On 14 November, representatives from parishes around the diocese attended Proclaim Westminster, a conference where they learned and shared ideas about how to evangelise effectively in their parishes.
Bishop Nicholas introduced the day and imparted his vision of evangelisation, which has at its heart a sharing with others a relationship with Christ so that they might ask ‘who is this Jesus?’. A number of speakers addressed a variety of topics, stimulating much discussion as delegates brainstormed ideas in small groups.
The keynote address was given by Cardinal Vincent, who shared his sense of urgency about the need to evangelise:
‘I think we are at a crucial moment,’ he said. ‘I sense something of an opportunity.’
He spoke about the needs evident in society today, such as ‘the sharp and widening divisions between rich and poor; the troubled world around us that casts millions of people as refugees, some of whom are just outside, knocking on our door’.
He pondered too ‘how do we best teach our youngsters that deep respect for each other, for themselves’ which can equip them to live ‘with firm and reliable foundations’.
The Cardinal pointed to ‘the unbounded mercy of God’ as the ‘lens through which we can look at our task of proclaiming the Gospel and find there an even more surprising richness.
‘God's mercy is the shape taken by the love of God when it comes face to face with our broken human reality.’
He then challenged those present to remember that ‘Jesus is the face of God's mercy’ but that ‘we are to be the hands, voices and actions of that mercy in the flesh of our world today’.
‘And today is about doing, he said. ‘We will go from this hall with ideas to take back to our parishes. No one should leave here empty handed.’
He invited the delegates to consider the corporal and spiritual works of mercy: ‘It is the practice of those works which gives a face to the presence of divine mercy in our day.’
He explained that the corporal works of mercy are ‘the ways in which in my community I can help to restore that sense of place and belonging, of respect and acceptance that our cosmic home, as created by God, should embody’ and the spiritual works of mercy as ‘all the nudges and encouragement we give each other on our pilgrimage to God’.
Mercy, said the Cardinal, is ‘a true proclamation of the Gospel and an invitation to know Christ Jesus more clearly and to follow him more nearly, for he alone is the vision of this truth and he alone is the one in whom it is attainable’.
The full text of the Cardinal’s address is found at rcdow.org.uk/cardinal/addresses/proclaim-westminster-
The parish delegates were sent home energised with an action plan to help them map out next steps:
Their first main task is to create a parish Evangelisation Team during Advent and call them to a meeting in January where they can view clips from Proclaim Westminster and do the exercises done at the conference. Then, in February, they are invited to begin considering three evangelising initiatives for the parish.
Their second main task will be to announce their three Evangelising Initiatives. By Laetare Sunday (6 March), they should let the Agency for Evangelisation know what these three initiatives are, so that the Agency can map the initiatives and, in collaboration with Caritas Westminster and the Office for Marriage and Family Life, offer guidance and formation to help parishes with their chosen initiatives
During Lent the team are invited to plan the Evangelising Initiative they are best resourced to embark upon, so that by Divine Mercy Sunday (3 April) they can announce which initiative the parish is embarking on first.