With no one on the streets, St. Paul evangelists get creative in sharing God’s love

From mobile prayer stations to deliveries for homebound seniors, the work of evangelization continues even in the midst of a pandemic

ST. CLAIR SHORES — When Richard Hass joined St. Paul Street Evangelization, a locally based global movement dedicated to sharing the Gospel via personal interactions and face-to-face evangelization, he figured he’d be spending a lot of time on street corners and in public parks.

With Michigan on lockdown because of the coronavirus, he’s still sharing his faith — but in a different way.

“We have to minister to the people we know locally,’’ Hass said. “Even if you’re in front of Jesus for five minutes, it makes a difference.’’

While street traffic has certainly diminished, Hass and his wife, Kristine, are getting creative in their outreach, working through their parish, St. Joan of Arc in St. Clair Shores, to make deliveries of food, medicine, “and of course, prayer,” for elderly parishioners who are most susceptible to the coronavirus.

The couple also is helping livestream Masses and Eucharistic adoration, and evangelizing with the help of digital tools such as Facebook, text messages and phone calls in order to show those they encounter how intentional disciples can face challenges with love, joy and peace.

Richard Hass and his wife, Kristine, have helped their parish organize and make deliveries of vital food, medicine and “of course, prayer” to homebound seniors and other vulnerable parishioners. (Courtesy of Richard Hass) 

The lockdowns and quarantines, which have impacted dozens of states and nations around the world, are changing the way Catholics minister to one another. 

Instead of setting up evangelization tables to distribute miraculous medals, rosary beads, prayer cards and pamphlets at community events, fish fries and festivals, Hass and the St. Paul Street Evangelization team are looking to fill the needs left by the coronavirus lockdown.

“It’s like Holy Saturday,’’ Hass said of the current pause, with no public Masses, people spread out, quiet and at home. Now, however, the Church is waiting for the savior like never before, Hass said.

Just one month ago, Hass and other evangelists joined 1,500 Catholic men from across the state for the Accept the Challenge men’s conference at the University of Michigan, where Fr. Mark Rutherford, a Sacred Heart Major Seminary graduate now serving at St. Mary Parish in Williamston, organized a Eucharistic procession around an indoor football facility. 

On March 21, Fr. Rutherford did another Eucharistic procession — this time from an airplane flying high above the Diocese of Lansing. The faithful watched via online flight trackers.

Founded in 2012 by Steve Dawson and his wife, Maria, St. Paul Street Evangelization has helped people across the nation and around the world set up their own evangelization teams and personal efforts to help others encounter the Church. Now known as the St. Paul Evangelization Institute, the apostolate also offers an evangelization school and training available online.

To help people through the pandemic, the institute is also offering: 

  • A free digital “Healing in Evangelization” webinar workshop
  • Daily (Monday through Friday) prayer of the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 p.m. via a Zoom video conference
  • 27 free videos, including an introduction to evangelization course

“As Catholics, we know that God greatly desires for us to be at peace, regardless of the conditions,’’ the national office told partners in a recent email. “We must trust that He is at work and has a plan for these trying times. And we are a part of that plan, and must strive to share His peace with others. As evangelists, we need to discern how to do that in a genuine, yet prudential way.’’ 

Advising evangelists to follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and instructions from their local governments, the apostolate nevertheless advises its evangelists to continue to share the good news, even if only within the four walls of their own homes.

“There may be people within your immediate family that might be scared with all that’s going on and are now ready to give Our Lord a chance,” the email said.