There is a great deal of discussion in Catholic circles these days about the New Evangelization. The recent canonizations of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII has only added to the buzz, not to mention the beautiful contributions of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who, during his pontificate, called for the re-proposing of the Gospel to those who have experienced a crisis of faith. In his June 28, 2010, homily on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Pope Benedict said we must reach out “to those regions awaiting the first evangelization and to those regions where the roots of Christianity are deep but who have experienced a serious crisis of faith due to secularization.”
These days when one thinks about the New Evangelization, Pope Francis comes to mind. His no-nonsense, down-to-earth homilies and his warm personality have captured attention from all sorts of people in all sorts of places, even in the often cynical secular media.
Meanwhile, not too far away from Vatican City, is another religious, certainly not at the same hierarchal level as the pope, but someone who is also drawing all kinds of attention and having an impact for this thing called the New Evangelization. Her name is Sister Cristina Scuccia. Maybe by now you’ve heard about her big victory on “The Voice Italy.” The 25-year-old Ursuline sister captivated audiences around the world, as well as the judges, who were often brought to tears by her performances of such songs as Alicia Keys’ “No One” and Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer.” She even had the TV studio audience, many of them sporting Sister Cristina T-shirts, cheering loudly and dancing in the aisles when she joined other contestants for a special and very clean rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”
So what in the world does a singing nun have to do with the New Evangelization? Well, an awful lot when we consider that if we are going to reach, particularly, the fallen away Catholics, then we have to reach them where they’re at, and where many of them are at is right in front of the TV or computer screen.
No doubt most of the people on “The Voice” were baptized and raised Catholic. Italy, after all, is a predominantly Catholic country. As much as I love Italy, given my Italian heritage, it is always a disappointment to see the stunning basilicas in the big cities of Rome and Florence treated more like museums than actual parishes. My husband and I spend a lot of time in Italy and are keenly aware of the low Mass attendance. Sister Cristina’s victory is showing the world the joy of the Gospel. She is bringing more attention to the Catholic Church. And like Pope Francis, she is always pointing us to Christ. After she won the singing competition, Sister Cristina thanked the judges and those who voted for her but insisted this was not about her but about Jesus and even recited the Lord’s Prayer. She said repeatedly through the competition that her participation was an effort to evangelize. She sees her voice as a gift for God and “The Voice” as a chance for her to give glory to God.
Some have been critical of a nun singing on such a secularized program, but part of the New Evangelization movement is to be in the world and not of the world and to do a better job of engaging the culture in a positive way. Only the good Lord knows how he will continue to use Sister Cristina and her newfound platform. Her big win means she will be offered a recording contract but no word yet on whether she will accept the offer. In the meantime, I, for one, say “brava,” Suor Cristina, and “grazie” for being a voice for the New Evangelization.
Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.