Families Evangelizing Families - Evangelii Gaudium Series #4

Every parish has a core of active, faithful families who should be encouraged to assist in evangelization. Our ministry efforts in their ongoing formation should be a priority because these lay evangelists will only be effective if they have a personal relationship with Christ. A Christian family that experiences the joy of the Gospel is the best evangelizer of their own children, their neighbors, and their coworkers. They will also have ideas for new ministry and the talents and means to execute them. They may be a small group, but they are the ones who can reach the many other families that are connected to Church marginally, or not at all. They will see their friends and neighbors in the workplace and on the soccer field, ant their homes must be places from which good news is communicated (EG 86).  

Married couples who are living their faith are the best evangelists for Christian marriage; they should serve as sponsors or mentors to engaged and newlywed couples. Service to others in the Church community can radiate to others who have not yet experienced the joy of the Gospel, spreading what Pope Francis calls “a revolution of tenderness” (EG 88).

Christian families who are less active may become more engaged when we invite them to participate in concrete ways that are meaningful to their lives. Rather than bemoan the disconnection of these families, we must be creative in finding opportunities for ministry among them. At the time of births, marriages, and deaths, caring members of the faith community can draw near to families who are otherwise only marginally connected to the parish. By volunteering to assist at these events, lay people can make a difference and evangelize other families. Pastoral ministers should embrace those on the margins and extend the healing ministry of the Church beyond the regular members, effecting Pope Francis’ vision of “the Church is a field hospital where wounds are treated.”[1] Local families can provide assistance for immigrant or unemployed families. Parish leaders could invite business people to facilitate opportunities for service that help stressed families.

The bishops preparing for the upcoming 2015 Synod on the Family echoed Pope Francis’ call for a “steady and reassuring” accompaniment of families in challenging life situations, recognizing that God loves them and dwells with them. The 2015 Synod, focusing on “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World,” continues the inclusive themes of Evangelii Gaudium. The Synod participants are discussing questions of pastoral care for cohabiting couples, the divorced and remarried, homosexual persons, and the children of these diverse families.[2] When these families approach the Church, Pope Francis encourages us to care for their needs. He says, “Everyone needs to be touched by the comfort and attraction of God’s saving love, which is mysteriously at work in each person, above and beyond their faults and failings” (EG 44).

[1] Tornielli, Andrea, “Antonio Spadaro interviews Francis,” Vatican Insider, Sept. 19, 2013 http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/the-vatican/detail/articolo/27968/ (accessed March 8, 2015).

[2] Synod of Bishops, XIV Ordinary General Assembly, Lineamenta: “Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World,” Vatican City, 2014, http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/synod/documents/rc_synod_doc_20141209_lineamenta-xiv-assembly_en.html