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COMING OF AGE | Answering the call to evangelize requires overcoming fear

Every Catholic is called to evangelize and share God’s love with others.

I recently attended some meetings that reminded me of this call. Through the theme of the V Encuentro (Fifth Encuentro) — a multiyear process of gatherings leading up to a V National Encuentro of Hispanic Ministry this September — people were reminded that all baptized are “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of God’s Love.”

Some of the testimonies that inspired me the most were those of young people, who really embraced the call to “go out to the peripheries” and to be “agents of evangelization” through reaching out to others. At a regional encuentro in Texas, a teen named Isaac encouraged me to share the good news through deeds, even if it’s challenging at first.

“Fear is what makes you think, ‘someone else (who is not afraid) is going to do it,’” said Isaac, a 19-year-old from the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas. “But the truth is, we all have fears.”

“The encuentro process has taught me how important it is to accompany others,” he said. “As St. Paul reminds us, in order to hear the good news, someone has to announce and preach it.”

Before, Isaac said, he thought that he was doing enough by going to Mass weekly and helping in his parish. “I did not think that it was up to me to evangelize. It wasn’t because I was doing enough. … But because I was afraid,” he said. “I was afraid to get out of my comfort zone.”

Isaac had a little push to leave his comfort zone when participants at his parish’s encuentro were told to go out and evangelize. He and his girlfriend went to a park and found a homeless veteran in a wheelchair and just listened to him. Isaac ended up being transformed by the faith and joy of the veteran. “He said: ‘If I can wake up every day and give glory to God, I am happy,’” Isaac recalled.

Through his conversations with the veteran and other similar encounters, he discovered the joy of going to the peripheries and now wants to be a volunteer counselor for those in need in his parish.

“Everyone needs help. We have to go out and extend our hands,” he said. One can evangelize just by accompanying others and listening to them, without judgment.

Telling a crowd of 800 people that he “is not so afraid anymore,” Isaac added that his encounters with others have inspired how he wants to live his career.

“I want to accompany those who are going through financial hardships,” he said at the regional encuentro. “And give them hope that whatever struggles that they are going through, that God has a plan for them, and they have to keep fighting.”

Isaac hoped his experiaences with V Encuentro inspire young people go out to accompany others and to evangelize others in their own lives.

“I want to encourage everyone to not be scared to do more, to not be complacent, or to think God has called the wrong person, because he hasn’t,” Isaac said. “I want to encourage everyone to go out, just like St. Paul and all of the other disciples, and preach the good news to everyone, not just through your words, but through your attentive ears and your open heart.”

Maria-Pia Negro Chin is bilingual associate editor at Maryknoll Magazine.

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