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80. These goals are addressed to all Catholics in our
country: to every diocese and every parish; to every Catholic person and
every family; to the ordained, religious women and men, and the laity;
to the professional religious worker and the ordinary parishioner; to
large national organizations of Catholics and every parish committee; to
institutions like our Catholic colleges, high schools, and grade
schools as well as associations of the faithful. Although everyone will
pursue these goals with different gifts, no one can claim exemption from
81. These goals are meaningless unless they are steeped in prayer. Without prayer, the Good News of Jesus Christ cannot be understood, spread, or accepted. These goals can be accomplished only by opening our hearts to God, who gives to his children everything they seek,52 who responds when we knock, and who answers when we persevere in asking.53 At Mass, in the Liturgy of the Hours, in prayer groups, and in individual prayer and devotions, we must ask unceasingly for the grace to evangelize. The moment we stop praying for the grace to spread the Good News of Jesus will be the moment when we lose the power to evangelize.
82. These goals also are issued in accord with the ministry of evangelization that belongs to the whole Catholic Church. This plan, the product of our reflection in the United States, adapts to our situation the missionary goals of Christ's Church throughout the world. They are offered in union with all Catholics everywhere, with their bishops, and the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ, the bishop of Rome, which is the city of the apostles Peter and Paul. Unless evangelization is done in the context of this universal Catholic community, it is incomplete.54 We urge this spirit upon our Catholic brothers and sisters.
83. These goals must bear upon our everyday life, in the family and the workplace, in our neighborhoods and associations, in the way we live. Catholics will be able to affect people in everyday life long before they are invited to a parish or to a formal religious event. All evangelization planning basically strives to make more possible the kind of everyday exchange between believers and unbelievers, which is the thrust of evangelization.
84. The parish is the most fitting location for carrying out these goals because the parish is where most Catholics experience the Church. It has, on the local level, the same commitments as the universal Church, with the celebration of God's Word and Eucharist as its center of worship. Evangelization inevitably involves the parish community for, ultimately, we are inviting people to our Eucharist, to the table of the Lord. When an individual evangelizes, one to one, he or she should have the Good News and the Eucharistic table as the ultimate focus.
85. These goals assume that an evangelizing spirit will touch every dimension of Catholic parish life. Welcome, acceptance, the invitation to conversion and renewal, and reconciliation and peace, beginning with our worship, must characterize the whole tenor of our parishes. Every element of the parish must respond to the evangelical imperative—priests and religious, lay persons, staff, ministers, organizations, social clubs, parochial schools, and parish religious education programs. Otherwise, evangelization will be something a few people in the parish see as their ministry—rather than the reason for the parish's existence and the objective of every ministry in the parish. The spirit of conversion, highlighted in the liturgy and particularly in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, should radiate through the actions of all Catholics so that the call to conversion is experienced and celebrated as part of our way of life.
86. Evangelization in the parish should be seen as a collaborative effort that springs from a partnership between the clergy and the laity. Priests have a special leadership role in carrying out this plan, but they should not feel isolated, overburdened, or frustrated in implementing it. Indeed, we even hope an increase in evangelizing will attract more people to the priesthood and religious life. The goals and strategies of our plan are not meant to be an added burden on already overworked pastoral staffs, as if evangelization were merely another program to be done. Rather, they should help parishes see the evangelizing potential of their current activities, even as they stretch parishes to develop new activities from a renewed spiritual energy.
87. These goals also call for a consistency: evangelization must affect the attitude of our Catholic life from top to bottom. We cannot call for renewal only on the parish level; we cannot proclaim mercy only for part of the year; we cannot welcome only some people. Everywhere Americans see Catholics and Catholic institutions they should sense the spirit of evangelization.
88. These goals, finally, will be carried out in the midst of a culture that will make them difficult to achieve. This difficulty will be, in part, a problem of communication because people may prefer stereotypes of the Catholic Church to a true picture of our faith. Another part of the difficulty will be social, because people will see the Catholic Church only as an organization of a certain economic class or educational level rather than as a richly varied and inviting community. Also, a superficial pluralism makes it hard for people to discuss faith seriously in our society. But most difficult of all will be the moral issues, which make the Good News hard to hear by people whose values are contrary to the Gospel and who must experience change in order to hear the message of life we proclaim.
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