Michael E. CONNORS, ed.  To All the World:  Preaching and the New Evangelization.  Collegeville, MN:  The Liturgical Press, 2016. pp. 167 + ix.  $24.95 pb. ISBN 978-0-8146-4708-0.  Reviewed by Stephen S. WILBRICHT, Stonehill College, North Easton, MA  02357.


            The term “New Evangelization” has been used in Roman Catholic circles since the early years of John Paul II’s pontificate.  While preaching the gospel to every creature is at the center of the Church’s mission, every age must wrestle with making “new” the proclamation of the Good News.  Pope Francis, in his 2013 encyclical Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), declares that the work of evangelization is the responsibility of each baptized Christian:  “All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization” (Evangelii Gaudium 120).  The challenge of revealing the Lord’s voice in the context of daily living is a daunting one; connecting the Gospel to the domestic setting or the work place is no easy task.  Therefore, attending to the quality of preaching within the Sunday assembly of the Christian community is of utmost importance.

            The fourteen essays that comprise Michael E. Connor’s latest edited volume for preachers seek to provide “new ardor, new methods, and new expressions” for the work of evangelization.  To All the World:  Preaching and the New Evangelization represents the fruit of a conference at the University of Notre Dame in the summer of 2014, which was sponsored by the John S. Marten Program in Homiletics and Liturgics.  Connors writes in the book’s preface:  “Fidelity to tradition and creative willingness to risk new strategies, love for the Word and love for God’s people, zeal for the universality of the message and deep respect for the plurality of cultures and religious faiths—these were but some of the tensions into which we stepped, gaining confidence that each may yet yield the precious Gospel fruit of hope for our battered, divided world” (viii).

            The topics addressed in To All the World constitute a vast domain.  From the late Virgilio Elizondo’s essay on Our Lady of Guadalupe as an “icon” for the New Evangelization to Paul Turner’s portrayal of preaching at rites of initiation to the gifts and challenges of black preaching issued by Deacon Marvin Tardy, the volume covers a broad spectrum of interests.  In some ways, this feature proves to be a distraction, as it is difficult to discern a clear, common thread running throughout the chapters.  Some chapters are oriented toward explicating a basic pedagogy of preaching, such as Karla J. Bellinger’s piece “Ten Ways to Make It Stick:  The Importance of Connection to Preaching and Teaching” or Cardinal Donald Wuerl’s contribution “Preaching, Teaching, and the New Evangelization,” while the majority of chapters, such as those mentioned above, are targeted to specific cultural or age-related audiences.  The most important entry in To All the World, one which should be read by all homilists, is Jeremy Driscoll’s piece “Preaching the Resurrection:  Central Content of the New Evangelization.”  Driscoll writes:  “It seems to me that the absolute novelty of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead should be front and center in all that concerns the New Evangelization, and should be much more explicitly the thread that is invoked throughout as the content of the faith that the New Evangelization seeks to deepen and celebrate” (143).  Perhaps the Resurrection is the thread that needs to be more apparent in this volume as a whole.

            Nevertheless, this collection of essays is thought-provoking and necessarily stimulates reflection on one’s own homiletic skills and weaknesses.  It heralds the truth that evangelization transcends the mere transmission of doctrine; it is to be an encounter with the Risen Lord.  While all the baptized are called to be agents of the New Evangelization, To All the World might appeal most to those who occupy the pulpit on Sunday.  For this reason pastors, preachers, and catechists could benefit greatly from perusing the contents of this book.