What is it? Where is it? Who is it? How is it? When is it?
The answer to these questions is as close as one of the most treasured realities of life:
Be a friend. Be a friend of Jesus. Make friends for Jesus.
These twelve words sum up what it means for you and me to be The Church Evangelizing! Jesus asks each of us to be His friend. He gave that invitation in the Gospel of John: “I have called you friends.”
Some of the basic rules of friendship we learned in kindergarten: “play nice,” “share with others,” “take turns,” “care for others,” “do not tattle.” As we grew older, we learned that everyone needs a friend to be our “bridge over troubled water.”
That is Who Jesus is for us. And Jesus wants to become friends with everyone we know. Introducing our friends to Jesus is what it means to be The Church Evangelizing!
This is nothing new for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. My predecessors all made friends for Jesus. Every bishop of our diocese over the nearly 170 years of our history has carried out the mission of evangelization: O’Connor, Domenec, Tuigg, Phelan, Canevin, Boyle, Dearden, Wright, Leonard, Bevilacqua, Wuerl and yours prayerfully.
But the Church of Pittsburgh isn’t just its bishops, its nearly 261 active priests, 100 deacons, and 1,031 religious. Learn more. It is every one of the nearly 700,000 faithful in six counties and four vicariates.
From the first missionary priests who celebrated Mass at the Point in 1754, through the 19th century outreach of Saint John Neumann and Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos to immigrants in the Strip District, to the parents who for generation after generation have nurtured and raised their children in the faith, to the religious and lay who have catechized our young, to the parish RCIA leaders who help to lead converts into our Catholic Church today, the Church of Pittsburgh has always been The Church Evangelizing! We are Catholics here and now because Catholics who went before us passed on the faith to us.
Today I am renewing the call to evangelize. It is a call that triumphed over the anti-Catholic bigotry of the 19th century. It is a call heard by daring immigrants who contributed to the rapid growth of the Catholic population in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is a call that echoes the Second Vatican Council, beginning with Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI, and continues through Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI to Pope Francis.
The Church of Pittsburgh faces the dynamic challenges of bringing the Christian faith to a secular world at the dawn of the 21st century. As members of the Body of Christ in the Church of Pittsburgh, we have the blessed responsibility to continue to be The Church Evangelizing!
The Church Evangelizing! is the Church to which you and I belong. It is our Catholic Church, the Church of Pittsburgh. The “church” part we know well. The “evangelizing” part we need to know better. I want us to bring to light some of the fresh ways that our dear Pope Francis is calling us to reflect anew on the Catholic life we share.
I ask you to re-imagine with me how you and I can live our faith in a way that transforms our corner of the world. It is my personal belief, inspired by that of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, that you and I must make “evangelizing” not only a household word, but a daily reality. With the Holy Spirit to guide and empower us, we can—indeed we must—make The Church Evangelizing! a transforming influence in southwestern Pennsylvania and beyond.