Meeting people on their journey and walking with them, Deacon Ken Preiss’ ministry at Holy Redeemer in Burton challenges people to receive Jesus and to go bring him to others.
Prayer: Prayer is really the center of it all. The power to accompany comes from prayer. The courage to invite comes from prayer. Prayer is the core of all of evangelization. I’ve had many times that after just a brief encounter with someone I’ve asked if they wanted to be prayed with or prayed over. Most often, people want prayer, so having the courage to step into that is important. We started Alpha a couple years ago and prayer is key there because people who come are seeking. We pray they would find the person they’re seeking, even if they don’t yet know who that is.
Witness: Last year on Holy Thursday at our parish, the 12 people whose feet we washed were not parishioners, but people in need from the broader community – some of them were homeless, some were struggling with addiction, some had received food and help from our parish. The witness wasn’t just on the part of the parish to wash their feet – these people were willing to come and be served, which was an example and gift to all of us. A lot of people were in tears that night.
Invitation: At Holy Redeemer, we have an outreach food pantry. About a year ago, a man came to get food. Someone at the outreach office invited him to our community lunch for those who may be homeless or struggling and could just use a good meal with friendly people. He liked what was going on there, so even when he didn’t need food from the pantry, he came back every week to be with us. One day at that lunch, someone invited him to a nondenominational praise and worship service we have on Sundays. When he attended this event, someone invited him to Alpha, where he had a profound encounter with the Holy Spirit. By the next round of Alpha, he was leading and, through those experiences, was forming relationships with people of the community and parish.
Someone invited him to think about becoming Catholic. His initial response was, “Are you kidding?!” With time, he accepted the invitation to go to RCIA, which he started this past fall. There were at least three people fighting to be his sponsor. He is coming into the Church this Easter, and we are all so excited. If you ask him, he’ll explain that no one forced him, but many people extended invitations along the way. He said he found something in the Church that he’d never found his whole life. Every Christian is called to constantly invite – it is part of our mission.
Accompaniment: Accompanying can be frustrating because your hope is that someone is willing or ready to take a step and that’s not always the case. A lot of time when I preach, I focus on the “go” of evangelization. I remind people how important it is that your motivation is love. If accompaniment isn’t motivated by love, it doesn’t work. [The Catholic author and speaker] Matthew Kelly writes about accompanying, and points out that it isn’t just about spending time with other people – it’s about sharing life. That’s at the heart of accompaniment – that you are willing to share your life with the people God calls you to share it with.