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1. Evangelisation - Why and What is it?

Read Fr Joseph's letter in full below or download a PDF version by clicking this link Fr.Joseph's Letter to the Parish.

Fr Joseph's Letter to the Parish

Dear Friends,

I am writing to you not only as your Administrator (I really dislike this title), but more so as your friend and fellow Catholic. Since my appointment to the Lakes (April 11th), I have contemplated much about your goodwill and gifts.

After 100 days being among you, I would like to take up this occasion to thank you for your kindness and commitment. As I am a young man of 40, I belong to the Y or even X generation of young adult Catholics. Faith for my generation is an alternative, and not an obligation. My generation is busy and lives under constant financial and social obligations. Yet, my generation is also human, flesh and soul. It is with the latter that I am concerned.

The X and Y generation, remind me of the parable of the lost sheep from Luke’s gospel. You will recall in that parable Jesus talks about the shepherd who had 100 sheep and loses one of them. He leaves the 99 in the open country and goes after the lost sheep until it finds it, and when he does find it there is much rejoicing.

With the X and Y generation this parable is reversed – 99 sheep (including many of your children and grandchildren) have gone off and one remains in the sheepfold. If the Lakes parish community represents the one remaining sheep, do I spend all of my time nourishing the one remaining sheep thus leaving me no time to seek those who are lost? Or do I turn to all of you and seek your assistance in helping me to bring back the 99? This is my dilemma.

Within our parish we have two primary schools with around 400 children from year one to year six. Other teenagers of our parish attend Mater Maria College. Yet, our Sunday mass attendance is below 10%. Currently it is about 8-9% with declining tendency. Not many children, youth or young parents are among the mass goers.  If we don’t act now, we can close the doors in 10 years. Currently, God does not have any grandchildren! This is my challenge!

For this reason, I am writing to you to ask you to join me in praying for a “new evangelisation” project which I, in consultation with the Pastoral Parish Council, am planning to introduce into the Lakes Parish via a three year action plan.

What Is Evangelisation?

First, let me tell you clearly what Evangelisation is not. It is not to stand in the midst of a busy street in Sydney CBD and to shout aggressively at people and perhaps even to insult those who pass by as if they deserved nothing more than to be punished for their indifference by a revengeful God. It is not to knock on the stranger’s door and to proclaim brusquely that salvation is offered to those only who are converted to the truth of the bible. Those who do so are not Evangelists. They do not believe in the working of the Holy Spirit who, as we know, operates in a mysterious way.

Let me tell you what Evangelisation is. Evangelisation is essentially an invitation to live your faith more consciously. By this I mean living your faith beyond the ‘obligatory‘ requirements (regular Mass attendance and reception of the Eucharist) that has been the normal practice of the church for most of our lives. Thus, evangelisation aims to reinvigorate your faith, and to assist you to grow deeper into an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Then, through your living example of this new relationship, we can build up an atmosphere within the parish that will draw back the 99 lost sheep.

Fundamentally, evangelisation it is about friendship with Jesus Christ. It is He who invites you into his friendship: “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends.” (John 15:15).  

“Friends of Jesus”

How do you develop this ‘personal ‘relationship with Jesus? Well, how would you normally develop a deliberate personal relationship with someone you met yesterday – someone you would desire to develop as a personal friend? In the same way it takes time and effort for the Holy Spirit to help you develop this “spiritual friendship” with Jesus.

But, you may say-- ‘with all my current work/family/other things commitments, where am I going to find the time to develop this relationship?’ In this regard, my commitment to you is to show you “the how” to develop this personal relationship with Jesus, after which I believe you will find the time to practice and develop it.

The three year action plan referred to earlier intends to support, in the first instance, ME as an individual guiding you through this “spiritual friendship” journey; in the second stage, WE as a community developing a stronger spiritual parish atmosphere where we are in accord with each other; and in the last stage, the OTHERS (99 for who faith and the church are marginal parts of their life).

So, for me, the starting point for our evangelisation project is to present to you my thoughts, my dilemma as well as my challenge. I cannot undertake this challenge without your assistance. If we are to be the reason for people joining or returning to our parish, we need to review our current relationship with Jesus, for I believe that through that relationship the Holy Spirit will empower us to ensure that God does have grandchildren in the Lakes Parish!

Shortly I will be convening parish meeting to get your thoughts on supporting the parish Evangelisation project.

Fr. Joseph Lam, PhD STD

[written in collaboration with Russell Collins]