Want to know what authentic, non-confrontational, joyful evangelization looks and sounds like? Then make sure to attend the upcoming Diocesan workshop conducted by St. Paul Street Evangelization on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023, at Incarnation Parish, 2929 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota.
This workshop, which begins at 8:30 a.m. with the Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, has mobilized thousands of ordinary Catholics to get out on the streets and help God save souls.
Presented by the Diocese of Venice Office of Evangelization, this one-day Basic Evangelization Training with St. Paul Street Evangelization (SPSE) is for every practicing Catholic and includes a workshop led by Adam Janke from SPSE, and a “live lab” on the sidewalks of Sarasota.
Janke explained that the goal of SPSE is “to train, equip and mobilize Catholics for the urgent work of evangelization. It is an open invitation for those who have never shared faith before and will equip them with the basics on how to do that in their everyday life.”
The workshop is about learning how to share your faith in everyday life, with family, friends, fallen away children, people you meet in the grocery store or anywhere, Janke said.
“This is a program for the beginner,” he continued. “It is designed for all. You don’t have to know apologetics or quote from the Bible. It is for those who want to share Jesus with other people.”
The day will include a formula called “One Good Reason” which will empower the participants to provide basic answers to questions which cover about 90 percent of what they will encounter.
“It is all about having a friendly conversation,” Janke said. “In the 10 years I have been doing this, there are very few times when someone has approached me with a direct question or have argued. It is usually curiosity, and then it goes from there.”
It is expected that SPSE training will develop Parish-based groups. Each new group will have a team leader who will coordinate when and where the next local street evangelization opportunity will take place. Some Parishes may have several groups depending upon local interest.
As part of a group, people can take part as often as their schedule permits, which allows those who have other plans when a gathering is called, the flexibility to take part when they can.
“You can go out each week, or just a few times a year,” Janke said. “The beauty is in participating in the first place, having those positive encounters and sharing Jesus with others.”
SPSE was founded in Warren, Michigan, as a response to the mandate of Jesus Christ to “preach the Gospel to all nations…” taking the Catholic faith to the streets in a non-confrontational way. The organization seeks to train others to witness effectively to the truth, beauty, and goodness of Jesus and His Church in the public square.
Diocesan Evangelization Director Jim Gontis said he has worked with the St. Paul Street Evangelization program in the past and said the results were extraordinary.
Following Mass, the day transitions into an informative workshop that will give participants the knowledge and skills necessary to evangelize.
Through St. Paul Street Evangelization, the goal is not to just stand in a public square and preach to no one in particular. It’s more like the “Woman at the Well,” where you are out and about and you encounter somebody, like Jesus did with the woman. And then you engage her and you’re very intentional.
Janke explained that one way to begin a conversation when an opportunity arises, is through sacramentals, the offering of free gifts, such as a Miraculous Medal or rosary.
This approach has proven effective as sacramentals can initiate a conversation. From there the conversation can broaden and take on whatever form God is calling you to do at that moment.
Registration is $15 for lay people and free for priests and religious. A light breakfast and box lunch and all training materials are included. You can register online at https://dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/evangelization-training. For additional questions, please contact Jim Gontis at firstname.lastname@example.org.