In A Nutshell
Fr. Frank DeSiano has devoted a considerable amount of his priestly ministry to Catholic evangelization. After working with many parishes in this important field he found that, by and large, Catholics and Catholic parishes are willing to reach out to others, but do not know how to go about it. This book is a guide to help spread the work of evangelization done both on the personal level and on the level of parish outreach. While the information contained in this work is never contrary to the faith and may assist parishes in the organization of evangelization teams and learning the ins and outs of mass mailing, this handbook is not the best tool for the individual Catholic seeking to share his faith with others. The Evangelizing Catholic is a rather dry read and the advice provided for individual Catholics is not much more than common sense. Loitering with Intent by Vincent Cacace is a much better book for the individual Catholic who is seeking new and better ways to spread the Gospel message.
The Evangelizing Catholic opens with some preliminary considerations about the work of evangelization. Fr. DeSiano covers such topics as what it means to be a disciple and a member of a community of faith, the need for proclaiming as well as witnessing to our faith, and discerning the appropriate circumstances and persons with whom to share this faith.
Chapter two begins the section devoted to personal evangelization. DeSiano suggests that a powerful tool for evangelization is a personal story of faith. He offers leading questions to assist the reader to “find” his or her own story of faith, such as: When did God first plant the seed of faith in my life? Who were the ones who brought it? What are the most powerful religious experiences in my life? After encouraging readers to discover their own personal story of faith, DeSiano turns to the question of the Church’s faith and how much an evangelizer needs to know about Church teaching. He suggests that most Catholics know more about the faith than they realize and he provides some charts that present the “core” of faith. These charts may or may not be helpful to the reader.
Next, DeSiano considers the occasions for sharing faith. He offers four hypothetical scenarios that would provide an opportunity for personal evangelization. These scenarios are not very realistic and would be better replaced by real-life stories of evangelization. The following two sections concern sharing the faith in the workplace and in family life. In the workplace, DeSiano encourages readers to uphold the social teachings of the Church by using the appropriate avenues provided by the workplace. In the home, DeSiano encourages readers to use family events as moments for sharing their faith.
The next two chapters are devoted to parish evangelization. These chapters invite parishes to consider their presentation to the public, form evangelization teams, and consider the benefits of mass mailings, door-to-door evangelization, and other forms of parish outreach.
The book closes with a look at the “larger context” and urges the reader to remember the spiritual dimension of evangelization and not become lost in the details. A list of helpful resources for further information follows.
Though dry, The Evangelizing Catholic is well organized. There is no doubt that DeSiano has devoted a considerable amount of time thinking through the process of evangelization and the techniques involved in this kind of work. DeSiano, moreover, does not present this work as anything more than a handbook. It is a handbook and therefore a reference work, and there is no reference work that is enjoyable to read from cover to cover.
I found myself reading several pages of this book only to discover that I couldn’t remember what I had read. One reason for this might be that DeSiano makes his appeal to a broad audience of Catholics. As a result, his advice sounds like common sense to those who are enthusiastic about their faith and strive to live it in every aspect of their lives. At one point, for example, he advises that Catholics may use religious holidays as occasions for witnessing to their faith. He suggests that our celebrations of these events could have a religious tenor and therefore be statements of faith. Certainly this is true, but those who are striving to live the faith do not need to be told to celebrate Christ’s birth at Christmas and His resurrection at Easter. Those who do need to be told such things, it would seem, are much less likely to be people who are seeking to spread the faith, as they would hardly have it themselves. By appealing to an umbrella audience, DeSiano’s advice is necessarily either vague or technical. He is vague when he mentions birth and death as family occasions for evangelization, but makes no mention of contraception and pro-life issues, or the realities of judgment and eternal reward or punishment. He is technical when he goes on for pages about how a parish can make the church experience more appealing to outsiders by having accessible parking, greeters at the door, and fellowship after Mass. Though I found absolutely nothing contrary to the faith in this book, I find this kind of unfocused reading dull. Perhaps the technical advice could serve parishes and assist those who genuinely seek to spread the Gospel in its entirety—both its appealing and its not-so-welcome truths. This book is suitable to the Catholic reader.
You can purchase this book here.