As our small contingent of Catholic Terps piled into a rented van with Matt Aujero for a four-hour car ride to Saint Vincent College, none of us knew what to expect. We were set to go on a conference led by Cardinal Wuerl about The New Evangelization, specifically pertaining to college campus ministry.
We all hear about the term of “The New Evangelization,” but as with a lot of Catholic rhetoric, it could be explained in many different ways. One of the goals of this conference was to instill a definitive definition and a better understanding of “The New Evangelization.”
After a long car ride, we arrived in the small town of Latrobe, PA at Saint Vincent College. Since this was a conference about college students and campuses, we had expected to see many fellow students just like us, but to our surprise, the number of students was quite outnumbered by the number of campus ministers and clergy, which in all honestly, I thought would make this conference a little boring. However, throughout the various talks and small conversations I encountered, there was a lot to learn about The New Evangelization.
There was a wealth of knowledge found in the keynote speakers at the conference. Cardinal Wuerl, the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Washington; Bishop Robert Barron, known for his own TV series on Catholicism, and Dr. Carolyn Woo, President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services all gave their perspectives on The New Evangelization.
Cardinal Wuerl talked about how Pope Francis calls each of us to take part in this New Evangelization, and how important it is to be witnesses to others in our words and our actions. Dr. Woo talked about the importance of the relationships we form with people and how far our invitation to others can go. She spoke about how hard it was adjusting to Purdue University when she came from Hong Kong, and how an invitation to the University’s campus ministry and her friendship with a priest there formed her faith and shaped her life.
I think an invitation is one of the most important things when it comes to The New Evangelization. We Catholics often like to get away with saying, “Oh I’ll just try my best to be holy and I’ll be so holy that everyone will want to come to church and be holy with me,” or something along those lines when it comes to the call to evangelization. The truth is, we can’t evangelize just with what we do. We need to physically talk to people: that means sounds should come out of our mouths and more specifically sounds about how Christ has changed our lives. I always find myself chickening out of saying something about my faith when I really should have.
Marcel LeJuene, a campus minister at Texas A&M, gave a talk specifically about stepping up the call to discipleship in the New Evangelization. He spoke about how if we don’t take that step in talking to somebody, they may never know Christ. He played a video that was made by an atheist who said, “If Jesus really is as good as you Christians believe him to be, what could be more hateful than to never tell anyone about him.” I think this really shows how important it is to actively take part in The New Evangelization. It’s a matter of life and death.
Bishop Robert Barron gave us a talk about how he takes part in The New Evangelization through multimedia outlets. He has a TV show about the great history of Catholicism and he frequently does podcasts and YouTube videos about church teaching. He talked about the backlash he received over the Internet about his videos and how it was sometime disheartening, but he also spoke about the positive feedback that he received as well. He noted that many people out there who don’t know Christ, specifically on college campuses that are looking for something more in their life. The desire for God in the world is large, the media may not make it seem that way, but as the band Twenty One Pilots says in their song “Screen”: we’re broken people. It is our job as Catholics to walk with each other and walk with those who don’t yet have faith.
I think the most humbling thing about the conference was having conversations with other campus ministers who were handling many different kinds of campus ministry challenges. Some people had to manage multiple campuses where there was only one priest to tend to them all. Some had Catholic communities that were thriving, others that were dwindling. It just showed me how lucky we are at University of Maryland to have the Catholic Student Center, with a dedicated priest and a dedicated cast of helpful student leaders and campus ministers. So as I move forward from this conference, knowing how blessed I am to participate in such a thriving campus ministry and knowing how crucial The New Evangelization is, It’s time to step up my game and start stepping up to the call of The New Evangelization.