The Essentiality of the Kerygma in Preaching the Gospel (Part 2)

Marc De Leyritz of Alpha Course-France Speaks on the New Evangelization

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By Junno Arocho

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 23, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Throughout the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, particular emphasis has been given to the movements and ecclesial realities within the Church as a way of evangelizing within the parish community. Several of the founders and heads of these realities were given the opportunity to address the participating cardinals and bishops. Among them were the representatives of the Alpha Course-France.

Developed in the late 1970s in an Anglican parish in England by Reverend Nicky Gumbel, the Alpha Course was later brought into a Catholic context in the 90s upon the invitation of the late Cardinal Basil Hume, Archbishop of Westminster.

Since then, the Alpha Course has spread throughout the world in over 160 countries with over 20 million people who have participated in the ten week course. Archbishop Octavio Ruiz, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization described the course as "a tool that God has been put into our hands to do this New Evangelization." ZENIT had an opportunity to sit down with Marc De Leyritz, who along with his wife Florence addressed the Synod of Bishops last Wednesday.

Part 1 of this interview was published on Monday.

ZENIT: So how was your intervention received? What was your recollection of the atmosphere after your intervention?

Marc Leyritz: I think people were moved from what we said. It was the only couple intervention so we shared our 4 minutes (2 and 2) and the bishops looked carefully that we had exactly the same two minutes.  Many bishops told us afterwards they found our testimony full of lightness and joy and the fact that we were really easy going, this is something that we believe in Alpha. Faith is joyful; being friends with Jesus is joyful. The Christian life, which is not an easier life than the rest of [other lives], but Christian life is really happy. Even if it's difficult, it’s a [happy] life. They listened a little bit to what we said, but they were more interested to see the testimony, well, the real people.

ZENIT: And one final question; what is your hope for the Synod?

Marc Leyritz: You know the Synod is taking place 40 years after another Synod on the evangelization, which gave birth to "Evangelii Nuntiandi" that was published in 1975. And "Evangelii Nuntiandi" is an amazingly rich and powerful text. In particular, you have a chapter (Chapter 2) when Pope Paul VI with Karol Wojtyla acted a lot in writing this text, is showing that the Christian faith is like a journey. You move from "I don't know anything" or "I am an atheist or agnostic" to "I have questions." And then usually these questions from [seeing] another Christian, and ask "Well, why is he like this, is he different," so you want to go a little further. From atheist, to question, you then go to meeting Jesus, which is what happens in Alpha very often. But meeting Jesus is not enough; you need to grow roots into the Church community, which is becoming a disciple. And once you are a disciple, which is usually our experience, comes a day where you realize that you can't do anything else but share it with others. So this is the circle: atheist-question-conversion-disciple-mission. And then it goes on and on and the rest of your life is like a spiral. So that’s chapter 2 of "Evangelii Nuntiandi" which is really, one of the most powerful texts, I think, in Catholic Magisterium for years.

My hope for the Synod is that what is written there becomes practically implemented in our parishes. And very few people, very parishes, very few communities, help people to grow in this journey of faith. And the reason why this is not happening more often, despite the amazing vision that was given 40 years ago is that it is a very challenging pastoral task for pastors to build a Church life that allows people to grow, as gardeners; gardeners taking care of nurseries. So, my dream, and it was the topic of intervention, is really that bishops need to start with it; it has to start with them. As well as priests and all the lay people involved in Church leadership. Really develop the leadership capabilities that will allow communities where this journey is available to anybody. 

The upside is huge, obviously, because this amazing effort of new evangelization is there, it's been around for 20 years, it's not starting during the Synod. So it's there, the upside is great but the downside is big as well because we have all these people coming to Jesus and unless we get our act together as a Church: as pastors, as bishops, as lay people, then many of those people, just like in the parable of Jesus and the sower. You see all these seeds falling because it's too dry, it's too rocky or too thorny. Many of our parishes are too dry, or too rocky or too thorny. So we need pastors who can create the right soil. So unless we have more of those, which means training, we risk to lose all these [people]. It means that in this time of transition, we have to take seriously the invitation to boldness that Pope John Paul II addressed to bishops: after the famous «Duc in Altum» he added: «Duc in regendo»: be bold in leadership. The church needs it, society needs it. 

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For Part 1 of the interview, go to http://www.zenit.org/article-35788?l=english

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On ZENIT's web page:

For the full text of Marc de Leyritz's  intervention go to http://www.zenit.org/article-35791?l=english

On the NET:

For more information on the Alpha Course, go to http://www.alpha.org/catholics  or contact by email at catholics@alpha.org.