…but Catholics don’t DO that!
Mary Joan Torres
At St. Helen Parish we have a very active evangelization team. We study books, read articles, and generally nose around for any new ideas which might help us be more effective in our ministry. Recently we were fascinated to read an article which detailed a door-to-door effort by a Washington parish and thought we had the moxie, after 4 years together, to try this ourselves. With a mission on the horizon, this seemed like an optimum time to let our neighbors know what we are about.
Our first job was to decide what the visits would look like. We wanted to put something in the hands of those we visited and came up with a goody bag supplied with the following: parish bulletin, fliers for Lenten offerings (mission, Lunch with the Lord), a school brochure, a holy card of St. Helen with our Mass times on the back, a pen with our parish logo imprinted, a couple of pieces of candy, a half sheet listing four other neighborhood Christian churches and their phone numbers, a business card with parish contact information, a prayer request sheet (in case anyone wanted to send us a prayer request later). Six EV teams members assembled 500 bags in about an hour and a half. Next we tackled recruiting additional people to be walkers with us. It was a hard sell, and some who agreed did so very tentatively, but expressed a desire to go beyond their comfort zone, and this certainly fit the bill! Then we focused on the script; for our visits and settled on: ‘Good morning; we’re from St. Helen Parish and are having a mission next week. We’ll be praying for a lot of things and wondered if there is anything you would like us to pray for.’
The group met at 9:30 on the Saturday morning before our mission. After some instruction, we went to the chapel and prayed for the success of the endeavor. Then, each team took a route map, prepared ahead of time by an EV member. As doors opened, we led into the script, asking first for prayer intentions. Pleasantly surprised, many of those visited did give us specific prayer requests which we recorded and later gathered together to fill four pages! We then thanked the folks and gave them the bag, saying ‘Here’s some information about us. Enjoy your weekend.’ It was clean, simple, and very well received by those visited. In about two hours, ten two-person teams visited approximately 375 homes. But wait – the best is yet to come…
When we got back together to swap stories, it was clear that evangelization happened as much to the visitors as to those visited! Teams related incidents of praying with folks at the doors of three separate homes where dire need existed, of sharing tears over recently deceased family members, of consoling someone going through a divorce. One person expressed amazement that we were Catholics! Her impression of Catholics had been nothing but negative prior to the visit. One of our tentative visitors proclaimed the experience “awesome”
The prayer requests were placed on the altar during our mission and emailed to all parishioners on our prayer chain (about 350 people). Five of those who received the email responded by saying they want to be part of the next neighborhood walk.
There were a number of learning that came out of our experience. First, we will begin at 11 next time instead of 10 AM. It seems we may have caught some folks sleeping in on their day off. Second, we’ll go into a different neighborhood next time just to move around our parish boundaries. Third, it was suggested that we could have used a couple of more Jolly Ranchers in each of the bags! Fourth, one visitor suggested that we ask if they or any of their family members may have prayer requests; she felt that some may have been embarrassed to ask for themselves. And finally, we learned that door-to-door evangelization is not at all scary; in fact, it is downright awesome!
Mary Joan Torres served as DRE at St. Helen Parish from 1990-2007. For the past four years she has been Pastoral Associate, charged with all adult formation for the parish, including RCIA, Evangelization, Social Action and Outreach ministries. St. Helen is located between Dayton and Beavercreek, in Riverside, OH. It is a parish of 1500 families, serving many of the military at Wright-Patt as well as our local Riverside community.