|St. Paul Street Evangelists Harold Blake, center, and Amber|
Vinton speak with Josh Ferdico of Omaha Aug. 16 at
Lincoln's Haymarket Farmer's Market.
Photo by Lisa Maxson
Joe Keaschall arrived last Saturday, Aug. 16, at 9 a.m. at the Lincoln Haymarket Farmer’s Market not to shop or browse the booths, but to help spread God’s love.
He and three other members of Lincoln’s newly formed St. Paul Street Evangelization team stood near a street performer on the corner of 8th and P, ready to engage in conversation with passers-by about Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church.
It’s something they’ve done every Saturday since the Farmer’s Market opened in May, and they’ll continue to do so this fall before Nebraska Cornhusker football games.
“The church has so much to offer and why not go out and share it with people,” Joe, a research scientist and member of St. Mary Parish in Denton, told Spirit Catholic Radio’s Lisa Maxson. “If you really love your faith, you need to share it, you need to share your love.”
The team’s interaction with others is non-confrontational and friendly. Oftentimes it begins by offering someone a rosary or Miraculous Medal or asking people what they think of Pope Francis, Joe said.
“Being out here isn’t something that comes natural to me, but I think if you pray about it and try not to do too much yourself and let the Holy Spirit work through you, it seems to work out,” he said.
On this particular morning, there are few personal encounters, but that doesn’t mean the seed of the Catholic faith isn’t being planted when people see them or the A-frame signs nearby that have pictures of Mary, Jesus or Pope Francis on them, said Wayne Ringer, founder of the local team and also a member of St. Mary Parish in Denton.
|Joe Keaschall, right, and Wayne Ringer,|
center, both St. Paul Street Evangelists,
talk with Patrick Tines of Lincoln
Aug. 16 at Lincoln's Haymarket Farmer's
Photo by Lisa Maxson
“You never know how the Holy Spirit works,” he said. “Think of how a company sells a product. They know they have to put their product in front of you 20 times before you’re going to buy it. So we may be the 12th time, the first time or the 20th time someone hears about Jesus or the Catholic Church. But it’s important to be that time because they all add up.”
This spring, Wayne learned about St. Paul Street Evangelization, which started in Michigan in 2012, through Facebook, and it reminded him of hearing Pope John Paul II’s call during World Youth Day in 1993 to evangelize on street corners and from the rooftops.
After talking with his pastor, Msgr. Mark Huber, and getting approval from Bishop James Conley, Wayne began recruiting members – many of them friends through the Denton parish and the Regnum Christi movement.
Currently there are more than 100 St. Paul Street Evangelization teams across the country. The Lincoln team has 12 active street evangelists and 30 more people committed to praying a weekly Holy Hour for the apostolate. Street evangelists also commit to a weekly Holy Hour.
The national apostolate provides on-line training resources, but anyone can become a street evangelist, said Wayne, owner of Ringer Roofing and Skylight in Lincoln. All Christians are called to evangelize because of their baptism and confirmation, he said.
“The best way to learn something is to teach it, so when you have to come up with answers or find the answers to questions, that helps you to internalize it and it helps you to spread your faith outside the parameters of this apostolate,” he said.
|Mary Ringer kneels to talk with passers-by during Lincoln's|
Haymarket Farmer's Market.
Amber Vinton, a stay-a-home mother of eight and member of St. Mary Parish in Denton, said being a street evangelist, making a weekly Holy Hour and talking openly with others about the Catholic faith have had positive impacts on her own faith.
“Just pausing in your life and taking the time to spend an hour in prayer in a quiet place is amazing what it can do to your spiritual life,” she said. “And conversing with people about God and how much he loves them makes you realize how much he loves you, too.”
Howard Blake, a member of the local team and of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Lincoln, became Catholic in 1997, and said he wants to share the joy he has found through the Catholic Church with others.
“I just want to bring as many people into the church as I can and maybe answer some questions people have,” he said.
Wayne’s wife, Mary, who wasn’t at the Haymarket last Saturday, said in an email to Spirit Catholic Radio that she initially thought an evangelist was someone who knew his or her Catholic faith really well and could quote Bible verses on the spot.
|The St. Paul Street Evangelists hand out|
rosaries, pamphlets, holy cards and
But that’s not entirely true, she said.
“People are more moved by my personal relationship with Christ and how he shows his love for me – the very love he wants to give to them if they open their hearts to him,” Mary said.
Wayne said he encourages lay people to get involved in the St. Paul Street Evangelization team in one of three ways – either as a street evangelist, prayer warrior or financial supporter.
As a street evangelist, one receives on-line training and commits to going out with another evangelist at least once a month and praying a weekly Holy Hour for the apostolate. Prayer warriors commit to praying the Evangelist’s Prayer every day and making a weekly Holy Hour. And because rosaries, literature, CDs, holy cards and other materials distributed on the street cost money, financial assistance is needed, Wayne said.
“We have a small group now, but we hope to grow,” he said.
The team will have an orientation gathering Saturday, Aug. 23, from 9 a.m. to noon at St. John XXIII in Lincoln.
For more information on St. Paul Street Evangelization, visit www.street evangelization.com. To join the local team or to provide financial assistance, contact Wayne at 402-430-6972 or Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org.