Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Evangelization and conversion: What's the key?

National Catholic Register:

Father C. John McCloskey, one of the most successful ‘fishers of men,’ explains his secret.
During the Easter vigil Mass, in so many parishes, a moving moment comes when the faithful welcome new believers: catechumens (those who receive baptism, Communion and confirmation) and candidates (already baptized) who have typically completed the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA)

According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, tens of thousands of converts across the country joined the Church as full disciples of Christ this year.

In England and Wales, at Easter, some 900 members of the Church of England were received into the Catholic Church, including 61 former Church of England priests. They joined a new Catholic entity, called the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, created by Pope Benedict XVI so that former Anglicans in England and Wales can maintain aspects of their tradition.

The Anglican ordinariate is led by Father Keith Newton, a former Anglican bishop who converted to Catholicism and was ordained a Catholic priest earlier this year.

But what are the ingredients for a successful conversion?

Many Catholics — despite seeing the abundant gifts offered by adult converts — are comfortable letting overburdened priests, RCIA staff and the Holy Spirit serve as frontline “fishers of men.”

Father C. John McCloskey, a priest of the personal prelature of Opus Dei for the past 30 years, is considered one of the Church’s most accomplished “fishers of men.” He has guided dozens of people into full communion with the Catholic Church, including high-profile figures such as federal Judge Robert Bork, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Gen. Josiah Bunting III, economist Larry Kudlow, former abortionist Bernard Nathanson and columnist Robert Novak.

“People are looking for the truth and the happiness that the truth can give,” observed Father McCloskey. “These people, although successful — many, very successful — still found emptiness in their lives. The answer is a man named Jesus Christ.”

“I just happen to have been the right man at the right time to help guide them,” said the priest.

In his book Good News, Bad News: Evangelization, Conversion, and the Crisis of Faith (Ignatius, 2007), Father McCloskey calls on us all to evangelize with zeal and respect for others. He reminds us that Vatican II assigns the laity two tasks: “seeking holiness and extending the Kingdom of God on earth through family life, friendship, work, study — in a word, through apostolate.”

Although he says he is “just an instrument and God uses me,” such a productive instrument must have some rules of thumb for evangelizing. He does.

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