My friends and I started a young adult group called Catholic Adventures in May of 2018 and due to the success of our initiatives (praise God!), I began to prayerfully discern how we could evangelize the wider Stamford community (not just young adults). I expressed this desire to a friend who told me about Nightfever, a program that was inspired by World Youth Day in 2005, where a parish opens up its doors and invites passersby on busy streets to come into the church, light a candle and experience the presence of God.
Given St. John’s prime location in the middle of downtown Stamford, I didn’t see why we shouldn’t host our own version of Nightfever. I emailed the Diocese of Bridgeport to ask if there were any grants for evangelization, and I heard back from Kelly Weldon of Foundations in Faith a few days later. Kelly told me about Foundations in Faith’s St. John Paul II Fund, which provides monetary support for communal outreach efforts at parishes. With the generous backing/assistance of the priests at St. John’s, I applied for and received a grant from the St. John Paul II Fund to assist with evangelization. We then set a date for our first St. John’s Night Vigil and prepared by purchasing supplies (rosaries, pamphlets, prayer cards, candles, etc.).
Father Joseph kicked off Night Vigil with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. After Exposition, volunteers from throughout the diocese scoured the streets of Stamford. We approached people of all different ages/backgrounds/ethnicities, listened to them as they shared intimate details about their lives, prayed with them, spoke to them about Christ, and invited them to come to St. John’s to pray or to light a candle.
While street evangelization can be difficult, I’ve learned that you have to be bold for Christ. When God is asking you to do something, you need to trust that He will give you the strength to carry it out. By virtue of our baptism, we are all called to preach the good news. And part of the good news is that Christ loves us for who we are, not for what we do. In a world that places so much emphasis on productivity, wealth and vain pursuits, people need to hear that their value comes from being sons and daughters of God. We all have a God-sized hole in our hearts that only Christ can fill, and there are so many people out on the streets who are trying to fill that hole with everything BUT God. As simple as it sounds, sometimes all someone needs is an invitation to encounter Jesus.
So no more excuses! Don’t wait for others to do what you can do yourself. And if you’re worried about not knowing what to say, take this advice from St. Ambrose who urged St. Monica to “speak less to Augustine about God and more to God about Augustine.” In other words, pray and trust in God to do the work. See you at our next Night Vigil!
By: Diane Kremheller