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Country: United States
State or province: Illinois

Team Leader
Nick LaBanca

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Reports from Grove Fest 2023

July 12, 2023

The following reports come first from our Station Leader, Rachel, and first time evangelist Eric. Looks like they had a fantastic outing!

GroveFest team —

WOW. You all blew me away with delight on Sunday. I've been on several St. Paul Street Evangelization missions, and never before have I seen such a huge response!

Thank you to Buck for helping me with logistics, for getting us a better spot, and for getting us extra time.

Veterans Lori, Mary Beth, and Tim along with first-timers Eric and Annemarie spread out and passed out rosaries and medals almost as quickly as I could untangle and assemble them. I manned the table and prayed, trying to keep everyone supplied with rosaries, medals, pamphlets, and prayer cards, while also trying to keep everything organized and protected from the wind that wanted to blow it all away! (Come, Holy Spirit!)

While I remind everyone that SPSE policy is that we don't initiate or pursue deeper conversations with unaccompanied minors, I would say 75 percent of our encounters were with teens, preteens, and even younger children who wanted rosaries and medals! Due to this, and also due to the periodic rainstorms that punctuated our afternoon, we de-emphasized the paper materials and concentrated heavily on distributing our sacramentals.

The first people to approach us were a group of very young children (probably younger than 8) who wanted rosaries for themselves and some to give to others. One little girl wanted one for her teacher "because she talks about it [the Rosary]." I also heard several teens talking with Eric about their faith. One really liked the brown scapular Eric was visibly wearing and showed us a purple scapular of his/her(?) own! (Eric, maybe you can fill in any noteworthy details?).

Our ENTIRE rosary supply was cleaned out! Mary Beth donated her extra stash of rosaries, and those were all distributed as well. All the Sacred Heart medals we had were given away too. "I want Jesus!," I heard a young man say when Annemarie offered him a choice of medals. Music to my ears!

Prayer requests I have written down are:

Pat - missed Mass Sunday and feels bad, also wants prayer for her mother, Martha, who is sick
Paul - healing of his fractured right hip and leg
An elderly couple is back from Phoenix and looking for a house to buy.
One young mom just said to pray for “everything” in her life.

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Eric's Story:

Thanks so much Rachel for leading! What a wonderful experience. I couldn’t believe how simple it really was and how open and friendly the fest-goers were. I am still kind of in awe of everything. In addition to just asking if they’d like a free rosary or holy card, for those that stopped I often asked if they had any faith tradition just to get the discussion started. Almost everyone shared some kind of honest answer. Some said they have been away from Church for a while. Some said they were Catholics and went to one of the Catholic Churches in Downer’s Grove. A few said they were other denominations. One person said they weren’t even Christian but she wanted a rosary for her friend because she knew they were.

One young man came right up to me and just wanted to talk. He said he was new to the US from South Africa (only 3 months here) and is working with the carnival crew. He asked if he could ask me a few questions…one of which was how could he “grow” in his faith. I mentioned that he could read his bible every day. I asked what denomination he was and he didn’t answer directly but when I asked him about going to communion…he said it was only twice a month. I shared with him that as Catholics we can celebrate the Eucharist every day if we wanted and that for me that helped me to grow in my faith. I challenged him to ask around with the other workers who are traveling together this summer with the circus to see if there were any other Christians and that maybe they could start to pray together.

One young couple came up with their little one and had mentioned that they had just celebrated his first communion…I congratulated them and told them what a special day that is. We talked about faith for a bit and the mom mentioned how she wants the “original Catholicism” not all the “new stuff”. Soon after that the aunt, uncle, and cousin showed up. I spoke with them for a bit too and asked if they had a church they attended. I tried to encourage them that they are always welcome to come back.

Quite a few folks mentioned they have been away from church for a while. I tried to relate it to working out, that once you get into the habit, it becomes easier. Everyone seemed to be receptive.

One couple was visiting from Philadelphia. They are active Catholics. They had a newborn baby and a toddler with them and I told them how beautiful it is to see young families so happy together. I had shared how I got to see Pope Francis is Philadelphia and how special that was for me. In reflecting, just sharing faith was feeding my own soul in the process.

One of the last encounters I remember was the last rain gust we had. Another young couple with little ones took shelter under our tent. I had joked that now they “had to talk with the religious people”! I engaged the father in conversation. He said he coaches and teaches at a local Catholic High School. As we continued to discuss, we found out that we went to the same college and actually both played baseball there. It was kind of fitting ending to the day. Our head baseball coach had just passed away and his funeral was celebrated just two days earlier. It gave me so much hope to meet another young family living the faith…and this one I had a personal connection with!

Please pray for all those we encountered during this outing and that our evangelists may continue to be brave and courageous witnesses to our Lord Jesus and His Catholic Church!