Inspired to evangelise

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Inspired to evangelise

There are shoots of new life, of evangelical and spiritual vitality in the Church, despite the many challenges facing Christians at the present time, according to Archbishop Julian, speaking at Tasmania’s first Evangelium conference.

Held at Claremont Parish at the end of August, participants say they have been inspired to evangelise, to renew their prayer lives and to not let themselves be controlled by media, but instead use it to glorify God.

Parishioners, priests and educators from around Tasmania made up the more than 70 attendees of the two-day conference, with some travelling from as far as Devonport and Hillwood to take part in the event.

‘Evangelium’ – Latin for the ‘good news’ – was at the heart of the conference, with speakers and workshop presenters emphasising the mission of evangelisation that has been given to each member of the Church.

Archbishop Julian said the conference was an opportunity to tap into the joy of being a Christian, and direct it towards a desire not just to live the faith, but to share it.

He says he identifies in the Church “a new energy to proclaim the Gospel”.

“To me, it’s always evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church,” His Grace said.

Keynote speaker and founder of the hugely successful men’s ministry menALIVE, Robert Falzon, took up the theme of evangelisation and Pope Francis’ call for all Christians to become missionary disciples.

“The new evangelisation calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptised. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, this day, in this conference, every Christian to be actively engaged in evangelisation. Indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God's saving love does not need much time listening to me speak, or lengthy training to go out and proclaim their love,” he said.

“We need to evangelise because there are a lot of people who are lost. They are looking for something, but they don’t know it’s Jesus. The Australian population increases every year, doesn’t it? But the Catholic population decreases every year … five to six people leave our Church for every one that joins.”

That urgency to evangelise resonated with George Town parishioner Jenny Taylor, the sole attending member of her parish, who now wants to try running Alpha – a course which introduces the basic beliefs of Christianity – to draw people back to Church.

“I’ve got to do something, that’s what I thought … It doesn’t mean that I’m going to be any good at it. But we’re going to try whatever we can,” she said.

She was encouraged by the presence of young religious and lay people at the conference.

“All is not lost. The Church is going to survive. I can see that today … there’s a lot of faith still there.”

For teacher Fadi Elbarbar, 33, of Montrose, the conference provided an opportunity to better serve his students.

“[I came] because I feel like I’m doing my students and my school a disservice by pitching religious education to them at a lower level than they deserve. And the way to change that is by being a better missionary disciple and a better example for them,” Mr Elbarbar said.

Louise Burdick, 58, of Franklin says the Evangelium conference was something she ‘really needed’:

“I’m just so happy that I went: the fellowship, the joy of the praise and worship, just meeting so many inspiring people.”

Jane McKeown, 53, a parishioner at the Cathedral Parish, says she wants young people to know how dearly they are loved by God.

“I came to the conference to actually plant more seeds into our parishes, to evangelise, to hear more about what people are doing and how we can actually evangelise our parish communities,” she said.

Newly arrived in Hobart Passionist priest Fr Justin Raj, 37, says the conference has brought about personal revelations – although his initial intention was to be equipped for ministry.

“The workshops that I chose … I was very much calculating. I mean: will this help me in my future ministry? Things like that. But then the things that I chose were very much close to my heart. The first one was about the grace of adoration – where I can have an intimate relationship with Jesus.

“And the second one was the influence of media – how we can use media in evangelising. I think that one enlightened me about my own weaknesses when it comes to media and how media is taking control over my life. So it was a revelation to me that I need to use the media for the greater glory of God.”