uninvolved in the world and that mankind is unable to know him.
Other bad habits within the archdiocese identified in the synod were a “status quo mentality”, being guided by fear, spiritual lethargy, and a an attitude of complaint.
He said the new evangelization is neither a “membership drive, nor is it an effort to shore up a code of conduct,” but is rather an invitation “to encounter Jesus and let their hearts be captured by him.”
This, he said, includes the involvement of all the members of the Church, there are no “bystanders” who do not participate in fostering a relationship with Christ as well as leading others to that same love.
The archbishop laid out the vision of an “outward, mission-focused church,” emphasizing a reconstruction of how people encounter Christ in parishes and ministries.
“For families this means that every family embraces its role as the domestic church and, in connection with other families and single persons, actively seeks the spiritual and social renewal of its neighborhood, schools and places of work. For parishes and archdiocesan services it means the renewal of structures to make them Spirit-led and radically mission-oriented.”
The guideposts map out various focuses, including proper tools to “evangelize the evangelizers,” a greater availability of the sacraments, and joyful attraction within parish life.
“This missionary conversion entails a strikingly countercultural way of living grounded in prayer, Scripture, and the sacraments; unusually gracious hospitality; a capacity to include those on the margins of society; and joyful confidence in the providence of God even in difficult and stressful times.”
Archbishop Vigneron wrote that “The Gospel is most effectively shared in person-to-person encounters. Such personal, on-the-spot evangelization can be prepared for and enhanced by programs and processes and media, but it cannot be replaced by them.”
He emphasized that the new evangelization “cannot be accomplished from within the walls of our churches,” and requires a “going out.”
The archbishop added that “Our service to the poor and marginalized needs to be a clear witness to Jesus our Lord, not mistaken for humanist philanthropy.”
“In recent decades, however, there has been a tendency for Catholic charitable work to become separated from our primary calling to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is time to overcome that distinction.”
The pastoral letter outlined “concrete action steps” for implementing new evangelization in the Detroit archdiocese, including a re-examination of the appropriate age for Confirmation, improved marriage preparation, encouraging Eucharistic Adoration and Marian devotions at parishes, and ongoing formation at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.
Archbishop Vigneron concluded, writing that “I am firmly convinced that the graces bestowed upon the Church in Detroit in Synod 16 are a great spiritual treasure, riches which the Holy Spirit has poured out upon us for the monumental task that lies ahead.”
“With the help of God I will be a true and faithful steward of these gifts that are the common property of us all for the work that has been entrusted to us all.”