The Distinction of Rural Evangelization - Catholic Rural Life

The Distinction of Rural Evangelization

Dr. Susan Windley-Daoust • February 23, 2024


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What makes rural evangelization distinct from urban and suburban evangelization? Well, here’s the first thing. It’s actually not that different. Because it’s a human call. The Lord calls every single one of us to share the gospel in our own place according to our state of life. So if you are baptized, you have a call to share the gospel. So it’s not that different. When people think of evangelization, unfortunately, too many people think of the whole person on a soapbox, screaming at people as they walk on by. That’s not evangelization. That’s spiritual harassment. But evangelization is so much more about listening to where the other person is. It’s about offering a word of hope and praying with that person. It’s about inviting them to encounter Jesus through His Church. It’s all of those things. It’s a much more gentle process, and it really is an act of love. So this is everybody’s call, whether we’re rural, urban, suburban, no matter where we live.

The thing that’s distinct, though, about evangelization in a rural context is that people tend to know each other already and that’s a great advantage. It’s an advantage because you can be that person of trust and that’s where all evangelization starts. You have to be a person of trust, a person of character and integrity. You don’t need to be perfect because none of us are. We’re all sinners, right? But you do need to be trustworthy. So when people know each other, that is the first thing that enables a culture of trust. And when you are a trustworthy person, then you can reach out to someone else and say, “I see that you’re really struggling here. Is there some way that I can help?” and you can share your story about how God has helped you in hard times and give that material and spiritual support that you are able to offer to that person at that time as well. That’s how it begins.

The other thing that’s distinct about rural evangelization is that most of the churches are smaller and many of the churches are clustered or in families. That is, you have one pastor for two, three, four, I’ve heard of six parishes at once, maybe even more. So, the pastor is still the leader of that parish, but it’s true that the pastor is less present than a pastor would be at a large parish in an urban setting or in a suburban setting. Now, what that means is that the laypeople in rural parishes really step up and you probably know this already. Rural parishes have a way of getting things done. We need our attention to getting evangelization done because the lay people in rural parishes, they are the engine of evangelization. You are the people who are going to go out and share the good news. You cannot rely on Father to do it or religious sister who may have lived at your parish a long time ago. Those are blessed times and those are blessed people, but so are you, because you were baptized and you are a temple of the Holy Spirit and you were designed by God to share His Word with others. So you do that simply, gently, very invitationally and you have a big leg up because you know people already.

Let’s go do this!

About the author

Susan Windley-Daoust is Director of Missionary Discipleship for the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota. She received her doctorate in Theology from Vanderbilt University, and taught college theology for 22 years. She is the author of four books and many articles. She is married to Jerry, and they are parents to five children. You can find Susan’s books and resources at .

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