Three panelists were also invited to speak: Noel Díaz, director of Catholic evangelization ministry “El Sembrador”; Dr. Precious Singson, professor at UCLA; and Dr. Anthony Lilles, academic dean at St. John’s Seminary. Matt Meeks, director of the Archdiocesan Digital Office, was the event’s luncheon speaker.
In their reflections, the speakers presented strategies on how to further the mission of evangelization at the parish level. Council members from the diocesan, regional, and parish levels were invited to listen and then discuss the ideas with their colleagues in small groups afterwards.
The meeting was themed “Path to Joy,” in reference to Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium (“Joy of the Gospel”). An excerpt from his apostolic exhortation was read as the opening prayer, and the speakers borrowed liberally from Pope Francis’ wisdom.
A choir of students from Providence High School opened the meeting by singing “O Magnum Mysterium” a cappella, which they followed with an upbeat gospel spin on the “Magnificat.”
From the opening address by Bishop Wilkerson, an emphasis on listening as the foundation for evangelization seemed to thread its way into each speaker’s remarks. Bishop Wilkerson said that he relies on his regional council to be his advisors, listening to them to gain insight on current events in the Church and in the world.
“Talk to me about gay marriage — about gay people in our parish,” Bishop Wilkerson cited as an example conversation. “What are the folks in the pews saying? What do I need to know? Talk to me. I need to hear what’s going on.”
Father Benioff compared the typical council member to Martha in the story of Martha and Mary in the Gospel of Luke. Despite the tendency to prioritize action, Father Benioff recalled that Christ teaches us that there is need of only one thing: listening to Him as Mary did.
We must listen to Christ in prayer, explained Father Benioff, but also in others. In order to spread the Gospel to our neighbor, we must spend time listening to him and be prepared to make sacrifices. “If you’re not willing to sacrifice your time, talent and treasure, don’t waste your time evangelizing,” he remarked.
For guest panelist Noel Díaz, the call to evangelize certainly required a sacrifice. Díaz, who describes himself as shy, responded to God’s call by giving up a career in soccer to establish a Catholic radio and television ministry. “You realize that you want to do what he wants you to do, and you get outside your comfort zone,” said Díaz.
The archbishop’s keynote address centered on the profound effect of evangelization efforts at the parish level. “The parish is the source and site of evangelization,” said Archbishop Gomez. “What we do in the small parish makes a big difference in the universal Church.
“Pope Francis is challenging us to go outside our visible parish boundaries and engage with the community at large,” he said. “The Church’s mission is not only spiritual — it is also temporal, and corporal and social.”