By Isaac Doucette
I was fortunate to go to the Diocese of Birmingham, Ala., on a mission trip. I rode down with one of my classmates who is originally from Alabama. He gave me some insights on what to expect, such as liturgies that are strongly “filled with the spirit.” Specifically, during the songs and homilies. As we crossed the Alabama state line, he played the song, “Sweet Home Alabama” and was clearly happy to be home. It was great to see him in his element and the ride down prepared us to evangelize and minister to the people.
Evangelization takes different forms, but it always boldly and fearlessly proclaims the person of Jesus Christ. What moves some people to begin or deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ varies. Some people can look at a statue or stained-glass window and see sublimely the beauty of God within them. Others are moved by pithy and logical arguments. Others may be moved by someone acting courageously and doing something truly right and just despite the consequences.
We were fortunate to visit Eutaw, Ala., which is in Greene county. It is one of the poorest counties in Alabama. We went on a few home visits. Most of these homes were doublewide trailers set off from rural roads miles away from the closest town which has fewer than 3,000 residents.
A group of three Guadalupan Missionary Sisters of the Holy Spirit led us to a house that needed urgent attention. Two faculty members, seven other seminarians and I drove up to a humble abode where we met Joyce, a stroke victim. She explained that during a recent storm a tree had fallen on the roof of her house. Fortunately, a few of her friends cut most of the tree off of the roof. Unfortunately, that effort left a small hole, exposing the inside of the house to the elements. Some rain had gotten in and ruined some of her possessions.
We encouraged her to get some estimates to the sisters to see how they could help. We also talked with her about how she felt about the situation and what was on her heart. Joyce got choked up when one of the sisters told her that all of us were here because we care about her. Joyce’s hospitality in letting 10 strangers into her home, sharing how she felt, being honest about the challenges she was facing and upholding her dignity as a daughter of Christ gave strong witness to her faith. She even prayed for us as we were leaving. We were able to listen, empathize and pray with her. We did not have the skills or materials to repair the roof. Everyone wanted to help more but we knew we helped as much as we could. We went into the situation ready to evangelize and we did, simply by our presence. But we were also evangelized by Joyce’s witness to the Gospel.
With the Vision 20/20 convocation coming up in June, now is the time to consider the question of how we are going to evangelize, how to see the opportunity in front of us. It is an invitation and starting point. It’s time to reach out and bring the joy of the Gospel with us in everyday life.
Some examples: saying no to sports leagues with games on Sundays, choosing to practice Natural Family Planning and sharing with others how it has improved your marriage. Donate money or items and then serve at a free lunch program. Courageously and charitably defend your faith at work. Invite someone who has fallen away from the faith to Mass when you see that person at the gas station or grocery store. The examples from our daily life reveal our relationship with God. How can we deepen our relationship with God to better evangelize to the people of the Diocese of Davenport?
(Isaac Doucette is a seminarian for the Diocese of Davenport studying at the University of St. Mary of the Lake – Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Ill.)