Door-to-door evangelization reaps rewards

When Father Robert Perron, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Pawtucket, R.I., expressed an interest in reaching out to people living in the neighborhoods around his parish to let them know that the Catholic Church indeed cares for and welcomes them with open arms, he was guided in his task by a tested blueprint created a year ago as a road map for successful outreach.

For the eighth time since June, 2010, when the first Day of Evangelization was held at St. Timothy Church in Warwick, R.I. a group of more than 100 pilgrims took to the streets, this time around Our Lady of Consolation Church in Pawtucket, R.I. They knocked on doors, handed out rosaries, and even taught some people how to pray, inviting all to become active in their neighborhood church.

Holy Family Parish was established in 2009 with the unification of Our Lady of Consolation, Sacred Heart and St. Joseph churches.

"The Lord called us to go out and evangelize the nations, so we went out to evangelize our little part of the world," said Father Perron. He added that by participating in a Day of Evangelization, the volunteers' own faith is strengthened, and it challenges the rest of the parish to also put their faith into action.

According to Edward Gallagher, a member of St. Timothy Parish in Warwick, R.I., who helps coordinate the Days of Evangelization with Kathleen Kerrin, a member of Our Lady of Mercy Parish, East Greenwich, the events grew from the outreach conducted by the Legion of Mary, an international lay organization.

Gallagher said that since 1921, the Legion of Mary has been instrumental in conducting door-to-door evangelization efforts throughout the world.

"With the support of Bishop Tobin and courageous priests, we are seeing a renewal and growth of the Legion of Mary in the diocese," Gallagher observed, adding the organization's members from many diocesan parishes, and other parts of the country, have been vital to the success of past Days of Evangelization held in the diocese.

St. Timothy pastor Father Barry Meehan, hosted the first Door-to-Door event in celebration of the diocesan "Year of Evangelization," in 2010.

He decided that the parish should dedicate a day to sharing the Catholic faith with area families.

So far, the evangelization program has been conducted at eight parishes in the diocese: St. Timothy; Holy Name of Jesus, Providence; St. Ann, Cranston; St. Luke, Barrington; St. Joseph, Woonsocket; SS. Rose and Clement, Warwick; and Holy Ghost, Tiverton, in addition to Our Lady of Consolation.

Gallagher added that four more events are scheduled for  next spring.

The events can leave an indelible imprint, not only on those who are being evangelized, but also on the pilgrims going door-to-door.

At the Our Lady of Consolation event Saturday, Linda Vaillant and Maria Lee had no idea what sort of a response they would receive as they headed north from the church following a Mass and briefing to prepare them for their task.

Although for each it was their third experience with parish outreach in a door-to-door evangelization, nothing can truly prepare a pilgrim for what they will encounter.

Despite ringing the bells of several homes along the way, they were finding that people were either not at home, or reluctant to engage in conversation with someone they didn't already know.

It was then that their spirits were lifted. At one home, a mother who had practiced the faith early on in her childhood in Puerto Rico, and her four children welcomed the pair into their modest apartment to receive the packets of rosaries and religious literature the women were bearing.

Although their mother spoke little English, her children did, and they eagerly followed along as Vaillant and Lee led them in praying an entire rosary together.

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"I don't know how to pray at all," Paola Ginel, 15, said in an interview with Rhode Island Catholic, said after she and her three brothers, joined by their mother, recited the prayers that were written in booklets provided by their surprise guests.

Her brother, Josue, 13, said he would proudly wear his rosary to school, knowing now the mysteries the beads represent. He has seen other students wear rosaries to school, but thought they did so as more of a fashion statement than for their religious symbolism.

The children, who range in age from 9-15, said the visit has served to heighten their desire to experience the Mass.

"I've passed the church many times," Josue said of Our Lady of Consolation, one of the churches now merged together as Holy Family Parish. "I've just wanted to experience (the Mass) to see what it is like."

For Vaillant, a parishioner at St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Providence, and Lee, a parishioner at Our Lady of Mercy, East Greenwich, the visit was a powerful one for the pair, who are members of the Legion of Mary as well.

"The family was wonderful," Lee said as she resumed her evangelization, proceeding to the home next door.

Posted with permission from The Rhode Island Catholic, official newspaper for the Diocese of Providence.

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