Working with God for the Conversion of the World to Jesus Christ and His Church
The SPSE Story
At age 30, Steve Dawson had hit rock bottom. With a bottle of Jack Daniels in his hand, he fell to his knees in a field of grass behind his parents’ house and prayed his first real prayer of his life: “God if You are real, You’ll have to show me.” God broke powerfully into his life and within a month, Steve went to confession for the first time since second grade. As a testament to the kind of life he had been living up until this point, his confession took an hour and a half, and his penance was to say 30 rosaries!
Soon after his dramatic conversion, Steve had a hunger to share with the world the treasure he found in Jesus and His Church. And he lamented the fact that he never saw any Catholics evangelizing. He had seen Bible-waving Protestants, bicycling Mormons, and smartly dressed Jehovah’s Witnesses, but no Catholics. He became determined to do something about it.
He heard about Saint Maximilian Kolbe who evangelized strangers by offering them a blessed Miraculous Medal. St Maximilian called the medal, “Our Lady’s Silver Bullet” because it was a channel of grace, and God oftentimes used it to bring about a conversion in someone’s life. Steve decided to begin evangelizing using this medal. The method was simple. He would start a conversation by asking someone if they would like a free Miraculous Medal. Then He would tell them about it and ask if they were a Christian. The conversations happened supernaturally from there.
Steve, his wife Maria, along with another couple began to evangelize at Portland’s Saturday Market. The Saturday Market is a large art fair that takes place every Saturday and Sunday, April through December, in a park in downtown Portland on the banks of the Willamette River. The area has lots of foot traffic, as well as street performers and food vendors. Many people come for the fair itself, and others are out jogging, dog-walking, or biking on the paved path along the river. The atmosphere is busy but relaxed. No one is rushing off to work, and folks seem content to while away an afternoon. The foursome spread out a picnic blanket on the concrete, erected their “Catholic Truth” sandwich board sign, and set out Miraculous Medals, Rosaries, pamphlets, and prayer cards. They prayed a Rosary, and waited for people to approach—and for the Holy Spirit to do His work.
Over the weeks, they slightly modified their approach. Instead of just waiting for people to walk up to them, they began to offer free medals and rosaries to the people walking by. This technique was helpful in that it drew people’s attention without being too obtrusive. If someone declined or ignored them, they didn’t push the matter, they remained positive and said “God bless you!” or “Have a great day!” This approach also broke the ice for those who were interested but too hesitant to talk to them on their own. Steve was amazed at how receptive and open people were to talking about religion—and especially Catholic Christianity.
Steve wanted to share their experience with others, so he started a Facebook group and posted “stories from the street”. Soon he was being contacted by people from all over the country asking how they could do what Steve and his friends were doing. By the end of that first summer, there were already ten evangelization teams formed in ten different cities.
After graduating with a degree in business from Portland State University in March 2013, Steve and his family moved back to near where he had grown up outside of Detroit, Michigan. Soon after, he formalized the SPSE ministry by filing for, and receiving non-profit status.
Just under ten years later, SPSE has grown from a small team of friends in Portland, Oregon to an international network of over 200 trained street evangelization teams and a world class school of renowned evangelists teaching average Catholics how to take the gospel to a world starved for the good news. The various distinguished advisors and instructors within this organization include Cardinal Raymond Burke, Archbishop Allen Vigneron, Steve Ray, Mary Healy, Peter Herbeck, Tom Monaghan and many others.
St. Paul Street Evangelization (SPSE) is a grassroots, non-profit organization, dedicated to responding to the mandate of Jesus to preach the Gospel to all nations by taking the Catholic Faith to the streets. 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 people to share the Person of Jesus Christ and the truth and beauty of the Catholic Faith with a hungry culture.
Our mission is to train, equip, and mobilize Catholics for the urgent work of evangelization.
Founded in 2012, St. Paul Street Evangelization provides the tools and resources for Catholics to engage the culture in a simple, non-confrontational method of evangelization which involves making themselves available to the public to answer questions about the faith and to pray with those who request it. SPSE has had tremendous growth and now has teams throughout the United States and the world.
But a person might ask, “How can lay people evangelize the Catholic faith so publicly? Isn’t that the job of priests and bishops?” The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Lay people also fulfill their prophetic mission by evangelization, ‘that is, the proclamation of Christ by word and the testimony of life.’ For lay people, ‘this evangelization acquires a specific property and peculiar efficacy because it is accomplished in the ordinary circumstances of the world’” (CCC 905). As a lay apostolate, St. Paul Street Evangelization works in fidelity and obedience to the Catholic Church and her Magisterium.
What an SPSE Team Looks Like
Armed with a simple sign, pamphlets and Rosaries, SPSE evangelists take to the streets, going wherever people are gathered – on a street corner, at a festival, or even at a football game. Our teams always begin in prayer. Unlike some forms of street evangelism which seek to forcibly proselytize those passing by (for example, by yelling, displaying confrontational signs, or preaching loudly at no one in particular), SPSE employs a non-confrontational method, maintaining a peaceful presence and allowing people to approach if they choose. Initial contact is limited to a friendly greeting and an offer of a free Rosary, but the evangelist never tries to force anyone to stop and talk.
St. Paul Street Evangelization has found this non-confrontational approach to be very effective at strengthening the faith of practicing Catholics, bringing back into the Faith fallen away Catholics, and clearing up misconceptions about the Faith held by non-Catholics. While it is the mission of SPSE to work with God for the conversion of the whole world to the Catholic Faith, SPSE evangelists recognize that it is only their job to plant seeds, and in the end, it is up to God to make those seeds grow.
The goal of St. Paul Street Evangelization is not to win arguments but to share the love of Jesus Christ with a hurting culture that is seeking truth. SPSE recognizes that to be an effective witness for Christ and His Church, one must seek to live a holy life. As Pope Paul VI wrote in Evangeli Nuntiandi, “For the Church, the first means of evangelization is the witness of an authentically Christian life … ‘Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses’” (41). To this end, SPSE seeks a membership of evangelists who take their Catholic Faith seriously and are striving for personal sanctity.
When out on the streets, the evangelists of SPSE share the hope that is in them so that the world sees the salvation of God through the Church that He founded. They do not evangelize because they have done any great thing, but because God has done a great work in them, and for that, they are humbled. A person does not need to be a theologian or professional apologist to be an effective evangelist. He only needs to have a heart for Jesus Christ and His Church and be willing to share that with others.
Click here or more information.
What We Offer
The St. Paul Street Evangelization national office offers:
Team Development and Coordination
Visit the Locations page to find a team near you. If there is not a team in your area, or if you would prefer to start a new one of your own, SPSE will help you coordinate your efforts with other local evangelists and provide all of the resources and information that you need to get started.
Online Evangelist Training and Certification
SPSE offers a training course in catechesis and evangelization to help you learn the language of the Church and what she expects of her evangelists. SPSE certifies its evangelists who have completed the training and have experience out on the street. Each local Team Director is required to take these catechetical courses but SPSE encourages all Catholics to take them as well, even if they do not intend to become a street evangelist. SPSE also offers live training for groups that are interested.
Materials for local teams
SPSE provides signs, Rosaries, CDs, business card templates, and other materials to each local team.
Free printable pamphlets
Teams have access to more than 20 pamphlets on the Catholic faith that will help them with their evangelization efforts.
Every local team is provided with a free website to help the members coordinate their efforts.
Evangelization and Catechetical Blog
A team of evangelists writes on timely topics addressing issues related to evangelization, catechesis, apologetics, and the Church.
Information about SPSE
Visit the website, watch the YouTube videos, read stories of street evangelists in action, find out more about the organization, and join the Facebook page.
Prayer Warrior Group
Evangelists can rely on the support of our prayer group of hundreds of Catholics who intercede for their intentions and their work on the streets.
Evangelists can sharpen their apologetics skills by joining thousands of other Catholics in the SPSE apologetics group on Facebook.
Get Involved Today
If you would like to get involved with a SPSE in your area, or would like to learn more about starting a team of your own, visit the Get Involved page and fill out the form. St. Paul Street Evangelization also encourages every Catholic to join the conversation by following them on Facebook and Twitter, and by joining thousands of other Catholics in their Prayer Warrior and Apologetics Groups on Facebook where you can learn more about the Holy Catholic Faith and pray for the conversion of the culture.
St. Paul Street Evangelization is committed to bringing about the conversion of our culture by presenting the truth of the Catholic Faith and is faithful to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church as defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and by the Magisterium.
The patrons of St. Paul Street Evangelization are St. Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, and Servant of God, Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.St. Paul Street Evangelization was formally consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, by His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Leo Burke. View consecration prayer here.
His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke
"I'm very happy to express my deepest esteem for St. Paul Evangelization. This apostolate is doing a tremendous work in bringing Christ and His truth and love to all parts of the United States and throughout the world. I give my wholehearted support to the work and I pray for it daily that it will continue and grow for the sake of the salvation of many souls."Read more
His Eminence Francis Cardinal Arinze
"May God bless all the efforts of those who organize St. Paul Evangelization, those who engage in it, and those who profit from this form of witness to Christ."Read more
His Eminence Joseph William Cardinal Tobin
"This apostolate is certainly helping to fulfill the Great Commission by bolstering the confidence of Catholics in a non-confrontational approach to evangelizing people in their local community."Read more
Most Reverend Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron
"One of the methods [of evangelization] I would like to recommend is the work of St. Paul Evangelization … I, having personally participated in their work of street evangelization, enthusiastically endorse this group... I encourage you to join me in offering your prayers and support for this organization."Read more
Most Reverend Bishop Earl A. Boyea
"It is always good to acclaim the zeal and energy and faith of those who wish to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are all responsible for announcing that Gospel. One group which is doing this work quite forthrightly in the world is St. Paul Evangelization."Read more
Most Reverend Bishop Daniel E. Thomas
"I...highly encourage you to use this ministry as a vibrant form of evangelization for the Catholic Church."Read more
"St. Paul Street Evangelization...present[s] and defend[s] the Catholic Faith with real, living, holy, intelligent, good-humored, and well-equipped Catholics who are prepared to enter into the public arena as an outreach and a witness to the truth of Christ and His Church."Read more
"Street evangelism is as old as the gospel itself. The Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ were the first street preachers... This tradition was practiced by the great saints throughout history and is [now] alive again... The faithful Catholics who make up St. Paul Street Evangelism live up to their name. Support them, follow them, join them!"Read more
"I wanted to thank you for coming to the Twin Cities. You really did a great job of presenting the material and leading the people. I’m grateful for you efforts and pray that the Lord will bring about a lot of fruit as a result of the weekend."Read more