Among the participants at the 13th ordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the new evangelization are various experts who assist the bishops in their deliberations. One of them is Sr. Gill Goulding, a professor of theology at Regis College, University of Toronto. She spoke to Charles Collins about the new evangelization.
It's an extraordinary opportunity and I feel very honoured, very humbled, very thrilled to be here. And to have a sense of just listening across the wealth of interventions, gives you a real sense of the universal Church in a way that I didn't have previously. I had more of a theoretical sense of that. For my own Congregation, since it's a international congregation, yes, I do have a sense of internationality. But here you do have a far broader sense of the reality of the Church on the ground, in every continent and across so many different countries. And that, in it's own way, is very inspiring because the issues people raise can be very different -- some are in common -- but there's a sense that everyone is hearing, and therefore the recommendations that will come from this and go to the Holy Father -- and the Holy Father is there at many sessions -- are clearly well-reflected upon by the group, and there's a sense that you do feel that you've heard both the joys and the sorrows, as Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, used to say, of the various situations in various parts of the world. And I think that in itself is an extraordinary experience and something that's really irreplaceable in any other scenario.
Personally, how would you tackle this issue of the new evangelization as a theologian for first of all, but also as a woman religious, as a professor. What kinds of things do you think need to be addressed when talking about new evangelization.
That's a very good question and in a sense it's a question we've been asking ourselves, in my congregation anyway, since this was first announced. It seems to me that inevitably we must go back to the figure of Christ, that encounter with Christ. Therefore, the new evangelization always begins with me, with you. It's not about how we can do new plans, new programs, new strategies for those over there, or indeed for those outside the Church. But it's a sense of recalling ourselves to that basic relationship that we have with the Lord. What caused me to really have a sense of the deepening of my own faith? What drew me into religious life? What is that bond of love and faith and hope that gives me the enthusiasm and the energy to do what I do?
And it seems to me that it's back again to that call of Vatican II, the universal call to holiness. It's not a universal call to holiness because I need to follow 'x' number of rules, but it's a call to respond in love to the Lord who loves. That, in its essence, is what lies at the heart of the new evangelization. And how then, from that encounter that we have as individuals, and in wider sense as Church, how do we then have a sense of going forth into our ordinary work situation or within our families and the wider family to express that. So that is actually the dynamic behind everything that we do. And the way in which we want to share that within the Church but also to those outside the Church and across our denominations. What is the Christian witness in a wider sense?
We have had a number of interventions from people from different parts of the world, and a very inspiring one from Archbishop Rowan Williams last week, focusing -- as the text went out to everybody and across news services too -- focusing in the area of contemplation. For the archbishop it seems to me that he comes to the end of his primacy in a way in which he began it. Because he began it talking about the whole area of prayer, and he concluded with his address again focusing us back to that same sense of "how do we contemplate the face of Christ?" And that was what our Blessed John Paul II's call to us was in Novo Millenio Inuente: how do we actually have a sense that is where our gaze is fixed, that's where we find our life, that's the life we want to share with others.
Now in many ways, that is also the dynamic behind my own teaching. At Regis College in our mission statement we talk about the integration of theology and spirituality. So there's a sense in which it's not just the intellectual accumulation of knowledge. My students, most of whom are doctoral students, yes they're wanting to move ahead, they're wanting to get jobs in the academy and such. But there's also a sense in that what they're doing has to fuel their own faith, has to resonate within their own heart, and, in a sense, has to continue to renew their own disposition vis a vis their own ecclesial involvment. So the new evangelization in a sense brings us back to living our faith.
And finally, the new evangelization as part of the renewal of the Church. There's long been talk about a renewal of religious life in general in the Church, that there's a crisis in religious life. What role is new evangelization playing in renewing religious life and what role do religious have to play in the new evangelization?
That's a good question. I think the role religious have to play have to play is probably very much the role that they have always played, and that is prophetic witness. It's the witness of the vows, of poverty, chastity and obedience. It's the witness of willingness to go where one is sent, to embrace a mission that one is given, even though it's something that you would not have necessarily thought of. When I was sent to Canada from the U.K, it was a long way to go, and it was a different culture, speaking much the same language, but still with differences. But it's that sense of the riskiness of the faith. In terms of how we can continue to contribute to the new evangelization, I think it's again very much in that area. It's continuing our educational work, our spiritual ministries. Our readiness to be, within my own congregation, at service of the Church, and in particular the Holy Father, in terms of the missions that he decides that we undertake.
In terms of how the new evangelization affects religious life, like all of us within the Church, from the Holy Father to the newest born, we're all called to take our part within the new evangelization, we're all called to a deeper re-appropriation of our faith. I have to say I think the Holy Father's reflections both at the beginning of the Synod, at indeed at the opening Mass, and then the Mass commemorating the fifty years of Vatican II, have been very inspirational in calling us back to that basic encounter with Christ with which I began our conversation here. And it seems to me that as religious we too are called back into that, that all our activity, for those of us in the active orders, and all our prayer, for those of us in the active orders as well our contemplatives -- and the contemplatives are vital for us all, we stand on their foundation -- but we're all drawn to see that we can make a difference.
It's something I often say to my lay students, particularly, when they say, well, what can I do with regards to the Church, and the kinds of difficulties that there are. And I say: each one of us by living well our own particular vocation can contribute to the health of the Church. It's a little like the sacrament of reconciliation. When I go to confession it's not just I that am brought to a healthier state, but I contribute to the life of the Church. I think if people had more of a sense of that, there'd be again a deeper understanding of the reality of that sacrament and perhaps more of a return of people to that.
But the whole way in which we can live does actually help to build the Church and that actually empowers people, because then they say: I can do something. It's not just about "this is wrong over there, and this is wrong over there", but it's about "in my living, I am building up the body of Christ". And that is an enormous gift that people can understand. And that again is essential to the new evangelization.