During the bicentennial celebration of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 2008, Cardinal Justin Rigali identified three “super priorities” for this local Church: Eucharistic adoration, confessions and vocations. The last of these came to fruition last Saturday, as gratefully it does every year at this time, with the ordination of men to the diocesan priesthood. The six men who now go out to serve the people of six parishes in the Archdiocese have appeared in this newspaper at length during the spring. Readers have discovered the priests’ upbringing and formation, their idealism and energy, and their inspiring love for Christ and His Church.

Since the clergy comprising bishops, priests and deacons brings Christ to His people through the sacraments of the Church, these six new priests can be called “new evangelizers.” In the same week they were ordained, Pope Benedict XVI spoke from Fatima, Portugal, about the necessity for the Church to be engaged in a new evangelization. {{more}}

First, evangelizing does not mean “converting” another through clever argumentation. Evangelization refers to spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is He who converts, bringing a person to the Father.

The Holy Father’s call for a new evangelization means more than merely trying harder to do the same things we’ve always done. New evangelization requires a personal witness: “Bear witness to all of the joy that (Jesus’) strong yet gentle presence evokes, starting with your contemporaries,” Pope Benedict said. “Tell them that it is beautiful to be a friend of Jesus and that it is well worth following Him.”

The landscape for the new evangelization exists not only in far-off lands but all around us, in our culture, in our neighborhoods and in our own families. This is the landscape into which our six new priests present themselves to Jesus and His Church. Their mission, marked by their unique role, is the mission of all members of the Church – to witness to Christ in every circumstance of life.

As Catholics we recognize the importance of the sacraments in uniting us with Christ. This journey and mission is strengthened by the grace of mercy through the sacrament of penance and the gift of the Lord’s own presence in the Eucharist.

The new priests begin their public witness of fidelity to Christ through their lives and ministry. They are joined by their brother priests and all the faithful in the work Pope Benedict identified as the highest priority of our time: “Do not be afraid to talk of God and to manifest without fear the signs of faith, letting the light of Christ shine in the presence of the people of today.”