WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Congregation members sing during Vespers at the Feb. 7 session of Nothing More Beautiful.
The workplace is a challenging but excellent venue for Christian evangelization, says the archbishop of Grouard-McLennan.
Speaking at the Nothing More Beautiful series at St. Joseph's Basilica Feb. 7, Archbishop Gerard Pettipas said work gives us identity and purpose but also gives Christians an opportunity to spread the Gospel.
"The apostle to the workplace is an opportunist (who) looks for opportunities to announce Christ," he said. "(We can do that) by words addressed either to non-believers with a view to leading them to faith, or to the faithful with a view to instructing, strengthening, and encouraging them to a more fervent life."
Pettipas gave the catechesis talk on Evangelizing the Workplace and Sherwood Park pharmacist Rob Taylor gave the witness talk on the same topic.
In his talk, Pettipas addressed the nature of work, the role of Christian workers and the many attempts by the Church over the years to evangelize the workplace, including the creation of workers' associations, the worker-priest movement and the appointment of factory chaplains.
"Work makes up a great deal not only of any person's time, but also his identity," he said. "Our work also situates us in many of the relationships that make up our life."
Due in large part to the goals of mass production and maximization of profit, the Industrial Revolution spawned workplaces that can lack the human touch. But Pettipas said the workplace is always a human place, where men and women gather to spend large portions of their time.
"Work is a deeply human activity," he said. "Because of that fact, it is also moral." As moral activity, work is also impacted by justice. "We are called upon to do justice in the workplace. This, of course, demands respect for self and for others."
We are also called to evangelize. "For the Christian, conscious of the call to evangelize, the workplace becomes a challenging but an excellent venue for evangelization," the archbishop said.
However, today a "New Evangelization" is needed, stressed Pettipas.
"This New Evangelization is intended to reach places where the Gospel has already been preached, and many baptized."
Two self-evident truths should always to be kept in mind whenever we speak of evangelization, the archbishop said.
The first is that Christian witness is the best means of evangelization. "We proclaim the truth of the Gospel first of all and most clearly not by our words, but by our actions and our way of living," he said. "Evangelization is about proclaiming the Gospel, but not primarily in words."
The other truth about evangelization is that proclaiming the Gospel is first about discerning God's presence, already at work in society.
Taylor, who gave the witness talk, gave a detailed account of his life, including his desire since childhood to be a pharmacist like his father and his 1979 conversion to the Catholic faith.
As a Catholic pharmacist and member of Pharmacists for Life, Taylor believes in freedom of conscience and does not dispense drugs that may cause abortion or endanger someone's health. He believes all health care practitioners should be protected from being forced to dispense anything that is injurious to life.
"Over the years, I have always clearly explained to all who work in my pharmacy area why I do not dispense certain medications and devices. All have been receptive and understanding."
He also helps his staff and others to develop two simple habits.
"The first thing is to look a customer in the eye, smile and say 'hello.' And when you are finished helping them, the second thing you do, is you look them in the eye, smile and say 'thank you,'" the pharmacist said.
"As Mother Teresa said, 'Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.'"
Taylor said he tries to be Christ to the patients he serves and an example to his staff. "At work, I must treat the fellow who cleans our floors with that same respect that I treat my front store manager. If I don't mirror God's love to everyone I employ, how can I expect anything better in return?" he said.
As a business owner, Taylor believes it is his responsibility to provide his staff with an atmosphere that leads to success. "This is not just of the monetary kind. Can I produce an atmosphere in which the fruits of the Holy Spirit thrive? I believe it can be done."
As Catholics in the workplace, he said, we must strive to be examples of what our faith teaches. "We must do what is right and just."