by Dr. Matthew Gerlach
We live in a fragmented world, and it's not always easy resisting the temptation to over-compartmentalize our church, work, family, civic, and recreational activities. This danger is also strong at times in the parish or other lay ministry settings.
It is true: we need to respect what is proper to each area of ministry. Youth ministry, liturgical ministry, Christian service, or catechesi—these differ much in many respects. Despite the good amount of knowledge, skills, and attitudes shared when such ministries are performed as the Church envisions, many unique aspects remain. Nevertheless, we all need to be challenged to reflect more deeply on how they all fit together and to reunite what tend to be separated.
The Eucharistic celebration and evangelization are two things whose intimate relationship is not always appreciated or lived out, and yet they are profoundly linked. This was the theme of this year's MAPS Annual Day of Reflection on Friday, May 12, led by Fr. Pierre Ingram of the Companions of the Cross. The event was entitled "Overflowing with Thanksgiving: Eucharist as the Heart of Evangelization."
Father Ingram, who has served as assistant professor of sacramental theology at Sacred Heart since 2012, offered two reflections to Master of Pastoral Studies students and alumni on the unity of the Church's liturgical prayer and her evangelistic activity. He beautifully described how the two play off one another.
As Father Ingram summarized, "The Eucharist, which is the font and summit of all the Church's activity in the world, is also the heart and high point of evangelization. But this means, on the one hand, that evangelization should spring forth naturally and energetically from our liturgical prayer and Eucharistic worship.
"On the other hand," Father explained, "our outward focused evangelization efforts are only fulfilled when they lead people to Mass and glorifying God in Eucharistic worship."
In small group discussions and a silent period of Eucharistic adoration, participants were invited to consider how to apply the theme to their lives and ministry settings in practical ways. The Day of Reflection concluded with the celebration of the "Mass for the New Evangelization."
The retreat was a simple but wonderful way to reinforce Synod 16's theme to "Unleash the Gospel: The New Evangelization," to which we are all being called by Archbishop Vigneron. Cultivating gratitude will help make evangelization central to all of our Christian activities.
For more information on next year's MAPS Day of Reflection, or similar events for lay ministers hosted at the seminary, contact the Institute for Lay Ministry: ILM@shms.edu, 313-883-8541.
Dr. Matthew GerlachDr. Matthew Gerlach is dean of the Institute for Lay Ministry at Sacred Heart.