Austin, TX. Most Catholics who learn about our ministry are very apprehensive about talking to total strangers about religion. Those who try it, however, with hearts open to God, find that a conversion happens within them. Here are some words of a man, Mark, who attended one of our recent trainings:
“Last Saturday, on the feast day for Our Lady of Guadalupe, we attended a class led by the St Paul Evangelization Ministry. Going into the class, I had much trepidation about street evangelization. Was I expected to be one of those obnoxious evangelizers who stand on street corners and yell out fire and brimstone messages? Growing up in the Northeast part of the country I remember all types of evangelists from street corner preachers to the Mormons who evangelized from door to door. These recollections did not inspire my heart to want to pursue street evangelization. At morning mass, I convinced myself to be open to the experience and trust that Our Lady of Guadalupe would be there to guide me.
Our instructor Adam was very convincing in both his style of approaching people and the good news message we need to be sharing. This was not what I envisioned; there were no negative messages and no bible thumping. As I participated in the class I realized the approach being taught could be used in any number of settings beyond street evangelization. In the classroom, we also had opportunities to role-play various responses heard on the street. These were helpful in overcoming my reservations about approaching complete strangers to share Jesus’ good news.
In Matthew chapter 9 we hear: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” As Catholics, we are called as laborers to the New Evangelization and to encounter people in the secular world. While I feel comfortable speaking to people that have a common interest with me, I am not as confident in approaching strangers and asking them faith related questions. This is an area in which I rely on the Holy Spirit to lead me.
In the late afternoon, we headed downtown Austin armed with rosaries, holy cards, necklaces and other literature. The first couple of people I approached quickly dismissed me as if they could tell I was uneasy about what I was doing. I stepped back for a moment and asked the Holy Spirit to change my heart to reflect God’s love to those passersby I would encounter. I sensed an urging to find spiritual common ground with the strangers I was about to encounter. I then started asking a very basic question: Do you pray to our Lord? I was amazed at how a simple question sparked a conversation about Jesus. If the response was “yes,” and most often it was, I would introduce a rosary as a prayer aid and simply ask that they would follow the instruction guide one time. Conversely, if the person responded “no” to my question, I would ask if they wanted to be closer to Jesus and try to encourage prayer as a means of communication with God.
My experience today revealed guidance beyond my expectations. Street evangelization is not about what we say; it’s more about who we are called to be. Evangelization is not a planned event that we turn on and off. It takes place in our day-to-day interactions, defines who we are, and reveals God’s plans for our lives. The Holy Spirit leads us through our encounters with a wide variety of people. Sometimes we are guided to just listen with a compassionate heart, other times we are called to reach out more proactively. In all cases, we are to act as Jesus’ hands here on earth.”