Group learns about benefits of street evangelization

“Hi, I’m Adam, would you like a Miraculous Medal or a rosary? Can I pray for you?”

That introduction has served as a bridge of trust to welcome stray Catholics back to the Church through a program called St. Paul Street Evangelization. This was the focus of a training workshop on Jan. 27, 2024, at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples.

Adam Janke, from St. Paul Street Evangelization, led the workshop and guided the participants through the process of how to share their faith with anyone, at any time.

“In its basic form, this is the work of relational/prayer ministry,” Janke said. “It is about going out on the street – where the people are – and meeting people in their woundedness. This is where there are moments of healing, as you serve as a conduit of the Holy Spirit to help others gradually get to heaven.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane opened the workshop by celebrating Mass. The Bishop encouraged the participants to take what they are learning out to their Parishes and onto the street as a way to encourage others to share the Light of Christ.

“This is powerful. This can make a difference,” Bishop Dewane said. “We need to have people like you out there, showing God’s Mercy to others; showing that you care and will pray for them.”

At the end of the workshop, many of the group took part in a “live lab,” where they practiced what they learned at the Mercato, a shopping, dining and residential complex at U.S. 41 and Vanderbilt Beach Road.

In pairs, the new street evangelizers confidently approached strangers and offered rosaries and Miraculous Medals. It was quickly apparent that what they were doing was at the least an interesting curiosity to some, and intriguing to those who understood what was being handed out and what was being offered – prayers.

One woman who accepted a Miraculous Medal and was prayed for by two of the new street evangelizers went directly to her waiting friend with a broad smile and proclaimed, “Hey, you won’t believe it. I was just prayed for. Isn’t that great!”

The new evangelizers spent about an hour encountering people. The joy the participants felt afterward was infectious. “People were so wonderful,” one man said. “This was easier than I thought. Once you present them with a rosary, if they don’t know what it is you explain it and the conversation starts. You can immediately see that they are changed by that encounter. It was beautiful to be a part of this. I can’t wait to go out again.”

Sponsored by the Diocesan Department of Evangelization, a previous training workshop took place in Sarasota on Sept. 30, 2023. The goal of the training sessions is to form area St. Paul Street Evangelization teams, with groups set up in every major community in the Diocese going out monthly to evangelize.

While street evangelization is not for everyone, Janke explained that the lessons offered apply in everyday life. This can be with a family member who may have strayed from the Church, friends who are of another faith and might have questions about Catholicism, or a stranger at a store or on the street. “I want you to have the confidence to have that encounter. Let the Holy Spirit do the rest.”

If you are interested in learning more about the St. Paul Street Evangelization program with the Diocese, please contact Jim Gontis at 941-484-9543 or gontis@dioceseofevnice.org.

Street evangelization outreach workshop a success

More than 60 people gathered for a day-long workshop which focused on starting a Catholic street evangelization program in Parishes across the Diocese of Venice.

The workshop, Basic Evangelization Training, was courtesy of St. Paul Street Evangelization, and took place Sept. 30, 2023, at Incarnation Parish in Sarasota. Featured were a presentation and practical advice, providing a strong foundation for the faithful to go out and invite others to an encounter with the Lord. Toward the end of the day the group went out for a “live lab” practice on Main Street in Sarasota.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane opened the workshop by celebrating Mass. The Bishop encouraged everyone to take what they are learning out to their Parishes and onto the street as a way to encourage others to share the Light of Christ.

“This a different approach to evangelization that deserves a look, because it is where the other Christian faiths have gone and been successful,” Bishop Dewane said. “We need to have people like you out there, showing God’s Mercy to others, showing that you care and will pray for them. This is powerful. This can make a difference.”

Adam Janke, from St. Paul Street Evangelization, led the workshop and helped the participants learn about how to share your faith in everyday life, with family, friends, fallen away Catholics, people you meet in the grocery store or anywhere.

The premise of St. Paul Street Evangelization is a relational ministry, where small groups, or pairs, of people go out and offer rosaries or Miraculous Medals to strangers. That simple offering then opens the door for a personal interaction. This can evolve into finding out that the person is a fallen away Catholic, of another faith, or might have questions about Catholicism.

“You let the Holy Spirit guide you – a two-minute conversation can change a life forever,” Janke said. “You do not need to be an expert on the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church; evangelization is different in different places. It can be on a street corner, in a restaurant, or during an interaction with family or friends. Offer to pray for them and see their reaction. Many will see this as a grace and a blessing. This is as much about listening and befriending and getting to know one another as it is about teaching people about the Catholic Church.”

Allaying the fears of those considering street evangelization, Janke stressed that it is easier than it first appears, and that when you start a conversation with a stranger by offering a rosary or to pray for them, the conversation will naturally flow from there to something positive.

One woman from Sarasota participated so that she could have a better way to share her faith with others, specifically family members who have strayed from the faith.

“It is so wonderful to have something like this,” she said. “Often it is hard to start that conversation because you fear confrontation, but today I learned that is not what will happen if I go the route of opening my own heart and faith to others through a simple gesture or kind word of mercy.”

In the live lab on Main Steet in downtown Sarasota, the participants split into small groups and met many different people from all socioeconomic levels, with as many affluent shoppers are homeless people among those encountered.

Diocesan Evangelization Director Jim Gontis said the street encounters were overwhelmingly positive with the homeless people being particularly grateful for the positive interaction.

“So many wanted us to pray for them and were appreciative of receiving the rosary or a Miraculous Medal. There were a few who ignored our efforts but that was rare. Even the most affluent of those we encountered asked us to pray for them or some family member who is ill,” Gontis said.

The day concluded by gathering by the Sarasota bayfront to recap the experience and to encourage the participants to continue in this effort by forming teams at their local Parishes.

Gontis said he and Janke would be reaching out to all who participated in the workshop to encourage further evangelization whether it be on the street or at the Parish or in the home.

“This was a wonderful first step in getting this program started in the Diocese,” Gontis said. “The initial number of participants, from many different Parishes from as far south as Naples all the way to Parrish, helps us know there is a demand for this type of outreach into the community.”

If you are interested in learning more about the St. Paul Street Evangelization program with the Diocese, please contact Jim Gontis at gontis@dioceseofevnice.org.

Street Evangelization training coming: Taking the Gospel to the Public Square

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 gontis@dioceseofevnice.org.

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