By LINDSAY GLADU, Special to the Bulletin | Published June 27, 2014
COLLEGE PARK—This year’s Eucharistic Congress inspired parishioners to go out and spread the Good News as Jesus calls his disciples to do in Matthew 28:19.
The first two speakers of the English track, Greg Willits and Patty Schneier, challenged the crowd to find new ways to reach others in their daily lives.
Willits of Denver, Colorado, returned to Atlanta, his previous home of 25 years, to speak on the idea of “New Evangelization.” As the current director of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries for the Archdiocese of Denver, Willits had a lot to say on the matter, particularly on an individual level.
“This secondary evangelization, this new evangelization is going back out into the world,” he said to the audience, “and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others, and sometimes that has to start with ourselves.”
In order to become more acquainted with new evangelization, Willits shared three key elements for successful evangelism: Know the faith; live the faith; and share the faith.
He emphasized that all three methods must be utilized to be effective, but also acknowledged that taking small action steps is the best way to “eat the elephant.”
In his book, “The New Evangelization and You: Be Not Afraid,” Willits lists 52 ways to know your faith, live your faith and share your faith, a formula that lets people try to implement one small change a week.
For example, in the “know-your-faith category,” Willits encouraged his listeners to buy a Catholic almanac in order to have ready access to information about everything from church history, to devotions, to what the Catholic Church is doing throughout the world. He suggested going to one extra Mass per week or inviting your priest over for dinner as a way to live your faith.
The most daunting of the three steps, Willits said, is to share faith, but there are easy ways to do it.
One way he prescribed to share the faith: Dress for Mass like you would dress for dinner with Jesus Christ.
“How you dress for the King of kings and Lord of lords will help other people to realize the importance of the Mass,” Willits said.
To conclude his talk, Willits challenged the audience to take one action step toward being a better disciple by the following week.
Matt and Katie Pritts, of Griffin, decided to discuss their own plan of action on the way home from the Eucharistic Congress that afternoon.
“He brought up good points about how to go out and evangelize,” Matt Pritts said, “and bring people to the faith.”
The second speaker of the day, Patty Schneier, a blond housewife and mother of three from St. Louis, Missouri, offered a charismatic review of how she came to be a better follower of Christ.
For Schneier, living her Catholic faith always seemed to be “enough.” But it took her realizing that certain areas of her life were spiritually dead for her to wake up to the calling that Christ planned for her life. It all started with an extra 15 minutes of prayer time each morning and asking God what he wanted to say to her that day.
On the second day, a Scripture passage evoked a very strong reaction in her. It began a journey of realization that “I had ignored the Catholic Church’s teachings on sex and marriage all my adult life,” Schneier said. She asked God, “Prove that your teachings on sex and marriage are not a burden.” A lengthy process took place. “I wrestled and I argued and I went kicking and screaming,” she said, until a friend handed her a copy of a book by Christopher West called “Good News About Sex & Marriage.”
“Contraception just happened to be my wall of dissent,” Schneier said. “There are many others.”
But once the wall of dissent fell, it “opened up a totally new spiritual life,” Schneier said. Her renewed faith allowed her to be able to share the teachings of the church in her everyday life.
“The key to evangelization starts with our own heart and hardness of heart,” she said. “The key to evangelization is when we actually live a Catholic life with joy.”
“Most of us are lifelong Catholics and we don’t think we need conversion,” she said. “If we are honest, many of us have an area of dissent. … When we put up a wall of dissent, our prayer life can go no further, our ability to evangelize can go no further.”
“I loved so many things about the church, but did I love the church and all her teachings? No, I didn’t,” she said.
She also supported people in taking small steps to confront areas of dissent. Pray “I believe, but help my unbelief when it comes to that one issue,” she advised. “Read. Don’t be afraid to get resources.”
So she called for the audience to examine their faith, break down their barriers with Christ and spread the word about the things they were passionate about in their faith lives.
“What’s in your toolbox?” she asked.
One of Schneier’s favorite ways to evangelize is by inviting everyone and anyone to Catholic Church events and holding a get-together with food at her home beforehand.
“Feed them and they will come,” she quipped.
As a cantor in the choir, she also enjoys telling people about her archdiocese’s radio station.
She left the audience with two words — come and go.
“It’s no use coming unless we go, and it’s no use going unless we come,” she said. “Come closer to Christ and then go out and let your light shine.”
Bill Broderick, of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Cumming, took away a resolution to start praying every morning like Schneier.
“Her talk was marvelous, I thought,” Broderick said, “in that you can make a difference in your normal family life and in your community to evangelize to the fullest extent. You have to believe in the Catholic Church.”