Renewed evangelization effort begun with office, coordinator
By Greg Tobin
The words of Jesus are clear: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age. (Mt 18:19-20)”
How each parish and each Catholic Christian fulfills this commission to evangelize the world may not be as well-practiced in the Archdiocese of Newark as it needs to be—yet.
At the beginning of the year, a new coordinator, Liliana Soto, and a new Office of Evangelization have been put in place to serve the needs of the 200-plus pastors and 1,300,000 Catholics of the archdiocese in this vital mission.
Most Rev. Edgar da Cunha, S.D.V., Regional Bishop for Essex County was appointed chairman of the Evangelization Task Force by Archbishop Myers in response to the Holy Father’s emphasis on evangelization in the new millennium.
Representatives from the Archdioceses of Newark and Philadelphia and the Dioceses of Allentown, Brooklyn, Camden, Metuchen, Rockville Center, Trenton and Wilmington gathered last month to share resources and methods to foster the central mission of the church, as expressed in the theme of the discussions: “Making Disciples for Jesus Christ.”
Bishop da Cunha stated that the Office of Evangelization “will not be just another program but will be a tool, a resource” to provide ongoing support to parishes in this crucial task.
Evangelization, he continued, means to “invite, welcome and feed” members of the Catholic community into the parishes of the local Church. All the bishops of New Jersey are “on board” with the renewed work of evangelization throughout the state.
“The Office of Evangelization will serve as a resource for programs, courses, workshops and consultations intended to complement and enhance the evangelizing efforts in the Archdiocese of Newark,” Liliana Soto said.
“When we evangelize, the Holy Spirit brings an individual to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and thus, to a more abundant life in Him as found in scripture”: “A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)”
“How will we do this?” she went on. “By transforming our own lives as individuals through the power of the Holy Spirit and the life of the archdiocese as a whole. To be what Christ asks us to be and thereby to become role models. To know why we are Catholic and to act on that knowledge.
“This will be accomplished by using the local parish as a mission field to invite, welcome and feed all of God’s children. The local parish is to become an evangelizing parish under the leadership of the pastor. It is important that we as the laity, empower our pastors, thanking and encouraging them—instead of criticizing—by helping and praying for them as they answer Christ’s call.
“We are here to help pastors, clergy and committed lay Catholics to bridge the gap between Christ and all of us, each of us as individuals called to a more abundant life in Him.”
The office, as Soto describes it, will field inquiries and coordinate information evenings, work with pastors and help to provide tools for them and their parishes, help shoulder the “burden” of their work.
Like Bishop da Cunha, she emphasized that the Office of Evangelization is not a “program” but a defined ministry and a clearinghouse for information on programs to enhance parish ministries—to share with others throughout the archdiocese and “be of help” in creating networks for those at all levels interested in the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Soto is herself bilingual and emphasized that element in the evangelization ministry. Information, workshops, publications will be available in Spanish as well as English.
She most recently served as assistant to the chancellor of the Archdiocese of Newark and has trained evangelization leaders in local parishes. She is a graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH, and has been assistant to the director of the Boston regional office of Charismatic Renewal Services.
Liliana Soto is a parishioner of St. Antoninus Church, Newark and has been active in music ministry, proclaiming the Word and as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, as well as her involvement in the charismatic movement within the Church.
Two introductory workshops are scheduled for March 9 and 10 to give pastors information on two available evangelization plans: RENEW International’s “Why Catholic?” and the Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association’s “Disciples in Mission.”