Catholic bishops in England and Wales hope to establish evangelisation teams to transform about 5,000 churches into “missionary parishes”.
However, there will be no place for proselytising, “door-stepping” or “cold calling” in an attempt to win converts, said Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
“Proselytising is a one-way street,” Cardinal Nichols told a press conference. “It is saying, ‘I have got something you must have, and I’m going to make you receive it whether you like it or not.’ Evangelisation is essentially an invitation, and it is an invitation which will draw people closer together in their humanity, in their human experience.
“We don’t go in for doorstep evangelisation because it is impossible without a relationship, and you don’t begin to form a relationship of lasting quality if it stays on a doorstep,” the cardinal said.
“What we want is to do is show something of our own life and to let that speak for itself,” Cardinal Nichols said.
The invitation to parishes to set up the teams will be made formally at the National Catholic Evangelisation Conference in Birmingham on Saturday. Some 850 delegates from English and Welsh dioceses will attend workshops focusing on the questions of how to create a vision and strategy for parish evangelisation, how to evangelise young people, how to reach out to those who have no experience of the Church, how to share testimony in one-to-one evangelisation, how to reach out to Catholics who do not attend Mass, and how to make prayer the foundation of the missionary parish.
Speeches, interviews and testimonies from the event will then be collected into an online “legacy document” which will be made available to the evangelisation teams in late September so they can develop and improve their own strategies within their parishes.
Auxiliary Bishop Nicholas Hudson of Westminster, who has responsibility for the evangelisation conference, said he expected the process to “surprise us” by unlocking huge potential for the growth and life of the Church.
“The call will be for every single parish to do this,” Bishop Hudson told the press conference. “We envisage every parish coming together and beginning to access what is available online, coming together … for a series of evenings when they sit down and look at one of the videos and see what it says to them about their evangelisation initiative in the parish.”
Cardinal Nichols added that the success of the initiative, “Proclaim 15”, would not be measured by “quick returns” or a sudden increase in the numbers of people attending Mass.
“This is not a managerial exercise to get people into pews,” Cardinal Nichols said. “This is genuinely a deep, deep desire to share something immensely precious, immensely life-giving and what I believe is very much needed in our world today.”