Pastoral letter for the inauguration of the Year of Evangelisation 2003

What a joy to be an evangeliser!

To celebrate the Year of Evangelisation was one of the ten priorities discussed during the Diocesan Synod in 2002. Now after a year of preparation, we are ready to inaugurate this great event.

In its deliberations, the Synod recognised a deficiency in the area of evangelisation - both on the personal and community level. In dealing with the demands of pastoral concerns, we almost compromised our ability to carry out the work of evangelisation.

That said, the deliberations also signalled a new awareness of our duty to evangelise; a realisation already made manifest through the increase in our evangelisation activities over recent years.

Actually, pastoral work and evangelisation are complementary aspects of the same reality, both prompted by the same love and both having the same purpose of bringing Jesus to live in everybody’s heart.

The Church nourishes the faithful by educating their faith; this is pastoral work. Educated and informed faith bears fruit in gratitude, joy and an irresistible impulse to share the Gospel with others; this is evangelisation. As the Gospel says: “What you have learned you have to shout from rooftops”, “what you have received freely, give free of charge”, or as St. Paul says: “Woe to me if I Fail to be an evangeliser!”

The Synod deliberations made “ten thousand new baptisms” a target for the Year of Evangelisation. This is to be taken as a desire and an exhortation, because the true result cannot possibly be calculated in such a simple and immediate fashion.

While the whole initiative requires money generated through fund-raising, what is most needed is a spirit of enthusiasm through which we can tell everybody: “I have found Jesus and I am so happy!”

On the occasion of this year’s Mission Sunday, the Holy Father, John Paul II, has giving us some precious gifts: Strong and recent examples of missionary zeal.

Two weeks ago he beatified the founders of two missionary societies, St. Daniel Comboni of the Comboni Missionary Society and St. Arnold Janssen of the Divine Word Missionary Society. He also beatified St. Joseph Freinademetz the Divine Word missionary who worked in China, and today, the pope has beatified Mother Teresa of Calucutta, founder of the Missionaries of Charity.

Missionaries, both men and women, leave their families and countries for far away lands. As strangers they have to learn different cultures and adapt themselves to new life situations. They face difficulties and even hostility for no purpose other than to bring the Gospel to those to whom they are sent: their new brothers and sisters. They make Jesus’ desire their own; they want to quench His thirst.

The sacrifices of the missionaries laid the foundations of the Church in China and in Hong Kong. They irrigated this vineyard of God with their sweat and blood.

Even today our diocese relies on their support. May God bless them and reward them. The diocese has shown its increasing maturity through its participation in mission ad gentes (to foreign countries). Our Catholic Lay Missionary Association was established in 1988 and has 21 members who have gone on mission to Africa and Cambodia. This year our first diocesan priest, Father Paul Kam Po-wai, was sent to the mission in Tanzania as our representative.


When St. Joseph Freinademetz asked his bishop to allow him to follow his missionary vocation, the bishop gave this answer: “As Bishop of Bressanone I say no, bur as a bishop of the Catholic Church I say yes, go, my son, and be a good missionary.” Our diocese is suffering from a dire shortage of priests, but we must still be thankful that God has made us part of the Church missionary endeavour. He will reward us with many vocations for our diocese.

The examples of our sisters and brothers who leave for the foreign the mission serve to encourage us to take up our missionary role more seriously. The Church is not a private club. So when we pray and sing in our churches we should not forget friends who are still wandering outside in the dark. Our Lord wants them to join us too. We should not have peace until they are with us.


Every time I gaze on our city from the Peak or look at the thousands of illumined windows at night, I tell the Lord, “The family you have entrusted to me is so big, how can I manage?” I believe I hear His voice replying: “Joseph, do you love me? Shepherd my sheep!” Sisters and brothers, do you hear the same voice calling your name?

+ Bishop Joseph ZEN, SDB
Mission Sunday 2003

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