THE NEW EVANGELISATION:
Issues and Challenges for Catholic Schools
by Richard Rymarz
(Connor Court Publishing, 2012, 192pp, $29.95. ISBN: 978-1-92142-161-7. Available from Freedom Publishing)
The New Evangelisation should be required reading at every Catholic tertiary institution and secondary college. Its author, Dr Richard Rymarz, holds the Peter and Doris Kule Chair in Catholic Religious Education at St Joseph's College, University of Alberta, and is a Visiting Research Professor at Australian Catholic University (ACU). For many years he was on the ACU (Melbourne) faculty until he won the Chair at the University of Alberta.
Dr Rymarz is a recognised international specialist on the interaction between the wider culture and Catholic schools. In the present book his focus is on evangelisation, specifically the "New Evangelisation" promoted by Pope John Paul II during the last fifteen years of his pontificate.
Underpinning Rymarz's "road map" is the truth that the Catholic Church is missionary of its nature and must needs respond to Jesus Christ's command to His Apostles after His Resurrection: "Go out into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved. Whoever does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:15-16).
Benedict XVI, in his address to the Brazilian hierarchy during a visit to Latin America in May 2007, stressed this fundamental mission of the Church: "The mission entrusted to us, as teachers of the faith and as we are bound directly to Christ, the Good Shepherd is this: Our Saviour 'desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth' (1 Tim 2:4). This and nothing else is the purpose of the Church: the salvation of individual souls, one by one!"
However, when Pope John Paul II proclaimed the need for a "new evangelisation" in the encyclical, Redemptoris Missio (1990) his primary focus was on the de-Christianised West, notably Europe, Australia and North America.
Until relatively recently, Catholic thinking has focussed on evangelising non-Christians in Asia, South America and Africa.
However, Pope John Paul reminded us that in many nominally Christian nations there has been a consistent and pervasive drift from the faith and the Church. These nations require re-evangelisation and the new evangelisation has this as it first priority, while not ceasing to proclaim Christ to those peoples who have never heard the Christian message.
The new evangelisation, particularly in Catholic schools, needs to centre on Jesus Christ, the God-Man, his person, his claims, his life and his teachings. Rymarz deals with five approaches to this theme which provide the context for the challenges facing RE teachers in Catholic schools:
• John Paul II and the 'New Evangelisation': Origins and Meaning.
• The Dawn of a New Era: Post-Conciliar Generations and the New Cultural Landscape.
• The Social Context for the New Evangelisation.
• Some Perceived Difficulties with the New Evangelisation.
• Some Principles of the New Evangelisation for Catholic Schools.
This book takes for granted that the cultural milieu in which Catholic schools operate is very different from fifty years ago and therefore they need to reorganise themselves to meet new challenges.
Catholic schools need to articulate more effectively their message in an era when religious beliefs and practices are increasing marginalised, often seen as a private concern or one option amongst many. This books will assist them to understand the principles of the New Evangelisation more clearly. The book is highly recommended.