Three weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend (along with the Catholic Apostolate Center) the National Catholic Collegiate Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. There, I participated in a presentation on what it means to be an apostle and how we are called to be active witnesses in our faith.
The entire conference was aimed at young adults in college or who just graduated. I found it amazing how there were so many young people who wanted to take the time out of their lives and come out to participate actively in their faith. The presentation was typical of similar presentations aimed at young adults, it started off slow – difficult to get answers out of them – but as soon as the conversation started to flow, it became apparent to us giving the presentation that they were there for a reason.
We posed questions to them – tough ones to think about. What were the strength and weaknesses of their programs, did they need more prayer in their life, what does it mean to evangelize, where do they want to improve. It was clear that no one felt they were perfect and a lot of them knew that each issue was important, not just one over the other. Being a “young adult” myself these questions were just as important for me as they were for the participants. There was one answer to a question that stuck out for me.
I asked, what does “evangelization” mean? The responses were varied, but one in particular caught my attention. One of the participants said, “Inspire.” What a beautiful thought. We know that the term evangelize or evangelization hovers around the idea of conversion or spreading the good news. But when you truly think about the idea of evangelization, are we not trying to inspire people? Are we not trying to spread the word of God and the good works of the church? Those ideas in itself are inspiring. For that to be seen by someone my age and to be so courageously brought up in front of his peers was something that I had to take note of – I returned back to that idea at the end of the presentation.
Inspired myself by that young adult, I leave you with the three ideas that I left with the participants as I debriefed our presentation and activity:
1. You are not the future of the Church, you ARE the Church!
Young people hear so often that they are the future of the Church, that they must be willing to step up and be the leaders of the future. The simple fact is that they (you) are already the Church – the time is now to reach out and step up to help – to spread the good news, to evangelize.
2. Do more than just follow, tell people why you’re following.
It’s one thing to identify as a Catholic – we must have a deeper understanding of what it means. We must be ready to spread the word about our faith, to answer questions, and to help others understand and be inspired.
3. Be positive.
This to me is a key component of evangelization – of being an apostle. We must not be quick to point out when something is wrong, instead we must look for the good in things. We have an obligation to approach all our interactions in a positive and inspiring way, not to be dismissive or confrontational.
Chris Pierno is the Media & Marketing Manager for the Catholic Apostolate Center