Field Lesson: Be Ready to Evangelize Anywhere
As J. Carlos Miguel Lopez quickly learned, he could be called to evangelize any time, any place – including Walmart.
The Glenmary seminarian was working in Plymouth, N.C., and preparing to solo direct his first pastorela in December 2016. The play is a Mexican tradition depicting the shepherds’ journey, following the Star of Bethlehem, to see Jesus Christ. He had been planning and rehearsing for two months to make the play a success. His last task was to buy supplies for the evening.
He headed to a nearby Walmart, and instantly, an employee recognized that Carlos needed help. When she asked why he was buying so much, he began explaining about the pastorela. The only problem was she did not know much about Jesus Christ.
“It was so funny,” said Carlos, who will take his first oath as a Glenmarian next month. “You don’t expect to meet someone that age who does not know about Jesus. I kept asking her, ‘Are you serious?’ I come from a very Catholic country and family, so that was a shock to me.”
Carlos knew that he had to begin with the basics. He could not explain Catholicism to her if she did not understand the fundamentals of Christianity. He spoke with her for 40 minutes as they shopped, keeping his lesson fairly general. Carlos told the employee that Jesus is the son of God. He is the basis for Christianity. His mother is Mary, and his father is Joseph. His birth was proclaimed by Gabriel the Archangel, and he was born in a manger more than 2000 years ago.
“She knew that there was a God, a supreme person, but she did not know much beyond that,” Carlos said. “She knew that creation came from Him, but her family was not religious, and she was not a religious person, so she had never been introduced to Jesus. I don’t know if I convinced her, but I gave her some information. I tried to go back the next week to find her, but she wasn’t there.”
Evangelization is one of the five charisms of Glenmary. As a seminarian, Carlos said he must always be prepared to speak about his beliefs, but he said that situation caught him off guard.
“Especially in 2016 and in the United States, you expect everyone to at least know who Jesus is,” Carlos said. “It shows that evangelization just happens. You can’t plan for it. The pastorela attracted her, and it gave me that opportunity to speak to her.”
Just being in the community, especially in the missions where Catholicism is uncommon, often presents an opportunity for evangelization, Carlos said. People, especially Protestants who have never had any contact with Catholics, often are curious about the faith. When people see priests in their collars, they feel comfortable approaching them to ask questions.
After Mass one Sunday, in Plymouth, N.C., Carlos, another seminarian and Father Mike Kerin were eating at a Wendy’s restaurant when a woman stopped by their table. She had several questions for Father Mike about the Catholic faith and the difference among various Christian denominations.
“It is a unique instrument of evangelization, and we have to take advantage of it,” Carlos said of the priest’s collar. “We have to use it to help spread the faith.”
Carlos hopes to become a Glenmary priest and looks forward to working in the missions and eventually starting a new mission in a new location. So far, Carlos has spent time in the North Carolina and Lafayette, Tenn., missions.
Now 30 years old, he has been away from his Chiapas, Mexico, home since he was 15 for schooling. He said the experience prepared him to be a missioner.
“I make friends wherever I go, and I love traveling,” Carlos said.
This story originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of the Boost-A-Month Club newsletter.
Top photo used via Creative Commons License (CC BY-SA 3.0,