We had the privilege of having a family holiday in Samoa in July, and we were all surprised by the number of churches there! Christianity is the official and largest religion in Samoa, with statistics showing that, with all the various denominations, 98 per cent of the population are Christian. In fact, Article 1 of the Constitution of Samoa states that “Samoa is a Christian nation founded of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”. This acknowledgement of the Trinity in their constitution rings very Catholic to me. According to Wikipedia, around 19 per cent of Samoans are recorded as Roman Catholic. We saw a number of Churches of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints and Seventh Day Adventists, among others. There is a beautiful Catholic cathedral in Apia, the capital of Samoa, on the island of Upolu. It made me reflect on evangelisation again.
The Catholic Church has a rich history of evangelisation, spreading its message across the globe for centuries. However, in this century, the Church faces unique challenges in its mission to share the Gospel with a rapidly changing world. As societies become more diverse, secularism gains ground and technology advances, the Catholic Church must adapt its approach to evangelisation, while staying true to its core beliefs and values, noting that many of the Catholic Church’s truths go against the current grain of society.
One of the primary challenges that the Church faces is the rise of secularism, and a decline in religious affiliation among people worldwide. In many Western societies, particularly in Europe and North America, the number of individuals identifying as Catholics has been decreasing. The rise of secular values, coupled with scepticism towards organised religion, has made it difficult for the churches, particularly the Catholic Church, to connect with, and engage, the younger generations.
Advancements in technology present both opportunities and challenges for evangelisation in the 21st century. The Internet and social media have expanded the Church’s reach, enabling it to connect with millions of people instantaneously. Anyone, including people in the Church, can now disseminate its message through online platforms, reaching individuals who might not otherwise have access to its teachings. However, this digital age also comes with risks, as misinformation and distortion of Church teachings can spread rapidly.
In response to the challenges of the 21st century, Pope Francis has emphasised the importance of a “Church of the poor” that stands in solidarity with the marginalised and forgotten. This focus on social justice and compassion for those on the fringes of society, resonates with many people seeking a faith that actively addresses the world’s problems. By advocating for social justice issues, such as poverty alleviation, environmental stewardship, and human rights, the Catholic Church can attract individuals who value a faith that goes beyond traditional rituals and ceremonies.
In addition to addressing external challenges, the Catholic Church must also look inward, and foster a vibrant, engaged faith community. Nurturing the faith of its existing members is vital to ensuring a strong foundation for evangelisation. Encouraging active participation in parish life, supporting ongoing spiritual formation, and empowering laypeople to take on leadership roles, can create a dynamic and welcoming Church environment that inspires others to join the faith. As the song from the NewsBoys says, “Shine, let them wonder what you’ve got, make them wish that they were not, on the outside looking in”.
Furthermore, the Church must leverage the power of storytelling to communicate its message effectively. Personal testimonies and narratives have a profound impact on people, allowing them to connect emotionally with the faith. Sharing stories of faith and transformation can make the Gospel message relatable and compelling, drawing individuals to explore the teachings of the Church further. We know that, on some issues, people’s hearts will only be changed and converted on a one-on-one basis, and this personal approach is vital to aid in sharing the Good News.
Mark 16:15; “Go everyone in the world and tell the Good News to everyone.”