By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
PHILADELPHIA – It was just friendly, low-key evangelization. On Saturday, April 4, the eve of Holy Week, volunteers from seven parishes in Northwest Philadelphia’s Cluster 18 were spreading the Good News to their neighbors, telling them of upcoming liturgies and events at their church during the most sacred week in the Christian calendar.
Parishes participating were St. Athanasius, St. Benedict, St. Francis of Assisi, Immaculate Conception, St. Raymond, St. Therese of the Child Jesus and St. Vincent de Paul. On average each pledged to leave literature at 1,000 doorsteps within their parish.
The idea came from a workshop at the St. Peter Claver Center for Evangelization, which parish representatives attended last year, according to Father George B. Moore, pastor of St. Benedict Parish. The presenter, Theresa Wilson Favors, from the Black Catholic Office in Baltimore, explained how it was done in her archdiocese.
Later it was discussed at the Catholic ministerium of Cluster 18.
“We thought it was worth a try,” Father Moore said. “This year we dedicated our Lenten services to St. Paul, and this is traveling with St. Paul.”
At his parish, Solomon Fuller, the local chairman, said, “We are doing this to spread the faith, to let people know St. Benedict is open for business and we want them. We are telling them about the holy days, Good Friday, the Passion, the stations of the cross, all of the things that go with Easter.”
At St. Raymond Parish, representative Stephen Mathis said in addition to the Holy Week services, the packet had information on Catholicism and how it can impact the lives of people and the community.
“We want to tell people what Catholicism is and dispel some of the misconceptions they might have about it,” he said.
Father Christopher Walsh, pastor of St. Raymond Parish, called the material “a spiritual stimulus package” because “so many of our troubles are fundamentally spiritual. The material was not only about the Catholic Church, there was a brochure with prayers for difficult times.”
His parish had about 30 volunteers delivering the packets. “We gathered in church before we started for prayer. A couple of parishioners were physically unable to distribute the packets. [They] stayed and prayed. I went and delivered at a block myself and there was real energy,” he said.
Each parish tailored the distribution. At St. Benedict, the volunteers delivered on their home block.
“I know most of the folks, and they are very good people,” said Marlyn Barnes, who lives across from the church. “Most of them are not Catholic, and this is important because they mostly have no affiliation to a church and this is good evangelization. Who knows? This is Holy Week, and they might feel free to cross the street to St. Benedict.”
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.