By Deacon Frank Chavez
The New Evangelization calls on Catholics to “go forth to evangelize,” and one Catholic parish is answering that call in a very literal way.
Patsy Baca is the President of the Legion Of Mary at St. Mary Parish in Farmington, and Deacon Frank Chavez is the Legion’s spiritual director. Early in 2014, they approached St. Mary’s pastor Fr. Chacon with the idea of implementing door-to-door evangelization in their community.
With Fr. Chacon’s permission, they contacted a Houston chapter of the Legion of Mary and asked them to come and conduct a “Peregrinatio Pro Cristi”, a door-to-door evangelization effort, and to teach the local legionaries how to carry on the effort in Farmington.
The Houston group arrived in early Setember 2014. Their week-long training was full of prayer, instructions, and visits to homes in the parish. Initially, the experience of encountering strangers in their homes and telling them about Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church was daunting for the local team. But the confidence and courage of the Houston team was infectious, and the ministry efforts quickly became a joyful task.
Soon the evangelists came back with stories of great encounters. One team described a conversation with a young man who was not practicing his faith and was in Farmington only to take care of his ill mother. When he was given the evangelist package, he immediate spotted the Miraculous Medal and related how he had carried one in his wallet for years but had lost it only the Sunday before and was missing it. He showed the team the indentation in his wallet where he had carried the medal. The young man thanked the team profusely, and after some prayers and tears they left him in great spirits.
The Houston team soon returned home, and it was now up to the parish to build and maintain the evangelization program. When the call went out for volunteers, the response from the Spanish-speaking members of the parish was especially strong. The experienced Legionaries in the parish began training the newer members and formed them into teams. Originally, each member of the group was fearful of negative responses from the residents, but the legionaries who had done these visits were encouraging. Any volunteer with initial fears is encouraged to rely on trust in God.
A typical visit begins with a team prayer before knocking on a door. When the door is answered, one of the team introduces the group as representing the pastor and asks if the resident has a faith practice. The rest of the visit is done in a way that uplifts a Catholic resident and introduces a non-Catholic resident to Catholicism while reaffirming the resident’s own faith. The teams then pray with the resident and leave a packet of informational material which includes a rosary and a medal. Each team also has at least one Spanish speaker and one English speaker and packets in both languages.
Veronica Lugo and Joanna Klepac provides the leadership, organization, training, and planning for St. Mary’s Evangelization group. Fr. Chacon holds a monthly meeting with the entire group, when he encourages their efforts and gives them more catechesis.
Since starting the program, the Legionaries have visited over 2,000 homes in the parish by conducting visits once a month. Only one home has closed the door on the evangelists.
In one memorable encounter, they visited a home where the wife was attempting to practice her faith but was often criticized by her husband because of it. She would attend mass by herself. After the visit, both husband and wife are now attending mass and receiving communion.
The members of the evangelization group themselves have experienced tremendous spiritual growth through their efforts. Several have found a gift – a God-given charism – for this style of evangelization. They receive true spiritual fulfillment and joy in talking about Jesus and their faith with strangers.