Over the past month I have been in contact with Mr. Adam Janke of the organization St.Paul Street Evangelization as part of a new series where we interview ministries and apostolates worthy of recognition. If anyone would like to be interviewed (or you know someone who should be interviewed) please contact me.
Kevin Tierney: What is “Street Evangelization” and what makes it special amongst the landscape of Catholicism today?
Adam Janke: St. Paul Street Evangelization has taken our Catholic faith to the streets. We do this in a non-confrontational way, allowing the Holy Spirit to move in the hearts of those who witness our public Catholic presence. As an on-the-street Catholic evangelization organization, St. Paul Street Evangelization provides an avenue for you to share the Person of Jesus Christ and the truth and beauty of the Catholic Faith with a hungry culture. Our teams go to public places and offer people free rosaries or miraculous medals. When they accept we ask them about their faith.
KT: What are some of the topics you share with that hungry culture?
AJ: Our first and primary goal is to always share the proclamation of Jesus Christ. Paul VI said “There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed.” After we share the Catholic faith we leave the door open for them to ask us any questions they have. We have two dozen brochures that we wrote on the Catholic faith and numerous CDs, like Scott Hahn’s conversion story, that we give out. I find that I often invite lapsed Catholics to come back to Church.
KT: Based on your experience, is there any question or subject people like to talk about most during these encounters?
AJ: Every person we encounter has a different story. Our teams always ask people if they would like a free rosary or miraculous medal, always ask if a person is Catholic, and try to ask for prayer requests. Our conversations often center around if people are Catholic, why they left the Church, or about their own faith (or lack thereof) and how they reached the point in life they are at now. Our teams have found that apologetics is not a big part of street evangelization. We do our best to heal wounds, and our world is wounded. We pray with a lot of people and add them to our prayer intention lists. We have over 1,000 prayer warriors on Facebook praying daily for our teams and those we encounter.
KT: How did SPSE come about, and what were the goals they were seeking to achieve?
AJ: It was founded in May 2012 by Steve Dawson, our National Director. Steve felt called to share his faith with others and did not have the intention of creating the ministry that has come about as a result of his “yes” to God. As a result of that cooperation with the Holy Spirit we can see the fruits of this type of ministry in the explosive growth of Catholic street evangelization. We have 84 teams working in 4 countries.
Blessed John Paul II said “Do not be afraid to go out on the streets and into public places, like the first Apostles who preached Christ and the Good News of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages. This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel. It is the time to preach it from the rooftops. Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living, in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern ‘metropolis’. It is you who must ‘go out into the byroads’ (Matth 22:9) and invite everyone you meet to the banquet which God has prepared for his people.”
KT: That message is remarkably similar to the words of our current Holy Father Pope Francis, who exhorted Catholics to go out on the streets to spread the Gospel in a recent address. Given all of the attention on Pope Francis, have you noticed any of this carrying over into Catholics willing to evangelize with you, and the individuals you come across during those endeavors?
AJ: Catholics are noticeably more interested in evangelization – praise God! Evangelization can still be taboo in some Catholic circles because it is not well understood. More dioceses are hiring directors of evangelization and Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples is also spurring more bishops and priests to start considering evangelization both in and outside their parishes. I have found that Protestants are especially interested in the holy medals that we give out that are blessed by Pope Francis. They tell me how much they like him and are attracted to him. He comes across as very approachable.
KT: Are there any special stories of how street evangelization has changed the lives of anyone your ministry came across?
AJ: Where to start? Our Facebook page is updated daily with the stories of our team members sharing the Gospel. People are coming back to Mass, joining RCIA, asking questions about the faith, praying with us, and are encouraged by our presence. This summer I was out evangelizing and our team ran across a young man who had been a Buddhist his whole life. He had been studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church when we met him and had a lot of questions. At the end of our conversation we were able to plug him into RCIA. Our teens in Flint, Michigan brought over 300 prayer requests that people gave them to the altar at the local church and prayed the divine mercy chaplet for them.
KT: Have there been any special instances where your evangelists have had their own faith deepened as a result of their ministry?
AJ: I believe all of us are humbled to be called by the Lord to this work. It is not only teaching us to pray more and learn our faith better, but God is teaching us to see Christ in everyone we meet. When we engage the world where they are at, we see the hurt, the brokenness, and the hunger people have for God. Street evangelization teaches you to grow in love for others.
KT: Evangelization can be an imposing thing for many people. Is there any training/guidance you would suggest before people take the plunge?
We offer two online training courses, and have recorded one of our live Basic Evangelization Training and have made it available to all of our supporting members. Members can earn their basic certification which has been approved by the national board of directors. We also have Catholic brochures on a variety of subjects, monthly extended modules, and other resources to make every Catholic a successful evangelist.
That said, street evangelization is the easiest form of evangelization and in our experience makes people better evangelists in other areas of their life. You do not need to take the training in advance of joining one of our teams. All of our teams are located on our national website and readers can contact any one of our team leaders for more information. Sometimes it helps to watch an experienced street evangelist to see how simple street evangelization is before starting to talk to others yourself. Evangelization can be intimidating because we are not practiced at it. Many of us who are adult converts remember when attending Mass or even praying was intimidating. A little practice goes a long way.
KT: What is involved in becoming a prayer warrior for SPSE? What are some things our readers can pray about to help your ministry?
AJ: Simply join our Facebook page to become a prayer warrior! There are links from there to our prayer warrior and apologetic groups. I would also encourage every reader to become a supporting member and gain access to all of the resources we have available online and support our ministry.
KT: I’d like to thank Mr. Janke, Steve Dawson, and everyone at St. Paul Street Evangelization for their time, and having hit the streets with them before, I encourage all of our readers here at Catholic Lane to join them in proclaiming the Gospel to all peoples.