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Empathy, Easter and evangelism to Catholics

Empathy, Easter and evangelism to Catholics

At this time of massive change, insecurity, anxiety and even fear, we may not be thinking much about the plight of our Catholic neighbours. But in my city, Sydney, almost everyone has a Catholic neighbour. People who identify as Roman Catholic make up almost a third of our city, so given that most people usually have at least two neighbours… one of yours is probably Catholic!

So how are they likely to be going spiritually?

Many are probably connected to other Catholics through their school networks. The Catholic Church educates 26% of Sydney’s children. The focus of these networks will be predominately on education and the massive changes required for online learning and home schooling. There is some spiritual content shared through these networks, but it varies.

Some may be connected through their local parish, however many parishes have older priests for whom online delivery of Mass will be difficult and the importance in Catholicism of experiencing God physically through the Sacrament of the Eucharist makes livestreaming Mass less helpful. Your neighbours that go to Mass regularly may be grieving the loss of the Eucharist, and all those who traditionally go to Mass at Easter will experience some feelings of spiritual loss.

This situation provides some opportunities for evangelism and discipleship among our Catholic neighbours and those we are connected with through our friendship and work networks:

  • An invitation to read the Bible together may be gratefully received. I still find many Catholics are more open to an offer of reading the Bible than I am willing to ask! Peter Blowes, a CMS Missionary in Argentina, a very Catholic country, has had an explosion of people wanting to read the Bible with him through WhatsApp. This is probably one of the best things you can offer your Catholic friends at this time, and Peter has written an article explaining how you can do it.
  • We are all feeling a sense of loss of things we love. It is good to acknowledge this, even the loss of religious things in your Catholic friend’s life.
  • Offer to pray for them. Most Catholics believe that prayer is important and effective, and would appreciate your offer
  • Look for opportunities to help them practically. Many Catholics place a very strong emphasis on the importance of good works. Your care of them at a very difficult time will build their trust in you.
  • Let them know about your local church’s livestreaming ministries. Many Catholics are curious about what goes on in protestant churches. Livestreaming church provides an excellent opportunity for them to explore anonymously without someone coming up and ‘hassling’ them afterwards.
  • Give them an Easter gift. As mentioned, Easter will be a particularly difficult time for many given their enjoyment of traditions. A spiritual gift like a Bible, a book of Bible reflections or a Bible verse colouring-in book for the kids would generally be very gratefully received and fills a real gap with something helpful. Here are some titles available from Matthias Media that may be particularly helpful for Catholics at Easter:

I hope these tips help you in your call to evangelize and disciple all people groups in these challenging but possibly very fruitful times.

Please share on Facebook anything that has been helpful in your Christian care of your Catholic neighbours and friends.

Mark Gilbert

Mark Gilbert works for the Sydney Anglican Department of Evangelism and Certainty4Eternity, an organization established to help churches evangelize and disciple people from a Roman Catholic background. Mark grew up as a committed Roman Catholic, but despite this did not hear the gospel until he started university. He trained as a doctor before retraining as a minister, and has served in Anglican churches in Sydney since 2000. He currently works as an evangelist and trainer on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Mark has published a number of resources with Matthias Media to help people share the Good News about Jesus with people from a Roman Catholic background including The God Who Saves,The Road Once Travelled and Stepping Out in Faith.