VATICAN CITY, OCT. 23, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is the translation of the Full Intervention given by Marc and Florence dey Leyritz, founders of Alpha France, last week at the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Faith.
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Reflections on Pastoral Leadership
The Experience of the Alpha Course</p>
Dearest Holy Father,
Dear Synod fathers,
Dear fellow participants of the Synod,
We thank you for the invitation to bring the witness of a couple. We will both speak, but will not take twice the time! We are a couple who has worked fifteen years in the first announcement of the Gospel with the Alpha course and in the formation of lay leaders for the New Evangelization. We have five children ranging from ages 2 to 16.
Professionally we advise and support business leaders on human resources issues.
For 15 years, our passion has been the Kerygmatic proclamation– the first announcement which leads a person to acknowledge Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior – by ordinary lay people in the ordinary life of the parish. We bear witness to you that wherever the name of Jesus is proclaimed with faith and love, together with listening and a simple and strong proclamation, the Lord accomplishes marvels: hearts are touched, lives are transformed, the parish communities are renewed.
With Alpha, in the entire world, 20 million people have been through an experience which touches the mind but also the heart and the will. Many ask for baptism and join the local Christian community, hundreds of thousands evangelizers are born. Wherever you trust lay people, you encourage them to announce the Kerygma, they themselves grow in their life of faith in witness of Jesus. They themselves have the joy of seeing their friends, their neighbors, their parents enter Salvation.
Dear Fathers, please grant this joy to the lay people of your dioceses; encourage them to announce the heart of Christian faith with simple tools which allow the multiplication of evangelizers. This will transform the kerygmatic desert which our Church has become. We see the fruit of the New Evangelization; it is a living reality which manifests the real action of Christ Risen.
But we have a question: pastorally, are we really ready for the New Evangelization?
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Are we ready for the New Evangelization? To reflect on this question, we need to distinguish three major processes which structure evangelization (Directory on the Catechesis, n° 49):
– Evangelization is first lived as a time of initial conversion. We cannot emphasize enough this decision of faith;
– The second process is the formation of disciples. Faith becomes concrete by offering different courses that favor learning Christian life (Ac 2, 42-47);
– Thirdly, the development of leaders in order to develop the missionary potential of the lay people and to allow their deployment within the Church and society.
In practice, few pastors effectively know how to articulate these three moments. But evangelization cannot be reduced to its purpose nor its content. It is a dynamic, a series of vivifying processes that need to be known and explained. The process of evangelization is described in Evangelii Nuntiandi. The enlightening ch. 2 underlines that that mission of the Church is to invite “each man and man as a whole” to let himself be transformed. This transformation leads from incredulity to questioning, from questioning to conversion, from conversion to the life of a disciple, and from the life of a disciple to mission.
To prevent New evangelization from being reduced to a mere catchphrase, for our communities to be a fertile ground where missionary disciples develop, our pastors need to master this process. Certainly, at the grass root level, “there are already many things,” often excellent. What is frequently lacking is the pastoral capacity to lead with a systemic and systematic approach. For the person to progress towards faith, to be transfigured from “glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit” (2 Co 2, 18), it is fundamental that the parish priest know how to articulate these different stages together. It is a difficult skill to develop.
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New Evangelization therefore requires new pastoral skills, a renewed reflection on the Munus Regendi. In this time of profound mutation in which we live, no leader can avoid this challenge. To this effect, we have designed and conducted for the benefit of priests and bishops some pilot experiences of formation in pastoral leadership. The first fruits of this formation are promising.
We have observed Jesus’ way of doing, since He is the evangelizer par excellence. A “pastoral Christology” helps to recognize those pedagogical principles which he used to evangelize, form and send. Such principles are still valid today. It was the observation of Christ the Evangelizer that led to the ecclesiological foundations of New Evangelization. The Church can conceive itself as a “community of disciples”, that is to say a community that gathers believers in the “learning phase.” It is the first definition of what a disciple is, a learner. The experience of Alpha has shown us that one can look at the Church as a learning community where it is good to gather to listen to the Word of the Lord so as to grow in faith, forms itself as a disciple and exerts a profoundly evangelical leadership.
The bishops and the priest who follow this course take the time to delve into the important issues of their ministry: How to discover the pastoral vision that God is proposing? How to appeal to and nourish those people associated to the pastoral work? How to maintain an integrated and resilient lifestyle? How to make a team effective, allowing it to use all the energy and creativity of which it is capable? How to make the best use of people’s talents and spiritual gifts with which the Spirit has endowed each baptized for the enrichment of the body?
To this challenge, we may add others specific to the ministry of the Bishop: what does being the first evangelizer of the diocese concretely imply? How to keep together the two “co-essential” dimensions of the Church which are the institutional aspect and the charismatic? How to live the collegiality effectively? How to live as father and friend vis-à-vis each priest? The way Bishops concretely live the answers to these questions models the way in which priests live and act with the laity in their parishes.
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In this age of profound transition, we suggest therefore a renewal in the formation to pastoral leadership. The Holy Spirit has already inspired throughout the Church and through all Christian denominations fruitful initiatives that one must be able to identify, discern and transmit. For us, the issue is to be instructed by the Risen Christ who, today, evangelizes, forms disciples and developed leaders in his Body which is the Church.
Blessed Pope John Paul II calls bishops to be audacious in their mission of governing, in their role as leaders: “Duc in Altum!”- Put out into the deep! He added, “Duc in regendo!” be bold in your government responsibility. The lay people, the priests need a renewed apostolic audacity, society needs it. “Duc in altum! Duc in Regendo!”
In the Vatican, October 17, 2012[Translation by Giuseppe M. Gennarini]