Three signs of hope stood out at last month’s Archdiocesan Pastoral Assembly in Salem: clarity, unity and zeal.

The gathering, held every three years, allows the voice of the people to be heard at the highest levels. Delegates come from all over western Oregon to learn and pitch in their wisdom to help set a course for the archdiocese and parishes.

Archbishop Alexander Sample and leaders of the archdiocesan offices this year wisely pared down the agenda to a single idea — how to evangelize. Church initiatives sometimes drown in a flood of competing priorities. Evangelization, the Lord told us, is our mission and so this is a worthy and comprehensible nucleus of ministry. Catholics seem to be frightened of evangelization, but the assembly showed it can be a natural part of daily life, not a tiring new program. 

Delegates approached the challenge of evangelization with optimism and creativity. Because of their own deep relationships with Jesus, they clearly want to share the joy out of love. They suggested everything from praise and worship concerts to keeping a picture of the pope on your desk at work. One delegate proposed a book group designed and marketed to interest people who are not Catholic.

The span of faces filling the gymnasium came in all shapes and colors. Many of the new members of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council are Hispanic, reflecting that growing part of our church that happens to be Spanish speaking. There were many ideas and models, but all were unified by the idea that our Catholic faith is too mystical, glorious, joyful and fulfilling not to share. Some delegates were conservative or traditional while others were liberal and progressive. But all were kind and in harmony on this day. They realize that while the methods and approaches may differ, the mission is the same. That kind of communion will be highly attractive to the world.