One of the most popular aspects of my book The New Evangelization and You: Be Not Afraid were the many sidebars about New Evangelizers in Action, stories of everyday Catholics doing their best to know, live, and share their faith. The original plan was for an entire bonus chapter of New Evangelizers, but unfortunately the page count exceeded the plan for the printers.
So for the next few weeks, I’m going to share this great bonus content from The New Evangelization and You: Be Not Afraid. Enjoy!
New Evangelizers in Action: Fr. Timothy Gallagher
Fr. Timothy Gallagher is a priest of the Archdiocese of Atlanta currently serving his first year as a pastor of his own parish. To him, the need for the New Evangelization is not just important, but critical. Even still, the implementation of the New Evangelization requires a gentle hand.
“At the parish level, it is important to help people connect to the Universal Church so to be able to enter into Her perspective and appreciate what the Holy Spirit is guiding Her through in our time,” says Fr. Gallagher. “So for me simply introducing the language of ‘New Evangelization’ is a major step, explaining its origins and meaning in its development, and trying to help parishioners to understand, accept, embrace, and own it, not just as a concept or a trendy campaign, but as a movement of the Holy Spirit to bring new life to the Church.”
So how does a busy pastor working as the only priest in his parish approach this? Start with the basics.
“In the area of reaching my own active parishioners, I cannot assume that they even know the basic Precepts of the Church anymore,” explains Fr. Gallagher. “You cannot tell someone to go and do corporal works of mercy if they have no idea what you’re talking about. You cannot challenge someone to preach the Gospel if they think that is something that only televangelists do. I have to use clear catechesis in the pulpit and in the classroom to, in a sense, re-evangelize them.”
Fr. Gallagher also understands that the use of catechesis sometimes requires identifying misunderstandings people may have about Catholicism. “I find that a big part of Knowing the Faith in my own parish is first helping people come to an awakening that they do not know it,” he says. “Many live a hybrid sort of faith, a mix of protestant beliefs and popular culture along with personal opinion. So it has to re-presented but in a way that our culture has made them accustomed to taking in information. It will be like new to them. So as a pastor, I have know how to do this.”
Is he himself challenged by the need to Evangelize anew?
“The New Evangelization is a charism born from the Second Vatican Council that is coming into maturity, a charism that is made for our time, our culture, and, yes, our technology,” explains Fr. Gallagher. “And so I as a pastor have to pray that I may have this spirit, that I may share this charism given to our Church, and then share it with my flock. The spirit of the New Evangelizing is the age-old message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that brings light to the world, that opens our mind to a new vision of what our life is all about and a gives a new perspective on how would should live our life. But it is the presentation I think that is key.”
When asked about ways to best present the faith, Fr. Gallagher points to successful examples of evangelizers from history.
“St. Paul was one man who made a big difference in Evangelizing,” says Fr. Gallagher. “As he sailed on the waves of the sea by ship in the spirit of Psalm 19:4, I hope to help my little parish to realize that we can reach many on the waves of the internet. Perhaps it will be the spark that ignites the New Evangelization that sets the Earth on Fire. My work as a pastor has to get parishioners to see themselves as a part of this Living Flame and to understand that they play a crucial role in its spreading throughout the world, starting with their families, through social network of friends, and those they meet along the electronic highways and byways. If they can embrace the idea of using virtual reality virtuously, then I think Pslam 19:4 can be realized more and more in our time.”