“Witnessing the Gospel means not only speaking the word of God but to live it in our own lives,” said Sister Theresa Rickard, O.P.
“Everyone called to be disciples is called to be a witness; it is not just priests, sisters but for every Catholic.”
Sister Theresa, the executive director of RENEW International, was one of the keynote speakers at the fifth annual Evangelization Congress held Nov. 18 at St. Francis Prep, Fresh Meadows.
“A powerful way is to be a person of humility, be a person of great faith and to have the desire to pass their faith on to others,” she told the more than 1,000 people who attended the all-day conference sponsored by the Office of Faith Formation.
“I hope today to inspire people to have the confidence and trust in the Holy Spirit to witness the strength of their words and their life. Seeing the crowd today and the enthusiasm is tremendous and to see this kind of response to people’s desire to witness the gospel is a great tribute to the diocese.”
The day included Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop James Massa as well as workshops that reflected the theme of the day, “Witnessing the Gospel.”
About 1,000 people from 100 parishes were in attendance.
Priests, sisters, school principals, and writers, who conducted the workshops in English and Spanish, focused on their own evangelization stories and explored different outreaches of the gospel such as youth, parish life, and how to share our faith.
Sister Marenid Fabre, O.P., delivered the Spanish keynote.
Bishop Massa told those assembled that “at the end of the day all that we have is the word of God. We sometimes worry about the future of our institutions and buildings, but we could be thrown out of our churches and lose our religious freedom. Whatever remains, even if we have to worship like the first Christians, we would still have the word of God.
“Three gifts that can never be taken from us bread, the Bible, and the order of ministers. The Lord promised He would remain with us until the end of time and is always with us through His word and His sacrament.”
Deacon Kevin McCormack, principal of Xaverian H.S., served as Deacon of the Gospel at Mass and then conducted a workshop on reaching young people.
“I find it ironic to speak about kids because I am their enemy. I am a principal and I have adult children and so there are days I don’t like children,” he joked.
“Children don’t understand the world the way I do because we had different childhoods. I learned I had to forgive my children and the students I work with and learn to reach them.
“What worked when I was their age might not work now. Their lives and experiences are different, so their faith is too. Yet they are the future of the Church. Each generation has the responsibility to share the gospel with the next.”
“Helping Catholics Witness their Faith” was the topic for Father Frank DeSiano, C.S.P., president of Paulist Evangelization Ministries.
“The very essence of being a follower of Jesus is to be evangelized and to help others experience Jesus,” he said. “All of us involved in the liturgy, parents, and teachers are all involved in evangelization and play a critical role in sharing our faith and being an example.”
Sister Shirley Ann, a Sister of Life, helps pregnant women in her community’s Toronto Mission and until this past year was Assistant Respect Life Coordinator of New York. She focused on parish life in her workshop.
“As we did today the best way to celebrate the gospel is to participate and hear it. That is how our work begins,” she explained. “Christ is at the center of building a culture of life. Christ is our life. Christ needs to be at the center of any work in the church. For anything to be spiritually successful, Christ needs to be the center and heart of all those involved.”
Patricia Shelley, a teacher at St. Catherine-St. Therese Catholic Academy, Flatbush, attended because she is always looking for new ideas.
“Being a Catholic school teacher, you are always looking for a better understanding on how to share our faith with our students and how to incorporate that into the classroom,” she said.
“It is also always important to find new ideas to involve the parents and keep the community together through faith.”
Anna Jimenez, a member of St. Saviour parish, Park Slope, was excited to see so many people sharing their faith.
“When we got here and saw the line to get in, I was shocked. I was expecting a lot of people but was not ready to see all of this,” she said.
“I am happy though that so many people are here to both share their faith and learn to be better. I learned from my parents that my faith is a very important part of my life and to be able to see what it means to so many is moving.
“All these people will leave here today and will share what they learned to both their parish and others and the Church will grow. Today shows just how important sharing our faith is to our communities.”
“The day is to bring people of the parishes of the diocese together,” explained Ted Musco, diocesan director of the Office of Faith Formation.
“To have them talking to one another of their own faith and sharing their own Evangelization stories allows people to learn from one another.
“The day is to help strengthen the faith of all those in attendance but also to have them hear the call to then go out and share that faith.
“People were very impressed and glad that they were there. The day truly was a success. I had people coming up to me all day saying how wonderful, awesome, amazing the experience was.
“We were blessed to have such a wonderful day as the spirit was among us.”