Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 3, 2002
An 'awesome responsibility'
U.S. evangelist says Catholics responsible for every human being
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Catholics are called to evangelize by example, says a Pennsylvania evangelist. "We have to light the path for everybody else," Thomas Rutkoski told a small audience May 18.
But, as the evangelist put it, it isn't always with words that a Catholic becomes the light of the world. "It's in our deeds, in our actions, the way that we respond to people."
Instead of swearing at somebody who cuts you off, say "God bless you," suggested Rutkoski, who also thinks it's better to let other drivers in front of you rather than block their path.
"Being a nice person becomes contagious. If I let somebody in front of me, the next thing you know he is letting somebody in front of him, and that person lets somebody in front of them. The idea is that if everybody lets somebody in this would be a better world. And every time you extend the courtesy God knows that."
Rutkoski, a former journalist who in the mid-1980s abandoned his successful career to become a full-time evangelist, was guest speaker at the Rays of Hope Conference at Annunciation Church May 17-18.
The event was put on by Beads of Light, a local ministry dedicated to spreading devotion to prayer and the Eucharist. Fewer than 30 people attended the early morning presentation but according to conference coordinator Lorianne Potvin about 140 attended the evening before.
Between May 20 and 25 Rutkoski also spoke at Sacred Heart and St. Andrew's churches before heading to Calgary.
Rutkoski has written two books describing his conversion story and in 1990 he founded Gospa Missions, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to evangelization and humanitarian efforts. He takes pride in sharing his faith journey with others and considers himself a prodigal son and tantamount to the leper who returned to say thank you to Jesus.
"Everybody who gives his life to God is a winner," he said. "Have you ever heard of someone who sacrificed his life for God who's become a loser?"
He said our responsibility as Catholics is "awesome" because "we are responsible for every human being walking the face of the earth. God is going to call us to account. What did we do to get them back?"
Throughout his speech, Rutkoski defended the Catholic Church's supremacy and blamed Satan for the Church's sins and divisions, saying it's because of Satan's work that priests are being charged with sexual abuse.
"Alleluia, Alleluia," the audience replied.
He noted many other denominations are arguing how things should be done but said, "the Catholic Church is the only one on the face of the earth that has the authority to turn the bread and wine into the living Jesus Christ."
The Episcopal Church is "close" but is not the real thing, he said, adding all an Episcopal pastor has to do is come to the Catholic Church and say, "I surrender."
Once, following a presentation, Rutkoski converted a whole Episcopalian congregation, pastor included, but his evangelization efforts were rejected by the Catholic diocese he was visiting.
"There you have the Episcopal minister wanting to come into the Catholic Church with all his flock but then who comes onto the scene - Satan, the devil, ready to pour water on your parade."
When the excited Rutkoski tried to arrange the transfer of the Episcopalians, the archbishop told him, "Go back home and mind your own business. We don't raid Episcopalian churches and we don't want Episcopal churches raiding Catholic churches."
Crushed and disappointed, Rutkoski decided to speak to his own bishop. And the answer was, "Don't try to tear down doors when you don't know what's on the other side."
He admitted he was confused for a while but now after 15 years on the road he says he knows in his heart that he was right in trying to evangelize other denominations.
"That's our job," he said. "It doesn't matter now who tells me I'm wrong, I know it's our job to find everybody on this planet and bring them home, bring them to the Eucharist. God expects each one of us to bring in multitudes."
Rutkoski urged his audience to defend the principles of the faith even if that means rebelling against authority and disobeying man-made laws. But throughout the process, we must always act as people of God, he said, always loving, generous and forgiving. "I don't think anybody ever changes through anger."
The evangelist also urged his audience to praise Mary, to pay attention to Medjugorge - "the brightest spot in the Catholic Church today" - and to be ready to sacrifice their lives for other people at any time, like Mother Teresa did, he said.
The audience seemed to like what they heard. "I'm on a journey of faith and this really helps me," said Karen Laflamme of St. Albert. "I like the way he presents the truth. Our whole life should be centred on God."
Joyce Mallett of Drayton Valley agreed, saying, "I believe Tom is telling the truth. I think Catholics need to hear him. The Lord is using him as an instrument to evangelize."