A Description of the Apostolate

Our Mission
In the last several years, there has been a growing effort by dioceses, parishes and lay apostolates to send out committed Catholics to walk their local neighborhoods in search of Christ’s lost sheep.  Some programs have gone to the doorstep to invite lapsed Catholics back to the faith, while other ministries, such as St. Paul Street Evangelization, have cast their net out onto busy streets.  We take the latter approach and walk metropolitan areas to provide a visible presence of Christ’s love and a resource for His Church.  

Who are we?
We are a group of lay men and women under the spiritual patronage of Blessed Charles de Foucauld who bring the presence of Christ to the secular city through prayer and street evangelization.  We wear a short tunic (half-way down the thigh) with the dark red Iesus Caritas (“Jesus Loves”) symbol (a cross coming out of the Sacred Heart).  We engage in this volunteer ministry as a complement to our other vocations and responsibilities.  In Oregon, we walk with the blessing of our bishop, Archbishop Sample.

What do we do?
We walk the streets of metropolitan areas to offer a humble, welcoming presence to those whom God puts in our path. We have a special love for the homeless and addicts, and bring rolling coolers full of free drinks and food.  We also give away high quality rosaries, prayer meditations and good literature.  We pray as we walk (sometimes even in song), do spiritual reading, enjoy fellowship, and evangelize and comfort those who wish to talk to us.  We walk all year round, in good weather and bad.  In the warmer months, we spend most of our time talking to old friends and making new ones.  In the colder months we have fewer encounters, but we are able to pray and offer little sacrifices for all we've met on the streets.  While we spend most of our time talking to the poorest and most neglected, we've had remarkable encounters with people from all walks of life.

Our presence has proven to be an edifying example to many passers-by.  Many secular people appreciate our ministry to addicts and the homeless, and find themselves re-evaluating their beliefs about the Catholic Church.  Many Catholics see us and are gratified to see other Catholics out there representing the faith.  We've also had many heart-warming conversations with protestants--even when those conversations started out rocky.  I believe our prayer and very presence has borne much unseen fruit, but we won't know about it until the next life.

Why Blessed Charles de Foucauld?
Blessed Charles de Foucauld was a late nineteenth century priest and monk who went out into the desert of North Africa to bring Christ to a region that had forgotten him.  He was mindful of the limits of preaching and apologetics, and believed that radiating Christ—becoming another Christ, a little Christ—was the surest way to win hearts.  For Christians, the desert has often symbolized the land parched for Christ’s life-giving water, and hence the abode of demons.  If you walk the streets long enough you will conclude that our cities in the West have become the desert.  They seemingly offer everything and value everything except the one thing necessary: to sit, listen and adore the Lord.

Sometimes we think that we choose our patron saints, but in fact they first choose us, and we then gladly accept their hand.  Blessed Charles has given us this ministry, and urges us on in a spirit of humility and love.   Moreover, his Iesus Caritas symbol is a wonderful icebreaker for those whose hearts have grown cold.

Matthew Manint’s website has some fine resources on Blessed Charles—especially the free e-book by Rene Bazin:

Who can Join?  How do I Join?
Any Catholic who is fit to travel sidewalks for hours at a time, who has a love for poor sinners, and who desires to grow in holiness is welcome.  It is my experience that each person brings different gifts, and these gifts are joined together (in Christ's body) to make strong teams of twos and threes.  It is necessary to have a rich sacramental life (monthly confession, frequent reception of the Holy Eucharist) so that Christ may live in you, and so that others may see Him in you.

If you are reasonably certain that you are called to this ministry then simply drop me an email at swoltze@gmail.com.  For those in the Pacific Northwest, we can get together in person.  For those outside of the region I would first refer you to St. Paul Street Evangelization as an excellent venue for evangelization.  But if you really need to wander around--rain or shine, snow or heat--in a tunic, mixing with the most neglected, then drop me a line.

Some Common Questions

Q. Why a tunic?  A.  It’s a uniform of sorts and serves the same function as the dark pants and white shirts of Mormon missionaries.  It signals who you are and why you are here, and it invites people to approach you.  We are instantly recognizable in our tunics and our friends on the street can spot us and come greet us.  The tunic also allows us to be in the midst of illegal activity (amidst prostitution, drug use and even in drug houses) without inciting suspicion.  The Sacred Heart symbol we wear also helps us to play the peacemaker when little conflicts occur.  We have also had several people on the streets who have shed tears upon seeing us and the symbol of the Sacred Heart.

Q. How is this different from St. Paul Street Evangelization?  A.  We usually focus more on the run-down areas (high rates of prostitution, drug use) and working poor neighborhoods.  We practice corporal works of mercy as we walk, distributing cold drinks in the hot months, and and food and warmers in the cold months.  This ministry is also a little more focused on fellowship, prayer and penance, and a little less focused on apologetics.

No comments:

Post a Comment