North Park – South Park – Golden Hill

knowing Jesus and making Him known in the neighborhood

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Spreading the good news comes from the heart.

The joyful way to evangelize
Spreading the good news comes from the heart.

Art covers the walls of a hip storefront in downtown Waterloo, Iowa. On the Saturday before Halloween, 500 kids make their way inside to claim a piece of candy, with an open invitation to return in a few weeks to watch The Wizard of Oz. On a Friday evening dozens pack into the building to watch and discuss the original Star Wars film from 1977. Another evening a few people meet around a table to talk about what it is like either being or knowing a gay Catholic. And yet another evening an eclectic mix of homeless, hungry, and well-fed people gather to share a community meal.
None of this may look like sharing the gospel, but according to Ellen Kuchera, one of the creators of COR at 220 East, this is where the heart of evangelization is taking place. COR, Latin for heart, is a project sponsored by the four Waterloo parishes with the primary goal of making connections between the church and the broader community. The project is intended to respond directly to the mandate that Pope Francis gave at World Youth Day in 2013: "I want a mess. I want to see the Church get closer to the people. . . . We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel." 

I tend to associate evangelization with evangelical Protestants asking whether I have asked Jesus into my heart as my lord and savior. With the rising importance of evangelization in the Catholic Church, I have admittedly struggled with what this means for me, a cradle Catholic intensely uncomfortable with anything that smacks of imposing my own views on others.

Pope Francis has attempted to respond to confusion like mine with a papacy focused on evangelization--which consists not of "imposing new obligations" or proselytizing but rather of a church living out its joy and sharing its wealth of beauty, of culture, of resources with its neighbor. It is "by attraction" that the church grows, he writes in Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel).

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