Mary Healy says parishes must equip the laity to bring the Gospel to 'the walking wounded.'


Mary Healy says parishes must equip the laity to bring the Gospel to 'the walking wounded.'

March 21, 2016

Every Catholic needs to be awakened to their call to proclaim their faith in Christ, and parishes need to be re-tooled to carry out the Church's evangelizing mission, says a Scripture scholar from Detroit.

Dr. Mary Healy, a professor at Holy Heart Seminary, asked those attending the annual Anthony Jordan Lecture Series whether their parish looks like a museum for saints or a hospital for sinners.

"Do we invite people in when they have to walk into an icebox?" Healy asked during her series of three talks March 4 and 5. The lecture series was sponsored by Newman Theological College and the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and held in the chapel of St. Joseph Seminary in Edmonton.

Healy recalled the reaction of the older son in the parable of the prodigal son who heard music and dancing coming from his father's house, a symbol of the Church.

"Music and dancing. That's what the Church is to look like - a place of celebration, a place of joy where the lost sons and daughters are coming home and encountering the love of the Father."

Healy related the story of a member of her parish who recently felt called to approach two "tough-looking guys" at a gas station. "He ended up leading them in a prayer to surrender their lives to Christ."

But, she continued, "We need to ask, 'Then what?'"

Putting those two men into an RCIA program would be like throwing non-swimmers into the deep end of the pool, she said. "Do we have a shallow end?" That is, can there be non-threatening ways for newcomers to gradually come to know Christ and fall in love with him and the Church?

In her first talk, Healy said the call to the new evangelization began with the Second Vatican Council and has grown stronger ever since. The new evangelization, first articulated by St. John Paul II, is to be directed at formerly Christian societies.

The absence of God in society has left a void which people attempt to fill with many forms of destructive behaviour, she said. As Christians go out into this society, they find themselves surrounded by "the walking wounded" who are confused about what it means to be human.


The Church needs to respond, she said quoting Pope Francis, by developing "a missionary pastoral ministry."

She lauded the pope's actions when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires to go out into the slums of the city. "That outward movement is not unlike that of Jesus in the Gospels.

"The mission of the Son is directed primarily towards those in need of profound moral and spiritual healing."

Although the Church's primary call is to evangelize, those in the Church are oriented to ministry to those who already practise the faith, Healy said. The call, however, means going out to those on the margins.


As well, the primary responsibility for evangelization lies with the laity, she said. The role of the leaders is to equip the laity to do ministry. The parish should be a boot camp where the laity are equipped, mobilized and sent forth.

Before the laity go forth, she said in her final talk, one other thing must happen. "Paradoxically, the first imperative of the Christian missionary is to wait. To wait for what? For the Holy Spirit."

Too often, we make detailed plans "and then ask the Lord to bless and crown our efforts."

Instead, Healy said, we should wait for the Spirit to initiate, guide and empower us. "If not, we are trying to carry out a divine task with human resources."

The apostles received the mission from Jesus at his ascension to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth. But first, they had to await the Spirit. "We have to go out, but we first have to wait to be enclosed with power from on high."


Once the Spirit has come, the immediate effect is evangelization - "a burning desire to share the gift with others."

The remainder of the Acts of the Apostles after Pentecost is "an explosion of evangelization," she said. "Throughout, it is the Holy Spirit who is the initiator, the guide, the dynamic force that propels the Church's mission."

To aid Christians in evangelizing, the Spirit provides supernatural charisms, Healy said. "If these supernatural charisms were needed for the first evangelization, how much more are they needed today?"