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Joliet

Country: United States
State or province: Illinois

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Nick LaBanca
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Report From Cream of Wheaton 2023

June 15, 2023


Once again, we find ourselves back where everything started for our Joliet Team back in 2018: The Cream of Wheaton Festival! We had another great weekend, thanks to the generosity of our members, and especially our Station Leader Bill who helped secure such a great location for us earlier this month of June! Below are the testimonies of our Station Leader Angela, as well as myself. Please see both below:

SPSE Team Photo

"We fortunately had a spot in the shade of some beautiful trees because the weekend was hot! Unfortunately, it was a little off of the main walking path, so the people had to be more intentional about coming over to our booth.
"I only had an hour-long shift at the booth, alongside Bill and Mark. Bill has been taking evangelization classes with SPSE and it showed! He seemed to know when to ask questions, when to listen, when to pray and when to end a conversation. I mostly fell into the role of silently praying for the Holy Spirit while the other two did more of the talking.
"My most memorable conversation we had was with a friendly atheist. He approached our table, smiling, and said, "All right, give me your pitch!" Bill looked at him and told him that we didn't have "a pitch", but that we wanted to know what he needed and believed. As we started talking more, we found out that the man was baptized Catholic, but no longer holds to any faith. He said that he just believes that people should be kind to one another. Bill tried to probe a little bit more, but the man was putting up some walls. He then said to Bill that he believes every person has an innate feeling within themselves to be kind to others, and to do good. Bill simply said, "Well yes, of course. That's your conscience." Our new friend laughed and shook his head saying, "No, no. I don't believe in such a thing as conscience", and tried to say he was referring to something else. Unwittingly, in his explanation, he gave the textbook definition of conscience to me and Bill. They went back and forth a bit, but it was clear to me he didn't seem to be too interested in discussing theology. Bill then thanked him for his time and told him he was welcome to come back any time for deeper conversation. Through it all, Bill made a connection with him by being what the man said he values most: kind. Please pray for this gentleman for his conversion and return to the Faith." -Angela
SPSE Team Photo
We had some great encounters out at the Taste of Wheaton festival, and I was able to encounter a few people on Saturday afternoon as things started getting busier. We had a few people walk by, interested, but not approaching. We then had two children - both girls who had permission from their parents to be walking around - approach the table and wanted to "spin the wheel" our Station leader, Bill, had brought with. They both won some snacks and the rosaries we had laid out caught their eyes. One girl, no more than 9 or 10, said she would really like one. I asked her what her favorite color was and gave her the one of her choice. I asked her if she knows how to pray the rosary and she said, "Of course! I go to St. Michael's school!" which is the local parish here in Wheaton. I also asked both of them if they wanted a miraculous medal or another saint medal. I thought they'd pick St. Therese the Little Flower, but both were apparently big fans of St. Francis of Assisi! We gave those to them, and before the girls left, I asked them if either of them knew that St. Michael's had Formed.org for them to use at home. They did not, so I gave both of them the postcards describing what Formed.org is and the login instructions. One girl especially seemed to like seeing the Brother Francis cartoon on the postcard! I encouraged them to let their whole families know there was a lot there to help them grow more in love with Jesus, right in their own homes! We closed by asking if they had any prayer intentions. The first girl said she wanted prayers for her teacher who had just retired.
A bit later we had two women come up, both in their late 50's/early 60's. They were enamored with all the sacramentals, prayer cards and materials we had there. One woman wasn't very talkative, but she took several saint medals and some rosaries and said she goes to Mass at the local parish of St. Michael's. The other woman (we'll call her Jane) seemed to have some trepidation when I and our Station leader Bill asked about her Catholic faith. After telling us she was a "registered parishioner" at St. Michael's, she admitted that for the last few months she had been going to one of the "Bible churches" in the area, but her husband had been urging her to still go with her to the Catholic parish. She quickly added that she still goes to St. Michael's for the sacraments and for Confession there. She said she couldn't "live without the sacraments". Thank God she knew that.
However, Jane then said that just has not been getting enough "meat" at her parish and said she is voracious in her hunger to learn more about Jesus and she said the Protestants are doing it better, and that she's learning more at this Protestant community's Bible Study she now frequents than she has ever learned in a Catholic parish setting. What made this revelation all the more sad to me and my partners at the booth, was that she then admitted she had been a catechist at St. Michael's for well over 10 years and had just quit not too long ago. How long had she been teaching these children while she had been having doubts about her faith? She then told us that at too many Catholic parishes, the homilies have no substance, and there is no community where people can actually grow in their faith.
Bill and I told Jane there are those opportunities, while agreeing with her that sometimes there can be a real lack of catechesis coming from the pulpit. Bill strived to remind her that the sacraments are what are most important, and she agreed. I also told her that if she's been shopping around for non-Catholic communities, she could easily do that with Catholic parishes, as there are many right in her vicinity. I mentioned that my wife and I went to several parishes before we could find one that really "clicked" for us.
Jane then told us more about how much she loves the Bible studies at her non-denominational community, and I asked her what area of study she is interested in. She still was not specific, but mentioned the Bible study she's doing right now on St. Luke is fantastic. She then lamented again that there isn't much out there from Catholic parishes and Catholic sources, which is why she feels she must find those sources outside the Church. I asked her if she was aware of Formed.org and that St. Michael had it. She said she wasn't aware (which surprised me a bit as she was a catechist for years). I gave her and her friend the postcard and said that there is a wealth of content there, and she would enjoy the Bible study by Dr. Michael Barber on St. Matthew's Gospel. It was over 25 parts, which is the type of length she was looking for! Told her there was a myriad of resources there to feed her hunger, and told her that Catholics ARE doing a lot right now to deliver content to the faithful. Jane appreciated this and said she would examine Formed.org more in depth.
At this point, I then became a bit more blunt and asked her to tell me "what happens when you go into a passage of Scripture with your group on, say, John 6 with the bread of life discourse? Or something having to deal with baptismal regeneration? How do you respond to the people in your group in these situations?" She became a bit flustered and said, "I know, I know. The sacraments are very important," but then she went right back into how she was not being fed at Catholic parishes. I then told her that Scripture warns us about being wary of those "preachers" that are trying to reach people with "itching ears". I told her that, sadly, our separated brethren are distorting Scripture on several counts, especially in relation to the source and summit of Christian life: the Eucharist. I told her to be wary of the time she was spending there, because while she will no doubt here some great truths expounded upon, she will also encounter quite a bit of false teaching at the hands of these "pastors". I outright told her that sadly, many of these non-denominational communities are distorting Scripture, and we must be on guard for that. I asked her to simply reflect upon this and how she would respond if something like the Bread of Life discourse was brought up, or the primacy of Peter and the founding of Christ's Church. She said God knows her heart, and she is, of course, correct in that statement.
At that point, Jane and her friend had to go, and we asked if we could pray at all. Our interlocutor said to pray for her son, so we did, and I asked our Lord to please enlighten all of us so that we can do His will, and receive him fruitfully in the sacraments. -Nick
Please pray for their intentions, but especially for Jane so that she isn't led astray from Christ's Catholic Church by false teaching. And especially pray for all catechists and all those who may be having doubts about their faith at this moment! We hope o see you join us on the streets as well in the future!