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By María G. Covarrubias

Even though change has been part of our lives, and more specifically during the pandemic, these uncertain times have highlighted areas in our lives that needed attention. This is also true to our faith communities and society. We are asking ourselves what matters the most!

Questioning ourselves opens the door to the search for new answers. In the Diocesan Ministry of Educational Services, we consider this a historical moment, a unique opportunity to pause, question and reflect on the challenges and opportunities we have as the local Catholic Church. We clearly see the need for an intentional focus and efforts on evangelization. An evangelization centered in Christ, who is the same yesterday and today, that is “new in its ardor, methods and expression” according to St. John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Tertio Millenio, on the New Evangelization.

A few years ago, at the request of Bishop Gerald Barnes, the Offices of Catechetical Ministry and Ministry with Young Catholics embarked on a process to discern new ways on how to engage youth after Confirmation. In this process that included studying, questioning, sharing, reflecting and consultation, these two offices noticed that there was too much separation between ministries at the diocesan and parish levels, preventing a comprehensive and effective response to this concern. It was more than just looking at one area: it needed to include an integral evaluation and response across common areas of diocesan and parish ministry, to lay a deep foundation based on lifelong, whole community evangelization and catechesis that supports all stages of life.

Our diocesan values of Hospitality, Faith Sharing, Collaboration and Reconciliation were identified as major elements in developing a profound ministerial response to evangelization as a path for missionary discipleship. The catechumenate model, a model for all catechesis, continues to be the basis for this renewal, encountering people where they are in their faith journey. Accompanied by fellow Catholics and the community of faith, all members of our parish communities are invited to engage in a lifelong learning and commitment to evangelization, with the goal of bringing people in intimate relationship with Christ to establish the Reign of God in our homes, neighborhood and society.

As an introduction to this project, in 2019 during the Combined Vicariate meetings, the Ministry of Educational Services department directors did a presentation to priests and parish ministers on this process. In the last year, this team has vigilantly and intentionally worked in developing a common vision where accompaniment and collaboration have flourished. We have been very intentional in coming up with a common understanding and language on evangelization. We also have explored the question, who is a disciple? What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ? How is a missionary disciple formed?

To help us advance this vision further, this year, we are collaborating with the Office of New Evangelization and Parish Life in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Through this office the Archdiocese has launched an Evangelization Initiative developed around making intentional disciples and casting strong efforts around the process of evangelization. We recognize in these collaborative efforts the action of the Holy Spirit, guiding us in this renewal. As a result of this partnership, we have been invited to participate at two different levels in their core formation called “Casting the Nets into the Deep” to help us in discerning aspects of this process that would help us advance our own evangelization efforts and formation.

We appreciate and are very grateful to those who have invested so much into this process. Our present time is filled with hope and new possibilities to approach evangelization with newness and awe, creatively utilizing new expressions to illuminate the path to lasting missionary discipleship.

María G. Covarrubias is the Director of the Department of Ministry of Educational Services.