Members of SS. Rose and Clement Parish are planning to visit approximately 4,100 homes located in the boundaries of the church on June 9 to evangelize, or share the good word of God.
Volunteers will gather at the church at 111 Long Street at 7:40 in the morning to say the Rosary, followed by Mass at 8. Then, they will have breakfast, be given maps with driving instructions and head out for two hours in groups of two to knock on doors and welcome people into their community.
Sponsored by the parish, as well as the Legion of Mary, a Catholic organization that helps churches learn how to best evangelize, the mission of the event isn’t to convert people to Catholicism or engage anyone in a debate about church teachings. Instead, said parish priest Rev. Fr. Edward J. Wilson Jr., it’s to let them know that others care about them and are around the corner or down the street if they are in need of anything, spiritual or physical.
“Each person is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and they are visiting people just to say hello,” he said in an interview Sunday. “We want to invite people to know Jesus more deeply or bring their prayers to our parish and promise them we will pray for them. We’re trying to be the face of Christ and that’s a happy, smiling face.”
Wilson said while they expect some people won’t be thrilled to receive visitors, volunteers will not be discouraged because he believes the visit alone will encourage positive change for others.
Parishioner Bill Patenaude, who recently earned a master’s degree in theology from Providence College, agrees. In fact, he said other parishes that have participated in the event in recent years, including St. Timothy’s, The Church of the Holy Name in Providence, St. Joseph’s in Woonsocket, The Church of the Holy Ghost in Tiverton and St. Ann’s in Cranston, did not receive any negative reactions.
Further, said Patenaude, he anticipates people will have questions about the church, which volunteers will be prepared to answer. He, along with more than 30 volunteers, are ready to assist.
“It’s a way of doing what Christ said: ‘Go out into the world and bring the Gospel,’” Patenaude said. “The way you do that is not by reading scripture but by beginning a dialogue with people and finding out where they are and what they need. It’s what the church has been doing for 2,000 years, we’re just reminding ourselves of it.”
In order to connect with as many people as possible, the church is looking for more volunteers. While going door-to-door is not an easy task, said Wilson and Patenaude, the reward is great.
“If they’ve never done this before, they leave with so many wonderful stories of people who said things like, ‘I was just praying for a sign,’ or ‘I was just asking God for help,’ or ‘My spouse died three weeks ago and I have no one to talk to,’” he said.
For example, Patenaude said he heard a story in which a woman who works for the United States Navy signed up to volunteer for an evangelization event. As she was making her way through her assigned area, she went the wrong way and ended up talking to a woman who had two sons in the Navy and was worried about them because she hadn’t heard from them in a few weeks.
“It just so happens that the woman that was visiting was able to put that worried woman in touch with her boys,” he said. “Those are the things that happen that people call coincidental. We’ll call it grace. People are stepping up and meeting people they’ve never met before. They are working together and it’s a beautiful thing.”
Volunteers such as Diane Riccitelli, who is in charge of registration, and Kathy Grady, who is handling the organization of maps and will assign areas for volunteers to visit, said they are looking forward to the event.
For Riccitelli, the event will hopefully inspire others to renew their religious beliefs, as well as allow her to strengthen her own.
“I really wanted to step up my level of faith and become more active in the church,” she said. “If I can help someone see how important their faith is in helping them through hard times, then that’s one more person we can get to come back to the church. It is going to be a very memorable and incredible day for people going out and the people being visited.”
Grady’s story is similar. She, too, was searching for a cause to volunteer for when she came across information about the event. During this year’s annual stewardship fair, she ended up at the evangelization table and realized she wanted to help in this capacity.
“When I think about Jesus Christ, who said to His Disciples, ‘Go forth and spread the word,’ I know it’s important and it’s the neighborly thing to do,” she said. “We just want to say, ‘Hey, We’re your neighbors and if you have anything that we can help you with or get you connected with, we’re here.’”
That, said Patenaude, is the whole point.
“Many people appreciate it when you invite them and that’s what it’s all about – seeking to help others,” he said. “It’s a wonderful moment for the parish.”
To volunteer, call the church at 401-739-0212.