Archbishop Vigneron joins street evangelists in taking Gospel to the people
ROYAL OAK — The woman was Christian, but not Catholic.
Regardless of that, she was willing to talk to the people on the street corner of South Main and West Fourth Street in Royal Oak; the people who had a little sign reading “Catholic Truth” and who were handing out free rosaries.
One man was encouraging her to come to a Bible study at a local Catholic church. She took some pamphlets from him, and said she would definitely think about attending.
The Catholics on the corner were in fact members of St. Paul Street Evangelization (SPSE), a national organization founded by Michigan native Steve Dawson.
“We believe that street evangelization is the easiest kind of evangelization,” said Dawson, who helped lead the Sept. 28 street evangelization in downtown Royal Oak.
Dawson said the street evangelists don’t try to convert people on the sidewalk, but rather, they invite people into the Catholic experience through conversations and invitations to church events.
An average afternoon of street evangelization consists of setting up a sandwich-style sign reading “Catholic Truth” on the sidewalk, providing resources — such as information on praying the rosary and local Mass times — and interacting with whomever approaches their group.
This Saturday, however, was a bit different, as the Royal Oak team had help from a special guest: Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron.
There on the corner to provide support to the evangelists’ mission, the archbishop was able to meet, interact and talk with some of the people who passed by.
“In spending part of Saturday afternoon with the folks of St. Paul Street Evangelization, I was blessed to be part of one of those ‘new methods’ that Blessed John Paul II said belong to the New Evangelization,” said the archbishop of his experience. “It gave me great joy to share the Good News about Jesus, our Lord.”
Vice president of SPSE and program director Adam Janke was happy to see the archbishop participate in the street evangelization event.
“These are his people, whether they’re Catholic or not,” said Janke of the archbishop. “To see him speaking to the people of Royal Oak is beautiful.”
Janke himself, who values the peaceful, non-confrontational nature of street evangelization, said he likes the opportunity to be able to interact with numerous people in one day.
“You meet a lot of wonderful people, you get to pray with people, and you get to share your faith,” he said.
St. Paul Street Evangelization was founded in May 2012 after Dawson realized he needed to go out onto the streets — literally — in order to reach and evangelize the people of today’s society.
The organization seeks to follow the call of both Pope Francis and Blessed John Paul II, who asked the faithful to not only “open the door in welcome, but … go out through that door to seek and meet the people,” and to not be afraid to “go out on the streets and into public places, like the first apostles who preached Christ and the Good News of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages,” respectively.
Today, with 81 cities throughout the United States covered by an SPSE team, hundreds of Catholics are able to live out their faith in their daily lives, Dawson said.
Louis Brown, board director and street evangelist, is convinced the Holy Spirit is the reason the movement took off so quickly.
“The beauty of this work of preaching Jesus invigorates my faith, and keeps me closer to Christ,” said Brown, who participated in the Royal Oak event.
SPSE offers resources and training on how to build teams around the country, but Dawson said everything is also available online at www.streetevangelization.com/training.
“Every day we come out we have amazing conversations with people,” Dawson said. “Our job is to plant seeds that God will help to grow. Often, people will walk by, then turn around and say ‘I was thinking about returning to church.’”
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St. Paul Street Evangelization training conference
A Basic Evangelization Training conference will be Dec. 6-7 at Sacred Heart Major Seminary. Co-sponsored by St. Paul Street Evangelization, the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Young Adult Ministry and the Office of Evangelization, the conference will be presented by Steve Dawson, Adam Janke and Christopher Gawel. Registration cost (which includes Saturday lunch) before Dec. 1 is $20, and after Dec. 1 is $30. Register at www.detroitbasicevangelizationtraining.eventbrite.com. For more information, contact Christopher Gawel at (313) 237-4647 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.