We should not ‘close up ourselves’ but come out to people – the main message of the Second Nationwide Congress of the New Evangelization ‘Wake up a giant’ can be summarized in this way

The Warsaw parish of Ascension became the nationwide capital of the new evangelization for four days (19-22 September). It is here where leaders of communities, Catholic groups, priests and nuns were thinking on how to preach the Good News to those who do not come to the Church any more.

The Congress showed that there is no a solution for a success of the new evangelization. There are many instruments, there are also many convinced people but there is only a lack of willingness. So, the biggest challenge is raising the potential which is passive in Polish parishes. So, it is necessary to check whether believers do not limit themselves only to a comfortable bench in the church and whether they come out to people with the Gospel. It is also task for priests so that they would ‘separate’ from the pulpit.

- We must awake and convince both the laymen and priests that the Church must get converted in the evangelical way – says Fr. Roman Trzciński to ‘Niedziela’, a co-organizer of the congress from the side of the Warsaw archdiocese. For, we cannot ‘close up’ the parish pastoral ministry and be glad by what has remained in the Church. Every priest knows that renovation of the church is sometimes necessary. In the new Evangelization it is all about renovation of the Church, that is, the community of believers. Where to start from?

‘We all need pastoral conversion, both in the individual and group dimension. It will bring fruits in undertaking the richness existing in the Church, as well as variety of means and methods used for renewal of the parish and awakening the giant. (…) We are aware that our parishes contain a great potential, which must be used’ -we read in a document ending the nationwide meeting of leaders of the evangelization.

Pastoral conversion

The experience of priests and communities from the West is very valuable, because we can base on the already elaborated methods. Therefore, Marco de Leyritz was invited to the congress, who had initiated evangelical courses of Alfa in France years ago. It was him who presented the notion ‘pastoral conversion’ to participants, which became a leading thread of the congress. He noted the relations between priests and laymen, clericalism and passivity among laymen. They are often expressed in the attitude ‘that if a parish priest does everything, then I will not do anything’. – We need to achieve the common good relations between priests and laymen. Pastoral conversion takes place through the renewal of the relation which are among us: laymen, priests, consecrated people and bishops – the guest from France says.

The notion ‘pastoral conversion’, elaborated by Latino bishops in a full form, is very close to the pope Francis. – Pastoral conversion is conversion from ‘conserving’ things in parishes to actions being a constant mission outside. For, there is a tendency to ‘conserve’ what we have – says bishop Grzegorz Ryś, the chairman of the Team for the New Evangelization by the Commission of the Pastoral Ministry of the Polish Episcopate.

If 20 percent of parishioners go to the church for the Holy Mass, then it must be ‘conserved’, that is, do everything in order to maintain these 20 per cent of parishioners because this ‘result’ is better than wherever else in Europe. – Without asking the questions: What is involved in these 20 per cent? How do people, who really come to the Holy Mass every Sunday, identify themselves with the Church? - explains bishop Ryś. The pastoral conversion is when we stop thinking on what we have, but when we start coming out and gain new people. And this is a task of not only a parish priest or a vicar, but this is a task for the whole community.

Deacons are not mini-priests

The congress was attended by nearly 800 people from all over Poland and guests from Italy, France and the USA. Among them there was bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, an Ordinary of the Brooklyn diocese of nearly 5 million population. In his diocese, Holy Masses are celebrated in Polish regularly in even 20 parishes. However, it is only one of 29 languages used in liturgy of that Catholic Church.

Bishop DiMarzio reminded that the Polish Pope had often spoken about the new evangelization. – Therefore, it would be a big sin, if in the homeland of John Paul II the new evangelization was neglected – emphasizes the bishop of the USA. He warns against the excessive optimism in Poland, where the attendance at the Holy Mass is much higher than in the Western Europe and the USA. If Poles do not wake up to the new evangelization, they will face the same fate which is in the West. – Therefore, laymen should take over some part of ministry in a parish. You must take responsibility for your communities. Do not leave it to priests! – bishop DiMarzio appeals.

In his opinion, one of the unused situations in our Church is the situation of permanent deacons. There are only a few of them all over Poland, whereas only in his diocese, apart from 700 priests, even 180 permanent deacons are employed, who have been ordained only as deacons. – They are not mini priests – the bishop says jokingly. They have their work and family duties, and they are also a bridge between laymen and priests – he added.

Do not miss eternity

The culmination point of the congress was the evangelical coming out into the one of Warsaw districts. At that time, 700 participants were joined by groups of Warsaw communities. Over 1000 people got engaged in the action of proclaiming the Good News outside the walls of the Church.

Thanks to it, inhabitants of the biggest capital city district, could meet a joyful ‘March for Christ’ on their road, road signs ‘Do not miss eternity’ and ‘News from Jesus’, drawn with a chalk on cycling paths, and at entrances to underground stations there were stalls with sweets. Moreover, members of the Neo-catechumenate Group were visiting many homes, and the group of the Renewal in the Holy Spirit took care of people coming out of Tesco supermarket, after their Saturday shopping.

How will Warsaw inhabitants react? During a few-minute talk it will not be possible to do a lot. It is a kind of our knocking to hearts….Maybe something will awake in them – says Maria Duszyńska from Gdańsk. – It is easier to talk to young people. They are much more open to a dialogue – adds her husband Adam Duszyński.

It was possible to meet people from abroad not only among acquaintances. – We arrived here from the Polish mission in Berlin, in order to participate in workshops and learn the new methods of evangelization. We want to improve our skills, in order to build a strong group of leaders- says Karolina Kurek. – And who do we want to evangelize? At the beginning the Poles and when we are strong enough and self-confident, we will set off to Germany.

Evangelization ferment

The Nationwide Congress of the New Evangelization is a new initiative of the Polish Church. Last year in Kostrzyna at the Oder, there were about 1200 participants. Whereas nearly 800 people arrived in Warsaw.

Organizers do not conceal the fact that they expected more participants. However, they add that there was a different situation in Kostrzyn, because the congress there was ‘connected’ with the Stop of Jesus, where 800-900 evangelizers come every year. Whereas, only those came to Warsaw who wanted to participate in the congress.

The organizational base of the four-day meeting were two centres. Communities from the parish of St. Joseph in Toruń and ‘Water of life’ from the parish of St. Jacob in Warsaw. – I belonged to a Warsaw community and now I live in Toruń now and I am in the community ‘A new song’. Thanks to it I could coordinate a cooperation of Toruń with Warsaw – says Grażyna Czapiewska, a logistics expert of the congress.

The coordination of the whole was conducted by a Redemptorist Friar Jacek Dubiel who runs a School of New Evangelization there. – The Church in every epoch must proclaim the Good News in such a way that its message would be understood by contemporary people – says Fr. Dubiel to ‘Niedziela’. It is not all about the fact that we are in a kind of crisis or a moral decadency today. The new evangelization is understanding of what the Holy Spirit tells us in the Church today. It is Him who opens us to various novelties. It is Him who opens us to the new evangelization.

The main purpose of the congress was ‘awakening of a giant’, that is, a potential which is asleep in Polish parishes. – I am a realist and I know that tomorrow parishes will not go out into streets. Most people, to whom our evangelizers got in Ursynów, are not likely to come to the church – says Fr. Dubiel. – We expect that as much as street evangelization forces accidental people to think, we also want to introduce the intellectual ferment in the Polish Church. Publications will be available, as well as documentaries and films. If a parish priest and laymen open up to a new space of the parish activity, it will be our success.


"Niedziela" 40/2013

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl