As Christ commanded His Apostles to “Go forth and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28: 19-20) Catholics of the Archdiocese of Washington continue to respond faithfully and generously to that call to evangelize all peoples.

Through various parish-based programs, archdiocesan-wide initiatives, as well as creative uses of social and traditional forms of media, the archdiocesan Office of Evangelization works to support efforts to form and send disciples of all ages as missionaries of the Gospel.

“(Evangelization) is the core of our Christian life, to take the joy of Christ and go out and share it with other people,” said Anthony Esser, archdiocesan coordinator of parish evangelization. “Our mission is to form people for that important work.”

Esser said the day-to-day work of evangelization begins at the parish level and happens every day, all year long. “We want to empower existing Catholics to go out and invite others to encounter Christ,” he said.

The Office of Evangelization provides parishes in five Maryland counties and the District of Columbia with resources, leadership formation, training, grants and seminars to help parishioners enrich their own parishes, which in turn helps them share the Gospel message, according to Esser. The Archdiocese of Washington is home to 655,000 Catholics in 139 parishes and 93 Catholic schools.

The archdiocesan-wide evangelization efforts during major liturgical seasons initiatives include: “Find the Perfect Gift,” an Advent initiative to remind people that Christmas is a season to find Christ in prayer, Mass and reaching out to those in need; “The Light is On,” a Lenten initiative in which Catholic churches across the D.C. metro area are open for Confession and prayer; and “Light the City,” also a Lenten initiative held at the Cathedral of St. Matthew, N.W., where volunteers head out into the streets and invite passersby to come into the church, pray and talk to a priest.

Another popular evangelization tool in recent years are brief radio segments, featuring the voice of Father Bill Byrne, pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Potomac, and broadcast over local airwaves, inviting listeners, if fallen away from the Church, to return or to those non-Catholics – to consider joining the Church. He said the ads are well received and help D.C. area residents focus on God, no matter where they are on their faith journey.

“Washington D.C. is a place filled with traffic jams. These (radio spots) give people some peace and quiet and a chance to re-focus during their commute,” said Father Byrne, adding that the goal “to take people to the next step no matter where they are faith-wise.”

Father Byrne, who also appears in short YouTube videos offering practical advice on faith topics, said he receives frequent e-mails or phone calls from people who have heard the radio segments. They tell him they are interested in coming back to the Church, going to Confession after many years and would like help in finding a parish and pastor. “This is what the Lord asked us to do when He sent the Holy Spirit -- to be His voice in the world, His hands that heal and help,” said the priest.

Megan Philip, coordinator of campus and young adult ministry for the Archdiocese of Washington, said evangelization efforts geared toward Catholics and non-Catholics in their 20s and 30s are a vital ministry in the Church today.

“Our current generation is the least religious in American history. We are in an age in our Church where we need to address that. We need future Catholic families,” she said. “...This generation is still thirsty for Jesus Christ and the new life the Gospel brings. It is our challenge to transmit that truth in a relational way. We have to be close. We have to be a family.”

Philip said archdiocesan initiatives such as the monthly Theology on Tap, young adult leadership programs, college campus ministry, annual retreats, and other parish efforts, offer young adults opportunities to “discern the Gospel in their daily life and plant an incredibly beautiful seed of faith in their hearts.”

She said Washington, D.C. is a transient city, in which 40 percent of its residents are young adults in their 20s and 30s. The goal, she said, is to welcome newcomers to the city, help them find a home in the Church in D.C. so they do not feel isolated and disconnected to the faith.

“We are called to creative evangelization efforts. It’s beautiful to see. The good news is it happens,” Philip said “Christ has the capability to touch hearts and transform lives. We must cast our nets into the deep. That is our task.”

For information on the Archdiocese of Washington’s Office of Evangelization, call (301) 853-4599.