Local seminarians put ‘evangelization in action’

| Neil Bakker | August 28, 2013 | 0 Comments
Seminarians participating this summer in the St. Paul Seminary’s Evangelization in Action program helped to organize a Holy Hour for the New Evangelization at St. Michael parish in West St. Paul, for the parishes of St. Michael, St. Matthew and Our Lady of Guadalupe on July 23. The seminarians prayed for people of the neighborhood they visited during the summer. Photo courtesy of Neil Bakker

Seminarians participating this summer in the St. Paul Seminary’s Evangelization in Action program helped to organize a Holy Hour for the New Evangelization at St. Michael parish in West St. Paul, for the parishes of St. Michael, St. Matthew and Our Lady of Guadalupe on July 23. The seminarians prayed for people of the neighborhood they visited during the summer. Photo courtesy of Neil Bakker

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

— (Matthew 28:19-20)

These are the last recorded words of our Lord in the Gospel of Matthew, and his great commissioning for us to spread the Good News to all the corners of the world.

This summer, 18 of my brother seminarians and I went out into the streets of the Twin Cities attempting to heed this call from our Lord. We were part of a two-year-old program at St. Paul Seminary entitled “Evangelization in Action” that gets seminarians experience in evangelizing and spreading the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.

As stated in Pope Paul VI’s document on evangelization, “Evagelii Nuntiandi,” all Christians are to be witnesses to the saving power of the Gospel in how they live their daily lives while at the same time proclaiming with their words and deeds the Good News.

Over the course of eight weeks we went door to door, visiting a wide variety of people, talking about faith, and inviting them to the Church.

We were stationed at St. Michael and St. Joseph in West St. Paul, St. Matthew and Our Lady of Guadalupe in St. Paul, St. Charles Borromeo in St. Anthony and Immaculate Conception in Columbia Heights.

Each night we would join with volunteers from the parish and go knocking on doors on a particular street. Sometimes, we would get a polite “thank you but we are not interested,” while other times we would get into very deep, personal conversations with people.

For many people, we were an ear to listen to their story and sometimes to apologize on behalf of the Church for something that may have happened to them in the past.

One thing I learned from door-to-door evangelization is the need to bring your whole self to the conversation. It’s comfortable to hide behind a script and to be somewhat distant because you can guard yourself from being hurt if someone rejects you. But when you bring your whole self to the conversation, listening with genuine empathy and exhibiting, even if in a small way, Christ’s love for that person in that moment, tremendous things can happen.

Beginning with prayer

God’s grace is necessary to begin every action, sustain it and bring it to completion. Certain of this, we acknowledged that any effort to evangelize in a parish must first begin with prayer.

Therefore, we hosted a Holy Hour for the New Evangelization at St. Michael parish. We had two weeks to put everything together and get the word out about the event. This wasn’t a small task, but with much support from volunteers at the parish, we were able to attract more than 70 people to the Holy Hour.

We prayed the Liturgy of the Hours evening prayer together. Father Michael Rudolph, the pastor of the parish, gave a reflection on evangelization. After some time in adoration and Benediction, we went to the church basement for social time with ice cream and dessert.

The event was so well liked by volunteers and those who attended that they are hosting another Holy Hour at 7 p.m. Aug. 29th at St. Michael’s.

Evangelization is the work of God, and we were simply graced with being his instruments over the course of the summer.

There were times when we could see some immediate fruit of our labor in the responses people gave. Other times, we would go days wondering if we were doing any good at all. But these latter times were the ones that reminded us that this is God’s field, and while we plant the seed, we may not see the harvest.

It is important in doing the work of evangelization to avoid discouragement, placing the successes and failures into the hands of Jesus, and trusting that your work is not done in vain.

 Bakker attends St. Paul Seminary. His home parish is the Cathedral of St. Paul.

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Category: This Catholic Life