Although Father Howard W. Johnson of St. Joseph Seminary in Washington, D.C., said that many times "we Catholics keep quiet" and that "we must not hide the richness of God," attendants at last weekend's Brent Society evangelization conference held at Bishop O'Connell High School in Arlington did nothing but proclaim such richness without hesitation.
The conference began with a morning Mass celebrated by Father Daniel L. Mode, O'Connell chaplain and concelebrated by Father James R. Gould and Father Frank Pavone.
Co-sponsored by the Arlington Catholic HERALD, the evangelization conference was reminded by Father Pavone that Jesus jumps into our suffering and "does not remain sitting in Heaven surrounded by angels."
"Jesus," said the international director of Priests for Life, "takes that suffering on Himself by the suffering of the Cross" and so "we (Catholics) are not working for victory but from victory".
Confirming the sense of celebration, conference speakers did not "keep quiet" but reaffirmed the sacred mysteries of Catholicism with joy because, as Susan Wills said, "God didn't just make creatures. He glorified us."
Wills is the assistant director for program development of the Office of Pro-Life Activities of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB). She is also a parishioner at St. Bernadette Parish in Springfield.
Wills said, "evangelization works in practice" and she encouraged Catholic across the board to act, to proclaim, to touch the lives of their neighbors with kindness- to be evangelizers.
Father Johnson, Father Pavone, Father Francis Peffley, parochial vicar at St. Louis Church in Alexandria and other speakers including Wills and Judge Hanes L. Buckley of the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit and former senator form New York, stressed the urgency to re-evangelize the already baptized in light of recent documents form both the Vatican and the U.S. bishops in preparation for the Jubilee year 2000.
Father Peffley said documents such as Pope John Paul II's Christifideles Laici, Vatican II's Evangelii Nuntiandi, the Cathechism of the Catholic Church and the recent Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics, by the NCCB, are holy tools Catholics and non-Catholics have to enhance their interior lives and make an impact in the world with kindness.
Even government "is the subject to a superior law," said Judge Buckley.
One of the key themes of the evangelization conference was that of the Christian culture of life versus the culture of death.
Father Pavone and Wills not only talked about abortion; they also exposed the new and flourishing industry resulting form the sale of body parts from babies both aborted and alive.
Wills revealed a new not-so-secret medical procedure that has been practiced in some hospitals of United States consisting, she said, of delivering babies and killing them while they struggle to breathe in the hands of nurses and doctors.
This procedure, Wills said, fulfills the existing demand and sale of baby parts tagged as "fresh". Some doctors and nurses, said Wills, "don't rock and sing lullabies."
Father Pavone said, "abortion and euthanasia are not only sins against life but sins against hope. It is not a matter of freedom but a result of despair."
"God did not create death," said Father Pavone. "Death, evil, starts happening when we turn away from God."
In the context of evangelization, Father Pavone said that while the Church condemns abortion, the real good news is that the Church also tells women and men in despair: "We are with you."
The Brent Society's conference on evangelization, the most ambitious undertaking in the society's history, according to president Gordon Hermes, served as a catalyst for Catholics in the diocese to not only take pride in being followers of Jesus but, most importantly, to invite others on a pilgrimage that looks forward to the Jubilee Year.
The purpose of a pilgrimage, says Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde, is "to be evangelized anew so that we can more genuinely evangelize others."
The Brent Society is a lay organization of Catholic men and women in the diocese who wish to enrich their spiritual lives and take their faith, through example, into the secular world.
For information, write to the Brent Society at 200 N. Glebe Rd., Suite 617 Arlington VA 22203 or Call Gordon Hermes at 703-533-1843.