Florida Catholic Newspaper Article

Evangelists take Catholicism to streets and the beach
BY ANNE DIBERNARDO
Posted: 12.17.2015
POMPANO BEACH |

Every other Sunday morning, people strolling along the beachfront sidewalk at the public pier in Pompano Beach are casually greeted by men garbed in black T-shirts who offer to pray for them, or hand them a rosary.

The men, who look more like football coaches than evangelists, are members of St. Paul Street Evangelization, an international Catholic lay ministry that provides Catholics with the tools to evangelize the culture in a simple, peaceful and nonconfrontational way. The evangelizers make themselves available to answer questions about the faith and pray with those who request it.

“This method of evangelization breaks down the barriers that people have against the Church, and that’s why it’s beautiful,” said Joseph Little, a parishioner at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Coral Springs.

He and Peter Dyga of Little Flower Parish in Hollywood were inspired to start a local chapter of the ministry after reading about it on social media five months ago. Currently, the local group, which is also open to women and youths, is composed of 18 members from two parishes: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and Little Flower.

“Catholics are surprised because they never see Catholics evangelizing in the street,” Little said. “What happens out here is that we meet so many people who, for whatever reason, stopped going to church. Perhaps something turned them off.”

The evangelization program has found this nonconfrontational approach to be very effective at strengthening the faith of practicing Catholics, bringing back the fallen away, and dispelling misconceptions held by non-Catholics. While their mission is to work for the conversion of the whole world to the Catholic faith, evangelists recognize that the only thing they can do is plant seeds — it is up to God to make them grow.

Fred Ford shared an example of how the ministry is bringing people home to the Catholic Church. “The day is going well for me,” Ford said on a recent Sunday morning after talking to a young family vising from Parkland. “They were ‘so-so’ about the Church, but I spoke about how uplifting our Mass is. I asked them to give us a shot and they said they would.”

Later that day, Little reported an encounter with a Catholic priest who was visiting from Chicago. He thought they were evangelicals because “Catholics don’t go out and do this,” the priest said. He left inspired to start a chapter in his own diocese.

Then there were two women — a Methodist and a Presbyterian — who after being asked to accept a rosary wanted to learn how to pray it. They both promised to pray it every morning and wanted to attend a Catholic Mass that Sunday, said Little. The women provided their names and phone numbers so the evangelizers could keep in touch and answer any questions they had.

Little gave another account of how one Sunday he felt led to walk out to the seashore, where he saw a woman who looked like she was contemplating. He walked up to her and asked if she would like a rosary. She said yes. Then he learned that she was three months pregnant and considering an abortion.

He told her, “Do you know your baby could be a doctor that cures cancer, a priest or the next president?”

She responded that she had never looked at it that way, and started to cry. Then she held up her rosary to the sky and said, “Thank you, God.”

That morning she had been asking God for an answer about whether or not she should get an abortion. After talking to Little, she said she knew that her baby was special.

Then she asked the Blessed Mother to help and guide her in raising her unborn child, because she had lost her own mother. She asked where she could find a church and was supplied with a list of churches and Mass times.

She told Little, “I can’t wait to receive the Eucharist now that I am pregnant.” He added that “she calls every week to report the baby’s progress.”

Evangelizing is an opportunity to dispel common objections about Catholicism, Little said. For example, some may not want to pray the rosary because they think it is cultish. “We show them that the rosary is a reflection of the Gospel.”

An array of brochures on a nearby table comes in handy when questions are asked or objections are raised. Among the topics: “Why be Catholic?” “What About Mary?” “How to Pray the Rosary,” “Reasons to Return to the Catholic Church,” “Common Objections,” “The Existence of God,” “Homosexuality,” “The Truth of the Bible and the Gospel Message,” “Abortion: A Right or a Wrong?” and “The Divinity of Christ.”

The evangelists take to the streets and go wherever people are gathered — on a street corner, at a festival or even at a football game.

“First we wanted to choose a park or a store or a public library. We put it to prayer and I suggested the beach at Atlantic Avenue. All agreed and we have been there since,” Little said. “One of the great things that has happened from this decision is that many people who frequent the beach remember us and are glad we return. They bring people up to us for prayers. It’s been a good location. They will flock to you once they know you haven’t abandoned them. The police are fine with it too.”

Florida Catholic article on Broward SPSE

Evangelization Florida Style

SPSE Florida Style

SPSE Florida Style

After much preparation the Broward County Chapter of Saint Paul Street Evangelization finally hit the street. God blessed us richly and all had a very rewarding day. Many stories to share which will be forthcoming.

Getting Organized

Our group had its 2nd meeting on Saturday morning, January 31st. Wow! What an enthusiastic group eager to fulfill their baptismal promises.

After opening in prayer and sharing with one another our faith journeys, we formed a few working groups:  Ecclesial Outreach, Collateral/Supplies and Venues/Locations. The Ecclesial Outreach Group will use the drafts provided by SPSE to seek the blessing and support of the Archbishop and local pastors. The Collateral/Supplies Group will begin assembling and copying material available through the SPSE member site, including tracts & CDs. We have already obtained our sandwich board sign and a supply of rosaries. The Venus/Locations Group will begin developing a calendar of potential carnivals, fairs and public places where our teams may evangelize. This Group will also investigate and obtain what if any permits may be necessary at each venue. We have already received a request by one pastor to evangelize at a parish Lenten retreat featuring John Michael Talbot, which we think is a perfect opportunity for our teams to “get their feet wet”. God is blessing richly our fledgling apostolate.

We ended our meeting with two agenda items we agreed to incorporate as regular items in future meetings: a doctrinal scripture reading/discussion (John 6:53) and a role playing of how to respond to a common objection. Today’s role play revolved around someone who said they left the Church because of how they were treated in the past.

We agreed to meet again on February 21st at 9:30AM. Many participants have already become SPSE members and have begun their on-line training as we prepare for our first outing in March.

Please pray for us as we answer our baptismal calling and respond to the Holy Spirit in bringing the Joy of Christ and living a life of faith in service to Him to a world in need.

Peter D

Welcome!

Welcome to your local chapter of St. Paul Street Evangelization.

St. Paul Street Evangelization is a grassroots, non-profit organization, dedicated to responding to the mandate of Jesus to preach the Gospel to all nations by taking our Catholic Faith to the streets. We do this in a non-confrontational way, allowing the Holy Spirit to move in the hearts of those who witness our public Catholic presence.

Christ’s call to evangelize was made to every Catholic Christian, and the Second Vatican Council reiterated this need, urging each of the baptized to bring the Gospel, found fully in the Catholic Church, to a culture that has largely reverted to paganism. As an on-the-street Catholic evangelization organization, St. Paul Street Evangelization provides an avenue for you to share the Person of Jesus Christ and the truth and beauty of the Catholic Faith with a hungry culture. To obtain more information or to get involved in this local chapter of SPSE, please e-mail one or both of the chapter coordinators listed on this page.

To learn more about St. Paul Street Evangelization at the national level, click here.