Faithful urged to make friends, evangelize

July 26, 2014

The Pittsburgh Catholic
By John Franko

Message in bishop’s pastoral letter is being promoted.

Speaking to a packed hall of people eager to introduce their parishes to Bishop David Zubik’s pastoral letter “The Church Evangelizing!,” Helene Paharik said the letter is more than a document. It’s a movement of people seeking to become better friends with Jesus and to introduce their other friends to him.

“Jesus formed a community of friends among the disciples 2,000 years ago in Galilee,” she said. “Jesus gives us his Spirit to help us form communities of friends among his disciples today right here in our parishes in western Pennsylvania.”

Paharik, associate general secretary, was the presenter at a facilitator training session July 19 at St. Paul Seminary in Crafton for those who want to help share the message of the bishop’s pastoral letter.

Some 175 people representing 70 parishes from all four vicariates were in attendance. “(It) was reflective of the passion for evangelization of the clergy, religious and laity of the diocese,” she said.

The gathering included an overview of the pastoral letter, table discussions, a review of the facilitator’s guide and a brief overview of social media websites focusing on the document.

Paharik pointed out that the theme of Bishop Zubik’s letter is friendship. Be a friend. Be a friend of Jesus. Make friends for Jesus.

That’s a quick summary of more than 11,000 words, she said. She called it a “critical task” of Catholics in the diocese to form small “circles of friends” to study and discuss the letter.

The diocese has provided a facilitator’s guide for leaders to use in guiding others through reading and reflecting on the letter. These circles of friends will meet at parishes, in homes or on weekend retreats.

“We can’t help but share with other people how much God has loved us,” Paharik said.

Building relationships is a key to forming community, she said. In his letter, Bishop Zubik states that evangelization is how our friendship with Jesus is passed on to others. We must be the face, hands, heart and voice of Christ reaching out to others, she said.

To do this we must make sure that all feel welcomed and loved, she noted. By inviting people to share with others in their circles what they have learned about friendship with Jesus, we will help them become evangelizers, Paharik said.

A review of the pastoral letter’s website (www.ChurchEvangelizing.com) was given by Aaron Bonnaure, an account executive with Cold Spark Media, a company that is coordinating the letter’s promotion.

He said applications are available that make the letter accessible by iPhone and iPad.

“The message hasn’t changed, but the ways of doing it have,” he said. “We have to revolutionize.”

Paharik said the pastoral letter is presented in a number of ways on the website: a video that summarizes main themes; an MP3 file of Bishop Zubik reading the letter; a downloadable PDF of the print version; and the interactive app for iPhone and iPad.

Resources for sharing the letter, she noted, include the facilitator’s guidebook, a reading list, parish checklist, theological reflections and a biblical background on friendship. Upcoming events also are posted.

“The website is the go-to place for learning how to be a friend of Jesus and make friends for Jesus,” she said. “It is for everyone.”

Information can be found at www.ChurchEvangelizing.com, or on Twitter using the hashtag #Friends4Jesus.

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