The Church has a unique mission established by Christ – one which unites the earthly and heavenly, the temporal and eternal, the human and the divine. As the Church shares the good news of Christ, a renewed commitment to this mission brings about greater conversion of heart both within and outside the Church.
Understanding the centrality of mission is a necessary prerequisite to action. In the spring of 2020, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy published an instruction entitled “The Pastoral Conversion of the Parish Community in the Service of the Evangelizing Mission of the Church.” The document provides guidance for this renewed commitment to evangelization and emphasizes the revitalization of Church activities. By embracing this mission on personal and institutional levels, the Church can more fully respond to Christ’s call.
What Is Our Mission?
Simply put, the mission of the Church is evangelization. After the resurrection, Jesus gathered his disciples and said to them: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Indeed, the Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms that “God created the world for the sake of communion with his divine life, a communion brought about by the “convocation” of men in Christ, and this “convocation” is the Church” (CCC 760). The mission of the Church is expressed most fully in community. Evangelization is not merely sharing the Gospel with those who have never heard it; it is also the constant act of conversion which occurs among the faithful. The Church’s mission is for everyone, and all are called to share Christ’s message in authentic community.
Recovering Personal Witness
In order for the Church to carry out its mission, Catholics must personally respond to Christ’s call to evangelization. Evangelization relies on personal relationship with Christ, so personal spirituality plays a critical role in the work of the Church. Drawing on the foundations of prayer, scripture, the sacraments, and strong Christian communities, Catholics can be better equipped to live holy lives, thereby bringing Christ into the world through virtue, service, and joy.
Reclaiming Institutional Witness
In their instruction, the Congregation for the Clergy emphasizes the role of the parish in renewing the commitment to evangelization. They write, “The Parish community is the human context wherein the evangelizing work of the Church is carried out, where Sacraments are celebrated and where charity is exercised, all with missionary zeal, which, apart from being an intrinsic part of pastoral action, is a litmus test of its authenticity.”
Parish life can easily become stale. Amidst familiar routines and financial concerns, the call to evangelization can unintentionally fade to the background. And yet, the parish is the locus of the Church’s mission. Continual evangelization through vibrant community and faith formation can reinfuse the parish with its God-given mission.
As expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the mission of evangelization has a distinctly communal nature. In the context of community, the faithful can both share and receive Christ’s good news; they can evangelize and be evangelized. The faith takes on a new vitality in these joyful relationships, drawing others into community united by faith and shared experiences.
Community, which is integral to the Church’s mission, is especially necessary in the modern world. The Congregation for the Clergy writes, “In this present age, marked at times by marginalization and solitude, the Parish community is called to be a living sign of the proximity of Christ through fraternal bonds, ever attentive to new forms of poverty.” Mission-oriented community fills the voids of modern loneliness, drawing people into meaningful relationships build around love of God and love of neighbor.
In addition to community, formation is a vital to the Church’s mission. The parish should evangelize its parishioners and ensure that they are equipped to share the faith with others. Opportunities for faith formation should be available not only to young children, but to all members of the parish. Knowledge of God precedes love of him, and the parish is uniquely posed to enrich the hearts and minds of the faithful. By renewing the commitment to evangelization through education, parishes take a valuable step towards revitalizing the mission of evangelization.
The Congregation of the Clergy offers a hopeful vision for the future of the Church predicated on her perpetual reorientation towards Christ. Evangelization remains the central mission of the Church, by which souls are brought to Christ and his redeeming work extends to all people.
For further discussion on the Church’s work of evangelization, watch our webinar “Recovering Our Mission” below.
The full text of the Congregation for the Clergy’s document can be found on the Vatican website here.