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Joliet

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State or province: Illinois

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Nick LaBanca
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Report From Beecher Freedom Fest

September 10, 2021


We recently spent the afternoon at a booth in Beecher for their annual Freedom Fest, moved from July to Labor Day weekend due to COVID. Below are testimonies from two of our evangelists. We hope to see you out with us at one of our next events!

Although our location didn't have the best foot traffic, we were conveniently located next to the taco booth, which is how we met "Joe".  Joe kept glancing our way while he waited for his tacos, giving me the perfect opportunity to strike up a conversation.  Joe revealed that although he had fallen away from the Catholic Church many years before (he believed he could pray on his own without the company of other people), he believed in Jesus and read the bible.  When I asked him if he followed what Jesus said in the bible, he enthusiastically agreed.  I then responded that in the bible, Jesus said we should build a church.  Joe became silent, clearly deep in thought.  My fellow evangelist, Bill, asked Joe for a favor.  Bill requested that Joe go home and pray that God would lead him in the right direction, whatever that may be, in terms of membership in the Church.  Joe said he would.  Joe then accepted the SPSE pamphlet "Reasons to Return to the Catholic Church", and left to pick up his tacos.

We've been fortunate with our vendor booths to have some interesting conversations with our neighbor vendors, and this afternoon was no exception.  Nick learned that taco salesman "Manny" was in formation for the diaconate!  On the other side of us, after chit chatting all day, cigar box saleswoman "Rita" accepted Angelica's invitation to pray together and took a Miraculous Medal.
Please join our team in prayer for the souls we encountered that afternoon!
SPSE Team Photo
Another testimony is below:
It took a little while for people to warm up to us, but as the day progressed we had several people coming to our booth and taking sacramentals and rosaries. The young man sitting seen in the picture sitting behind our booth, John, came out with us for the first time to evangelize, and he said he loved it! He was very comfortable talking with others, and it seems his reading of Bishop Barron, Scott Hahn and the like really helped him and he is excited to come out again!
One woman came up with her husband and said she needed another rosary, and asked her if we knew how to pray it. She said she has a hard time remembering how, so we gave her one of the "How to Pray a Rosary" pamphlets and explained it to her as a walk through Scripture.

Another woman came up and asked for prayers for her daughter in law and son. She really liked seeing the St. Michael medal and took one, saying she prayed to him a lot. Asked where she went to church and she said she was Lutheran, but liked the beauty of the Catholic Church. We prayed together, but didn;t have a chance to invite her to come deeper as she soon parted. Please pray for her intentions and for her conversion to the Catholic faith, and likewise for all those non-Catholic Christians and non-Christians alike we encountered and prayed with today!
SPSE Team Photo


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New Evangelist's Report from Taste of Bolingbrook

August 10, 2021


Another report from one of our newest evangelists, Nina, can be found below. This was her first time joining us on an official evangelization event, and I hope her testimony gives anyone reading this the courage to come out for their first event as well. This is what we've been called to do as baptized Catholic Christians. The Church exists to evangelize, so let's get to it! Thank you again to Nina and all our volunteers who made this event possible!

 

My experience w/ SPSE 8/7/21

SPSE Team Phote
This was my first time out evangelizing in the street after several years of God putting something like this on my heart.  I took the final shift (5-8pm). When I first got there I was eager but also slightly intimidated.  I first observed Veronica attempting to bring others to our table and then I had the courage to start inviting people to take rosaries.  I prayed with several people who needed prayers regarding family difficulties and mental health challenges.  That part I would say was the easiest for me and I really felt the Holy Spirit give me the words.
The entire time I was out there - I truly felt I was living out my complete purpose on earth - to spread the gospel.  Being in sales, I don't have that hard of a time facing rejection like this - which is such a gift from the Lord.  I loved evangelizing with my best friends and I felt so comfortable with it. We had some good conversations with some Protestants who belong to Victory Church.  I would really like to improve in this area, as I have a hard time incorporating the Eucharist in our conversations.  I felt it was so beautiful seeing genuine curiosity with everything at our table - something that I lack in at times.  It really set me on fire for the Great Commission.  Afterwards, I was reflecting on how we have the freedom to do this stuff and how 95% of the people we saw/spoke to were pleasant.  I was talking with Anthony about how easy evangelizing to these people can be at times because of how pleasant they are.
But even though people are "nice", "pleasant", "good people", they could often be spiritually dead and that's the biggest problem we face in America: people who grew up in the faith, know about it, and still choose to live in sin.  It really makes you appreciate the patience and grace of God.  Overall, I had an incredibly joyful experience and I can't wait to go out there again.


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First Large Scale Event of 2021 - Taste of Bolingbrook Report

August 10, 2021


 

It's been a long time coming, but the Joliet Team has finally made it back to a large event! Sure, we've done a few smaller-scale outings during pandemic time, but our team enjoys being out and about to reach as many souls for Christ as possible!

 

SPSE Team Phote

 

Below is my report as Team Leader. We met a lot of people, prayed for and with many others, and were able to have some great conversations. We are hopeful that we were able to lead people closer to the one Church founded by our Lord Jesus and to Him in the sacraments! A few more pictures from the event can be found as well:

The day started fairly quiet as we got our both set up at 10 AM. We weren't expecting many more people at the Taste of Bolingbrook until lunch time, and we would be there until 8 PM. The first person to come up arrived with his young daughter. Jim [all names are changed] saw our prayer station sign and said he could always use some prayer. His daughter wanted one of the rosaries and we gave her the how to pray the rosary pamphlet, asking her to have her father pray it with her. He said that he had felt like the "lost sheep" for the longest time, but that our Lord had found him again just six weeks ago. He said he used to be Catholic and went to a nearby parish, but he said he never "felt" anything. We encouraged him to return to the Church, but he didn't want to take any other sacramentals or further conversation and he parted amicably.

Most of my experience throughout the early part of the day was praying with others, not so much discussion. Diane came up to us, a Lutheran, and said she was in need of prayer as two of her adult children have disowned her and will no longer talk to her. She broke down into tears, but was very comforted by our prayers and thanked us profusely, her and her friend taking rosaries. Another woman, Maryella, came up to our table looking at our rosaries and other items. She seemed reticent to engage us in conversation, but once we engaged her she stayed to talk with us for quite a while as it was clear she needed prayers. She was Greek Orthodox and told us that she paints icons. She finally asked us for prayers for her daughter, Victoria. Maryella broke down, sobbing, as we prayed. Her daughter is currently studying abroad in England, and she is very sick after taking her first COVID vaccine, with an adverse reaction causing her arm to swell up and she is now in the hospital. Maryella was very scared for her because she has no way to reach her daughter, but she was comforted as we prayed together and asked for the protection and intercession of the most pure Virgin Theotokos, Mother of our God. She also took a St. Michael medal and prayer card and was very thankful for our prayers.

SPSE Team Phote

We handed out many, may rosaries and miraculous medals to others, and also handed out quite a few books and pamphlets. One young man even took home a copy of Dr. Edward Feser's "Five Proofs of the Existence of God" which we were giving away!
Later, when I returned for my evening shift, a young woman, Amy, came up to our table and eventually engaged us in conversation. She asked for prayers for her mental state, and for peace. After prayer, she said she belonged at one time to a Baptist church, but she hasn't really gone to church on a regular basis, noting to us that this is something she should be better about. We talked about the necessity of coming together as a community, as Christians, and I asked her if she was baptized. She said that she was, and I gave her a prayer card invoking the Holy Spirit, so that she could become closer to Him and have those graces within her activated. We then kept talking about the necessity of gathering together at church, and I told her that the most important reason we must gather together is so that we receive the Eucharist. She said she had never hear that word before, and I explained to her that in the Catholic Church established by Christ Jesus, we receive Him in Communion. She remembered Communion from her days at a Catholic high school where she had attended Mass periodically. I explained to her why we as Christians must be joined to our Lord in the Eucharist, and I encouraged her to take the pamphlet on "True Worship - The Eucharist" which she gladly accepted before parting.
SPSE Team Phote
Our last encounter at the end of the night was with a young man named Jamir. He wore a shirt that had a crown and a cross. He looked at us and said, "Hey guys, look at my shirt!" I responded by saying, "Jesus is King!" He laughed, and he shook hands with us and we got to talking a bit, He loves Christ and we found out we have a lot in common. He understood the threefold office we have been given through baptism; that we share Jesus' priestly, kingly, and prophetic offices. He called himself "non-denominational" and was hesitant to call himself a Christian. He said he just wanted to follow Jesus and that he hated all the divisions in the Body of Christ. Our other evangelist, Anthony, concurred with Jamir and told him that the first Christians just simply called themselves followers of "the Way". I then quoted the words of a Catholic priest in our area that being a Catholic Christian isn't so much about identifying as a certain group, but that it is "a way of seeing", a way of seeing as Christ wants us to see, and that must be in a sacramental worldview. I gave him my testimony of why I was Catholic, and quoted to him the prayer of our Lord Jesus to the Father that all Christians might be one as He and the Father are one. I told him that Jesus does not want division, and since the Truth is a person, He wants to lead us into all truth, including the one, true Church that He had founded. We asked him what he had thought of the Catholic Church and he said that he has gleaned good things from all different kinds of confessions, but he worried that different confessions took away from the centrality of Christ. We agreed with him and told him this is why we're Catholic, and that we want to keep the focus on Christ, but to remember the focus of his teaching. Quoting Dr. Tim Gray, I told him that if he accepted Jesus as King, then he must accept Jesus' Kingdom as well. We talked about the parables in Mathew's Gospel which focus on the kingDOM, and that this Kingdom is currently in seed form, for as the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "The kingdom of heaven was inaugurated on earth by Christ. "This kingdom shone out before men in the word, in the works and in the presence of Christ" (LG 5). The Church is the seed and beginning of this kingdom. Its keys are entrusted to Peter" (CCC 567). We talked a bit more and before he parted I asked him if he'd take a copy of Trent Horn's book "Why We're Catholic". He balked at first, but then he said it might be good for him to as he might find something useful. Our other evangelist Nina told him about our diocese's final event the following weekend for Theology on Tap, and he exchanged social media info with Anthony. We all parted amicably, and by that time, the night was over.
We had many first time evangelists out, as well as other veteran's, and this being the first large event we had done since 2019, we were very glad to be out there for such a large event. Please keep all we encountered in your prayers!


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Bringing Christ our God to our Muslim Friends

December 23, 2020


We went to another fair last year, an this report I had sent to St. Paul's Street Evangelization was posted on their Facebook. The post is reproduced below:

 

SPSE Team Photo

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We talk with many fallen away Catholics and Protestants and agnostics when we are evangelizing, but every now and then we talk with Muslims as well. This is when having apologetic material and pamphlets come in handy because many Muslims are challenged by the divinity of Christ, and how God can take on human flesh--a scandalous prospect! They often know their own religion very well and have many questions about Christianity. Sometimes they come to challenge, but sometimes also they are open to learning, as we will see from this story.

The following report comes from evangelist Nick of the Joliet, Illinois team reporting from the “Taste of Wheaton” fair:

“A man named Sabeel from the Muslim booth came by with his friend and started asking us about why we're OK with images connected to devotion when the Protestants point to the Ten Commandments' prohibition of images. I referenced the images commanded by God such as the bronze serpent and the beings on the top of the ark of the covenant.

Then he turned the discussion to address the saints. We explained we believe they're alive, but he was asking for biblical references to the practice of having people in heaven pray for us. I explained not everything we believe has an explicit Bible reference, but that we believe the authority of the Church to develop doctrine over time. This wasn't quite satisfactory to him. He took a bunch of our pamphlets and said he really wanted to discuss the divinity of Christ with whoever is there tomorrow. He's told us that he was going to read our brochure on it and come ready with arguments!

Father Max talked with the Muslims. He said that the questions they asked were so good. He didn’t see it as a negative at all. Yes, it was a long conversation but he thought it was fruitful as it helped clear up for them some misconceptions about Christianity and established a dialogue. However, he only talked to them and maybe 1 or 2 other people because the group of three Muslims took about an hour talking. From what I can tell, it was fruitful and they were asking honest questions. Steve said Fr. Max is such a nice guy that even after Mary Beth told them we had to let Father talk with other people, Father kept talking with them. Angela said that they told Father they have never gotten to talk with a Catholic about Christ's divinity like this before.”

Praised be Jesus Christ! “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). Saint Paul Street Evangelization equips ordinary Catholics to do the extraordinary work of evangelization with people from all walks of life. From apologetics to prayer and healing to public witness, we are answering the call of our Lord to “make disciples of all nations.” Join us!



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Christmas Carols and Evangelization at the Mall!

December 23, 2020


Below is a repost from St. Paul's Street Evangelization's Facebook where I had submitted our report from an awesome Christmas outing we had!
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SPSE Team Photo

 

Evangelism is not an exact science. It takes prayer, intuition, adaptability. It also provides great opportunities to get creative and adapt to situations on the fly and meet people where they are. The Holy Spirit is always right there when our hearts are centered on the right things, to make a way for us!

This report comes to us from evangelist Nick of the Joliet, Illinois SPSE team:

“I wanted to take the opportunity to recap our most recent outing from December 22nd, just before Christmas. An awesome idea came from on of our Station Leaders, Chris. He’ll tell you that all the credit goes to our Lord Jesus (which, yes, ultimately it does go to Him!), but without Chris’ action and organization, the event would not have been possible.

If you’re unfamiliar with a flash mob, what it consists of is a group of people coming together in a public place, and then surprising all the people there with something unexpected. In our case, we descended upon one of the biggest malls in the Chicago suburbs, in Oak Brook, and started singing Christmas carols for the glory of our Lord Jesus. However, there was one snag we hit.

Apparently, security was made aware of our plans, and even though we were outside, we were still on what was considered private property. Originally, they were not going to allow us to pass out any literature or sacramentals, nor were they going to let us sing. After some negotiation, we were still unable to send out our prayer teams with resources for the public, but we were allowed to sing about half of the songs we had planned to sing.

In order to make us stand out, Chris brought some Santa hats for us to wear. About 35 of us or so all lined up and started off with a secular song (Frosty the Snowman), before we ramped it up to glorifying our Lord through such hymns as Silent Night.

As we were right in the middle of the main square outside the mall, many people gathered to watch us sing praises to our Lord, taking their own videos and cheering us on as well. When all was said and done, the head of security, who had not wanted us there originally, came up and told us that it was really nice what we did. We hope to change hearts one step at a time! Although we didn’t get to do everything we wanted to do that night, we hope that we were one step on the road to conversion for some of the people there. Perhaps someone there realized they haven’t been to Mass for a while, and that maybe they should this year. We won’t know this side of Heaven. But if it takes someone 1,392 steps to come into union with our Lord, and we can be step 847, then we will gladly be step 847!

Below is one anecdote from one of our team members as she was leaving the main square:

We had an opportunity to evangelize a young man working as a valet at Roku.

As we were walking by I asked him how business was going for the night. He said “good” then said “hey I like your hat. “ I told him about our caroling and asked him if he wanted to wear my hat to make better tips. He asked if it was free and I said “yes”. After he put the hat on I asked to take his picture. He allowed it but covered his face because he was working.

Then I asked him if he was going to church on Christmas. He is a member of St James and will be attending Mass. I asked if he owed a rosary and he reached for his pocket then looked up and said it was in his car. Then I asked if he was familiar with the story of the young French nun, visionary of the miraculous medal. He was not. When offered him a medal, he hesitated. I said “ it’s free!” “Sure”he said and took the medal and the pamphlet.

I asked him to please read the story to his family on Christmas Day because the story is so beautiful. He said he would. We left then because technically he was working and I did not want to get him in trouble. I attached his picture. Thank you for the Santa hat! Turned out to be a great talking point.”

Praised be Jesus Christ! Way to go team, in getting creative with spreading the Good News message in the midst of a secular setting! We should never be ashamed of the Gospel, but we should also not be afraid to use what is profitable in being able to spread what Christ taught in a language the culture can understand, whether it’s caroling or something else. When we are centered on the Lord and doing His will, He will provide the opportunities! Why don’t you join us?



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More From our 2018 Maiden Voyage at Taste of Wheaton

December 23, 2020


When you think about how people come to Christ, or come back to the Church, it is in many instances through what Pope Francis calls “a culture of encounter;” that is, coming into personal contact with people who are living the faith and, as Paul says, being “imitators of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). When people have bad experiences with Christians or the Church, they can often be put off by the disconnect between what Christians claim to profess and how they live. Those wounds can live for years and keep people from experiencing the love of Christ lived out and in the sacraments. Thankfully in our work as evangelists, we are given opportunities to make new impressions and be a light to the world in word and deed with those we encounter.

SPSE Team Photo

This report comes from evangelist Nick of the Joliet, Illinois team:

“Throughout the day, we handed out many rosaries. At least 150! Many people were more than happy to take one, and we were able to give them instructions (from SPSE) on how to pray the rosary. Miraculous medals were in hot demand too, as were some million dollar bills featuring Pope Francis. The kids especially liked getting some extra “money” for their piggy banks!

One of our station leaders, John, was also able to have some meaningful conversations with the passerby, particularly with a military veteran, Thomas, who had served our country in Afghanistan. It was clear he had a heavy heart, and John encouraged Thomas to return to the sacraments. Thomas asked for prayers and we were able to pray with him right there, on the spot. Another one of our station leaders, Edgar, also was able to pray on the spot with a woman who had been suffering from some ailments. People were very glad to have the opportunity to pray with others.

I myself was also able to pray with quite a few people, including Sandy for the conversion of her daughter (and we also pray for her reversion to the Catholic faith for her as well). I also spent some time talking with Karen, who has been hurt and scandalized by a number of things that have taken place within the Church. These scandals have led her to question the Church, but she knows that she needs Christ, and that she wants to find a good parish to go to. We prayed right there, especially in thanksgiving for a recovery from illness, and we’re hoping to find her a great spiritual home and that she will return to the sacraments.

Needless to say, please keep all of these people (and those that I didn’t mention!) in your prayers. We don’t know what effect our witness will have this side of heaven, but we can only hope that we planted some seeds, with the help of the Holy Spirit. Hopefully some of these people we met will return to the Church. We could also use your continued support with prayers as well for the success of our apostolate.”

Praised be Jesus Christ! As our Lord tells us, “You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5:14, 16). In cultivating a culture of encounter and praying for those we meet, we live by example...which is the best witness to the love of Christ! Let’s work on our own lives and allow God’s grace to motivate everything we do, and in doing so we can trust we will “bear much fruit” (Jn 15:8). Will you join us in our work?

Listen to Nick’s “Story from the Street” podcast here!: https://streetevangelization.com/stories-from-the-street/



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From Our Maiden Voyage as the Joliet Team in 2018

December 23, 2020


Hi everyone. My name is Nick and I lead the Team here in the Joliet area. The following posts (including this one) are reposts of our original blog which was unfortunately lost last year. But through the technology of Facebook, some were found. Here is our testimony from going out on the streets to bring Christ to those in our communities who do not yet know Him, or wish to know Him more deeply! This first story comes from our first outing in June of 2018:

SPSE Team Photo

One passage from scripture that SPSE evangelists take to heart, among others, is from the first letter of Saint Peter, “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15). The Catholic faith has a rich intellectual and spiritual tradition. We are informed by faith and reason, the “two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth” (Pope St. John Paul II), and so it is always a privilege to share that with those who are open to it to see why the Catholic Church “makes good sense.”

 

“This past Saturday, the Joliet Chapter of St. Paul’s Street Evangelization went out for the first time to the Taste of Wheaton festival in Wheaton, IL. We were out evangelizing on the streets for a little over 7 hours during this very well attended festival and many people were happy to see us! Of course, some people walked right by us and rejected our offers of prayers or rosaries, but no one was belligerent and we were able talk with a wide array of people during our time there. We had 8 people come out and evangelize with us, so a big thanks to our station leaders, certified evangelists, and friends who came out to volunteer their time for this great apostolate!

 

We were able to pass out quite a bit of literature on a variety of topics from Petrine primacy to the divinity of Christ and from examination of consciences to copies of Trent Horn’s new book “Why We’re Catholic”. I think we probably gave away 7 or 8 copies of Horn’s new book, and we only did that for people that we were most engaged with. I honestly didn’t think we’d give that many away, but people were happy to learn more about a faith they weren’t too familiar with, or simply wanted to learn more! One young girl, Brooklynn, was out with her father and had just received the Sacrament of Confirmation the week prior. We congratulated her and told her we’d pray for her. But I related to her my own story of moving on to high school, and how, often, I wasn’t able to give a good explanation for my faith. I couldn’t tell others why I believed what I believed. I told her that I didn’t want her to be in the same situation, so I offered her a copy of Horn’s book which she gladly accepted. Her dad was overjoyed and thanked us for the gift.

 

She wasn’t the only one, though, who received the book. We also gave some to a few lapsed Catholics, and an inquiring young man who will soon be baptized in an Evangelical church. This young man, a sophomore who is being homeschooled, approached our booth as his mom talked to another volunteer. He took one of the “Why Be Catholic” pamphlets and stood a ways off, but actually reading it! I wondered if it would be prudent to reach out to him again as he and another friend discussed and read the tract. After a few minutes, and his mother still talking, I asked the young man if he had any friends who were Catholic. He said that he did. I told him to feel free in asking me any questions, and he actually had some really good ones!

 

His first question was, “Do Catholics believe that they are saved by grace alone?” I could tell this was a smart kid! I told him that yes, as the Church has always taught, we are saved by God’s grace, but we must work with Him through our faith and good works, so that He may say to us at our judgement, “You have done well, good and faithful servant”. I gave him one of the “Salvation” pamphlets as well and we talked a little bit more about how faith and good works work into our salvation, and we got into a little exposition of St. James’ Letter. He also mentioned that his father reads quite a bit from Catholic authors, particularly on philosophical issues because, as his dad says, “Catholics know what they’re talking about here”. To my absolute shock, he mentioned that he (the teenager) has been reading Peter Kreeft and Dr. Edward Feser’s new book “Five Proofs for the Existence of God” for his home school! How awesome is that?!

 

I told him that I also had just gotten that book for Christmas and was starting to read it too, while also mentioning Peter Kreeft’s deep love for our Lord in the Eucharist, which led to a brief discussion of how our churches both understand our Lord’s words to “Take eat, and do this in remembrance of Me.” We talked more about this and about the differences between us, but we also focused on our commonalities. He told me that he was being baptized in a month, to which I told him that we are already brothers in Christ! While there are legitimate differences between us that cannot be swept under the rug by any means, I rejoiced with him in that he will be reborn in this great sacrament soon. We then prayed together, and I thanked him for his witness. He also took a copy of “Why We’re Catholic”, and soon after, following a visit to our website, he reached out to me again via e-mail, thanking me for the prayers and for answering his questions, telling me he’d let me know if he had more. Praise God for his willingness to learn more about the Catholic Church!”

 

Praised be Jesus Christ! What a great witness and outing! Not all people will listen or be open to the message of Jesus Christ and the Truth of the Catholic faith, but for those who are, SPSE evangelists are well equipped to answer objections and offer encouragement and reasons for belief that align with reason. Will you join us in this important work?



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