What does it mean to “love thy neighbor as thyself?”
Christians care deeply about their neighbors, especially the less fortunate ones. They are moved to share their resources with victims of Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti and tsunami in Japan, as well as to empty their pockets into the Salvation Army kettle during the Christmas season.
But how many of us share our love and faith with our neighbors face to face?
In the Gospel of St. Mark, “Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two.”
On March 26, the congregation of the Church of the Holy Ghost sent out 45 teams of two, who knocked on the doors of 899 houses and spoke to 423 neighbors who live in the vicinity of the North Tiverton church.
Two hours later, they returned and related their experiences. They shared conversations with mothers and grandmothers who asked for help to feed their families, the sick and homebound who had not received the Eucharist in years, the estranged who vented about past experiences but who clung desperately to their faith despite distance from the church community.
Susan and Richard said they had a wonderful day and had knocked on the doors of 27 houses.
A young girl answered the door at one home. Her mother explained to them that they had just moved into the neighborhood.
“I really need food assistance and don’t know how to get it,” the mother lamented.
A young couple, who had been brought up in the Catholic faith, said they were now going to a Protestant church. They left them a packet with a letter of welcome from the parish, along with information about annulments, sacraments and other topics that might be the cause of Catholics’ estrangement from the Church.
Harriet said that some neighbors “were very welcoming but others not so much.”
“I met a man who is Episcopalian,” she said. “I am an Episcopalian convert. My family converted in 2000. We had a connection.”
She added that he was open and very happy to share his spirituality with her.
Antonio spoke to a young woman who said she did not go to church, although her father did. Her mother approached them.
“I don’t go to church,” the mother said. “A priest did me wrong 20 years ago.”
They prayed the Rosary together, and the daughter began to cry.
“I’m coming to church,” she said. “I’m coming tonight.”
The mother said she would pray the Rosary every day.
“I can do that,” she said.
Carmen, who said she was from Spain, was impressed by how many people opened the door to them, even though they were not Catholic or non-practicing.
“We entered with open hearts,” she said.
Bob and Connie went to 25 houses and spent 15 to 20 minutes at three of them.
One man, who had been raised in the Catholic faith, said that he had lost his business because of an addiction to drugs and alcohol.
“I told him which Mass I went to; and if he would stop in, we would welcome him to sit with my family,” said Bob. “I also told him that he would enjoy the peace.”
Connie gave him Rosary beads.
“Put them in your pocket,” she told him. “When your friends turn away from you, you will always have a friend in God. He will never turn away.”
They prayed the “Our Father” together.
Maria and Stephanie visited with a woman who inquired about a food pantry for her four grandchildren ages 1, 2, 4 and 8.
“Sometimes we run short,” she said.
They also met a gentleman, a parishioner of the church, who was on oxygen. Consequently, he and his wife had not been to church or received Communion in years, but they said they watched Mass on TV.
“Someone can bring it (Eucharist),” Maria told them.
“They were crying,” she said. “They were so pleased at the idea that someone can bring it.”
Two parishes in the Diocese of Providence, St. Timothy Church in Warwick and St. Joseph Church in Woonsocket, initiated the Day of Evangelization in Rhode Island.
According to the Rhode Island Catholic, in those two efforts, volunteers from 42 parishes had knocked on more than 2,050 doors and made contact with at least 1,600 Catholics and non-Catholics.
“Something is happening, and we believe it’s the Holy Spirit,” said Edward Gallagher, co-chair of the Evangelization Committee for the Diocese of Providence and a parishioner of St. Timothy’s. “If we really believe in the teachings of the Catholic Church, then we have to share them in the most loving way.”
Father Jay Finelli, pastor of the Church of the Holy Ghost, acknowledged the dedication and hard work of all those who participated in the Day of Evangelization.
“We’re Catholics in Christ," Roman Catholic Christians, said Father Jay. “We’re bringing about a new springtime of faith. This is the beginning.”
For more information, visit www.dayofevangelization.com or www.dioceseofprovidence.org.