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Convocation reflection: Why aren't Catholics better evangelizers?

Graphic: Image of city sidewalk, view of people's walking feet with quote about God's graceby Annalise Laumeyer

In upcoming issues of FAITH magazine we'll be featuring a reflection from each member of the diocesan delegation to the Catholic Convocation which took place in Orlando in July 2017. This is the first in the series.

“You don’t have to have all of the answers.” Take time to reflect on that for a moment …when was the last time you were told you didn’t have to have all the answers, or the correct answer? It doesn’t happen often.

The last time I was told this was in July, at the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America.” I had the pleasure of attending the convocation as a member of our diocesan delegation.
This statement was presented in one of the breakout sessions I attended, which focused on how to effectively tell our personal faith story and the salvation story. I was drawn to it because I assumed it would fit well with my professional responsibilities. The panelists raised the question: “Why aren’t Catholics better evangelizers?” The problem? We think we need to have all the answers before approaching someone. What we don’t realize is that people don’t expect us to have all the answers. They want us to listen to them, share with them and engage them as we walk this journey together. Or, in the words of Pope Francis, we must “accompany” people. Our family and friends are looking for someone who can be authentic and honest with them.
Personally, this breakout was the one that gave me the most insight. The panelists were right, thinking we have to have all the answers is a large reason why many Catholics aren’t better evangelizers. And we use this response as a crutch to not approach someone. I can recall many times when I have not spoken up because I felt like I didn’t know all the answers or the answer that the person was seeking. This  breakout reminded me that it’s OK to not be perfect when it comes to sharing our faith; it shouldn’t cause us to shy away from sharing the impact the Lord has made in our life.
I left the convocation with practical knowledge to apply in the Office of Communications, but there were also moments where my faith was strengthened. There was a warm embrace being among 3,300 other
Catholics trying to help move the Catholic Church forward in the 21st century. Two moments stand out in my memory, one being the night of Marian devotion where the rosary was prayed in more than 10 languages. It was powerful. No matter what language you spoke, you could sense the universality of the Church. The second moment for me was the opening Mass with Cardinal Timothy Dolan as the celebrant. I’m a fan of Cardinal Dolan (New York) and his way of connecting with people and sharing the faith. I receive their archdiocesan newspaper, which contains his column. He presents the faith in a way that’s easy to understand and apply to our everyday lives. I’m not going to lie, but having the opportunity to receive holy Communion from the cardinal caused me to fangirl for a moment.
Now, back to what I learned. The panelists at the breakout gave us three tips on how to effectively share our story with others: 1) be clear, not fuzzy; 2) don’t be long-winded; and 3) don’t use “Christian-ese.” I’m going to try to use these tips more often, and I hope you will as well. I think these three tips can help us in our personal life as we strive to bring our family and friends into the faith. 

About Annalise

Director of Communications for the Diocese of Grand Rapids
BIRTHPLACE: Portland, Mich.
RESIDENCE: Kentwood, Mich.
FAMILY: Husband Brian
Parishioner and lector at Holy Spirit Catholic Church, Grand Rapids. Vice chair and marketing co-chair of St. Patrick Catholic School’s school board, Portland.
I feel like God placed me in this position. I never had any intention of working for the Catholic Church.
After spending a few years in local television news, I was offered the opportunity to launch the Bishop’s Catholic Schools Initiative for our Catholic schools as the marketing communications coordinator. After
a year in that role, the Lord led me to this position.