Ralph Martin, a professor at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, reads the first reading as Pope Benedict XVI celebrates the closing Mass of the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Oct. 28. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Ralph Martin, a professor at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, read the first reading as Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the closing Mass of the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Oct. 28, 2012. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (CNS) — Ralph Martin, a leader in the Catholic renewal ministries movement, told an audience at an evangelization summit in Sioux City that he sees a danger in lukewarm faith and a de-Christianized spirit in society today.

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington warned at the last synod, he said, “that our society was being engulfed by a tsunami of secularism. We have to recover our confidence in the truth of our faith.”

Martin, who is president of Renewal Ministries in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was in the Sioux Diocese recently to address a convocation of priests, a retreat for diocesan staff and a summit on the new evangelization.

For each audience he asked and answered the question, “What’s new with the new evangelization?”

Addressing the “new” part of evangelization necessitated an explanation of evangelization first, he told the crowd at St. Michael Church in Sioux City, where one day of the summit was held.

“St. John Paul II provided us with a definition,” he said. “That is: ‘the proclamation of the word of God has Christian conversion as its aim; a complete and sincere adherence to Christ and his Gospel through faith.'”

St. John Paul sensed the moment had come to embrace a new evangelization and had specific ideas on what would make it “new,” explained Martin, the author of “The Urgency of the New Evangelization: Answering the Call.”

“(The pope) first asked who it would be directed to,” he said. “Traditionally ‘primary evangelization’ is directed to those who have never heard the Gospel message. However, this new evangelization needed to be directed to those who have a Christian background, but are not living as disciples of Jesus Christ.”

Martin was an official expert at the October 2012 world Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization. He is director of graduate programs in the new evangelization at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and has been a leader in charismatic renewal since the 1970s.

In his presentation at St. Michael, he asked, “Who implements this new evangelization?”

“Previously, we thought priests and nuns and people who work full time for the Catholic Church,” he said. “But Pope John Paul said, in referencing Vatican II documents, every single person is called to evangelize and they are empowered to do so when they are baptized.”

Martin believes most Catholics have a foggy idea of what their Catholic mission should be.

“There are three fields of lay participation in the mission of the Church,” he said, referring to the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Apostolate of Laity People. “1) the mission of evangelization and sanctification; 2) the mission of renewing the temporal order; 3) the mission of mercy and charity.”

Martin added a fourth: A willingness to talk about Jesus.

“If you don’t have the fourth element,” he paused. “It’s core to the others, but it makes us squirm.”

Martin praised Pope Francis who has kicked evangelization up a notch.

“We don’t all have to be preachers, but we have to be able to be informal preachers,” he said. “Bring Jesus, bring prayer, bring your faith into conversations.”

— By Joanne Fox, Catholic News Service.