HASTINGS (SNR) – Mass-goers at St. Cecilia Church in Hastings were surprised when they exited the church Aug. 19 and 20 to be welcomed by the sight of patio sets, drinks, food and lots of volunteers ready to chat with them and hand out information about upcoming events in the parish.
Those who set up the first-time event, called it “The Great Lemonade Experiment.”
Knowing that many people were in town to view the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse, members of the St. Paul Street Evangelization (SPSE) group planned the event. SPSE – which employs a non-confrontational style of evangelization – was started in Michigan in 2012 by a faithful layperson. There are now more than 300 SPSE chapters worldwide.
In Hastings, the organizers planned to set up a lemonade stand so people would stop and socialize after each Mass, giving them the chance to evangelize visitors, and to welcome people in the area to sign up for RCIA and other events at St. Cecilia Parish this fall and winter. With the help of volunteers, the lemonade stand also included Kool-Aid and coffee, as well as homemade cinnamon rolls, coffee cake and sweetbreads.
The event was “a hit,” according to organizer Bob Sullivan.
“There were a number of people from out of town, as expected, due to the eclipse, as well as some people visiting from nearby parishes. It was a great opportunity to share our zeal for the faith with St. Cecilia’s guests,” he said.
He recounted stories of parishioners who enjoyed visiting with friends and family over the refreshments, as well as guests who used the opportunity to inquire about upcoming events. But still others, just as they’d hoped, took advantage of the opportunity to inquire about Catholic teachings. Sullivan said he got the chance to provide some introductory information on Catholicism, to answer questions about fixtures inside the church – such as the tabernacle, altar and crucifix – and even to answer questions about the Eucharist.
One man who welcomed information asked for the complete Mass schedule, so that he could attend again, and later asked for an RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) pamphlet to learn more about the Church through the informative classes which begin at St. Cecilia Sept. 18.
Wayne and Mary Ringer of St. Mary Parish in Denton brought the St. Paul Street Evangelization stand the group uses to evangelize at other events, such as the weekly farmers’ market at the Haymarket in Lincoln. It is stocked with rosaries, saints’ medals and numerous brochures and booklets.
Many people declined a free rosary, the Ringers reported, until they explained that the rosary was to give away and thereby, evangelize a family member or friend.
“That appealed to many parishioners and they ended up taking a free rosary,” Sullivan said, “as well as a few pamphlets to hand to others.”
In addition to advertising the parish RCIA program, volunteers also handed out dozens of pamphlets on the upcoming marriage workshop, men’s walk to raise money for the homeless shelter, and other events taking place within St. Cecilia and the greater Catholic population of Hastings.
“Our perpetual Eucharistic adoration ministry also made some new contacts,” Sullivan said, “as did our new Seven Sisters Apostolate.” The parish launched perpetual adoration in 2014. Seven Sisters is an apostolate of prayer dedicated to Catholic priests. Seven women join to gift an hour of adoration each week for a specific priest, so one member is praying for that priest every day of the year.
For more information about events at St. Cecilia Parish, visit stceciliahastings.com or call 402-463-1336.