It’s hard to believe that I wrote my first “Everyday Evangelization” column one year ago this month. As I reflect on previous topics, especially the foundational items like what is evangelization, why we do it, how do we do it, why it’s so important, etc., I wanted to drill down into one specific and practical concept about evangelization — the ministry of presence and being the face of Christ to everyone we encounter.

It wasn’t my intent to tell a personal story when I sat down to write this month’s column, I actually wanted to focus on utilizing our God-given talents and how they can contribute to a team approach in order to grow our parishes, but I was overcome by a recent experience that I wanted to share.

Over the past few years, I have grown very close to an elderly gentleman from my parish after I started driving him to Mass each Sunday. I knew Paul and his late wife for about 25 years, but not personally. As time went by, driving Paul to Mass evolved into also visiting him mid-week after work, which then became daily visits at his home where he lived alone.

Our conversations consisted of the basic topics: sports, specifically my love for the Yankees — his love for the Mets — the weather, current affairs and the stock market. But one day all of that changed when Paul asked me what I think about when I look at Jesus crucified on the cross. I was a bit taken aback at first thinking to myself, that’s a very personal question, but when I answered — we had one of the most beautiful conversations I can remember. I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back now, that was an impactful experience in my faith life. Paul got me out of my comfort zone to speak openly about my faith and love for Jesus.

That conversation and all of our subsequent time together reflects the beauty of evangelization and the ministry of presence — sacrificially giving our time and undivided attention to others. The mission of our Church and its parishes is to share our love for Jesus with others and help bring them into a relationship with Jesus. The first step in doing so is to make everyone feel welcome, included and loved at our parishes. We are directed to love our neighbor as ourselves. That is a radical concept, but as we know, Jesus’ teachings were radical. Don’t overcomplicate evangelization and don’t let the word deter us from what we are commanded. Evangelization is our top priority. We exist to evangelize and it is not easy to be a disciple of Christ.

Paul and I are not just friends, we are brothers-in-Christ. We are companions on the journey reading the Gospels, praying, sharing stories about the presence of Jesus in our lives and encouraging each other to grow in our faith. That is our mission and our call to action. We may not feel like we are making a difference in this complex world, but when we give glory to God, allow the Holy Spirit to work through us, and love our neighbor like ourselves — we are empowered to be the face of Christ to everyone we encounter and bring His love, mercy and joy to them.

Please contact me with any questions about boosting evangelization efforts at your parish at Thomas.Cronin@rcda.org or by visiting https://www.rcda.org/evangelization. Follow me on Instagram: tom_rcda