NCSC speakers unplugged: Deacon Ralph Poyo

At the National Catholic Singles Conference, Deacon Ralph Poyo will discuss how singles can live their Catholic identity and share the New Evangelization with others.

What have been some key moments in your faith conversion?
Two critical moments were when I committed my life to Jesus as a high school senior. I had left the Church after receiving my Sacrament of Confirmation and was following the false god of sports (soccer). After making the US National Team (for boys under 16), and then having the team cancelled due to budget cuts, I was stunned. It forced me to look at my life and examine what it was for. This opened the door to questioning who Jesus really is and what his life has to do with mine. My high school girlfriend, (who later became my wife), was leading me back to Jesus. Then on Dec. 17, 1979, I made the decision to live my life for Jesus and His Kingdom. A youth evangelist for Miami Youth For Christ trained me to become a Disciple of Jesus Christ and through this training I learned how to truly make my high school commitment.

The second critical moment was on a youth ministry leadership training retreat. I had already experienced the life and power of the Holy Spirit through my conversion, but this was an opening to an even greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit in my life. While being prayed over to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, I received a prophetic word that my girlfriend wanted to start dating someone else. After the retreat, I came home and found out it was true. I let her go and drew closer to the Spirit. It was a time of profound growth for me.

Do you find practicing Catholics who are active in their parishes who still struggle with serious sin? How can they begin overcoming that sin and addiction?
Of course, that was my own experience. It took me 11 years of serious effort to be healed from a porn addiction. The key is to recognize the truth that it is sin and cry out to God for help. If you are not finding success in overcoming sin (a slow progression), then you aren’t operating in the power of the Holy Spirit–only your own.

How has becoming a deacon impacted your faith life?
The extra graces I received from the sacrament, not to mention the additional guardian angel watching over that vocation, have increased my function in the life of the body of Christ. I am able to preach at Mass now, which is amazing and a humbling responsibility.

How are single Catholics impacted by the New Evangelization? 
I like this question. However, I would change it slightly: “How CAN single Catholics be impacted by the New Evangelization?” 

I believe in to key ways:

  1. As receivers of the Gospel and ultimately of Jesus Christ. We live with an overabundance of information. Yet the truth of Jesus is becoming less and less known, and the consequences of that are numerous. If you take the leap of faith and embrace the authentic message it will literally change your life. More than just knowing the stories about Jesus, it means exercising the kind of faith that compels you to stop living for yourself and your own kingdom, and instead to live for Him. We believe his truths and He promised to take care of all our needs so now we’re free to live for him.
  2. As givers of the New Evangelization, every one of us is called, by our Baptism and discipleship, to go and make disciples of Christ. That means that we all have the responsibility of giving the Holy Spirit to others.

(The reason I changed the question is that I find many “Catholics” in the pews have no real engagement in the New Evangelization!)

Are there any ways that singles are uniquely qualified to promote the New Evangelization?
One wonderful element of the single life is that other people–like a spouse or children–aren’t making demands for your free time. This affords you a certain freedom to build the Kingdom of God. Once you get married this becomes a greater challenge as the family grows. Use your freedom now to invest in your relationship with Christ and his Body!!! Get involved in building young adult groups across the country. Give yourself away as Christ did!!!

What are one or two ways singles can live their faith beyond just identifying as a Catholic?
Grow in your discipleship by:

  1. Growing in the four fundamental disciplines of a disciple of Christ. (Ask me what they are when you see me.)
  2. Making sure that you have repented of your sinful lives and practice Reconciliation regularly. Baptism means your death! Live your life for Christ since He gave his life for you!!!

What’s been the most effective tool you’ve found for evangelization?
Relational ministry is where the work is really done. We have to befriend people and earn the right to be heard. No Church program will make you Catholic, God does! We must get close enough to people (with whom we want to share Jesus) to earn their trust!

What are one or two blessings Hispanics/Latinos bring to the US Church and also what concerns they do have?
The truth is that it is the Hispanic Church in the United States that is alive and vibrant. The Anglo Church is dying on the vine because they are compromised by a love of money and worldly goods.   The Hispanic Church must look to spread their faith among the Anglos who desperately need their faith.