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Florida parish takes to the streets to help residents find a better day, and a step toward God

St. Joseph Church TWO BY TWO
Photo Courtesy of Rich Mauro
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2 x 2 and door to door … you can’t help but be reminded of the first disciples when you hear about this

Last March, parishioners of historic St. Joseph Parish in Jacksonville, Florida, launched a new 2×2 Door to Door Ministry within its parish boundaries as a means to share the Catholic faith.

With the blessing of the pastor, Fr. Sebastian George, seminarian Mac Hill and parishioner Rich Mauro have spearheaded the effort, knocking on doors, introducing themselves and the parish, offering to pray with residents, and answer questions about the Catholic faith.

While only a handful of parishioners have participated, it has been of great benefit to both the parish and Catholic Church, participants believe.

“We reach out to people who may be hurting or alone, who know little of God or the Church, and tell them we’re not there to sell anything, but to help,” Mauro said.

The “vibrant” parish has 50 ministries, Mauro explained, whether it be ministries that offer food and clothing, help to overcome a drug addiction, or support women with crisis pregnancies. This new ministry is another effort at evangelization. “Every weekend we go out, we always find someone in need,” Mauro said.

Residents aren’t typically hostile or annoyed at their presence, he continued, but they are often shocked: “People aren’t used to the Catholic Church coming to their door.”

The volunteers have enjoyed many positive as well as memorable experiences. On one outing, Mauro encountered a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He attempted a friendly greeting but the others were initially cool to their presence. But when he joked that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were better dressed than Catholics, they laughed and went on to have a friendly exchange.

Among the volunteers who go out with Mauro are his two homeschooled sons, Luke, 14, and Josh, 12.

Luke gave a practical account of the experience, noting, “We’re in Florida, and it gets hot when you go out, particularly in the summer. But, if we bring the Gospel to one person, it’s worth it.”

Josh added, “There’s not a lot of Catholics doing it, so it’s important we’re out there.”

While it’s primarily a lay effort, sometimes members of the clergy participate.  Fr. John Sollee, a parochial vicar at St. Joseph’s, plans to join the effort in September. The ultimate goal of the ministry is to make local residents aware of all that St. Joseph’s has to offer, and to invite residents “to be a part of our St. Joseph’s parish family.”

The Door to Door Ministry is currently held on the second and fourth Saturdays, beginning with 9:30 a.m. prayer at the parish. Volunteers are then assigned a region, paired up, and sent out to the streets. The ultimate plan is to knock on every door in Jacksonville; as of yet, all of the neighborhoods covered have been within walking distance of the church.

When they go out, volunteers identify themselves, share that they are part of St. Joseph’s Door to Door Ministry and indicate that St. Joseph’s pastor, Fr. George, has asked them to come out. Volunteers then invite residents to share where they are on their spiritual journey, and suggest resources the parish has that may be able to help them. Among the resources they carry is a letter from the pastor, offering to meet with any resident.

Volunteers meet all kinds of residents, including inactive Catholics, those who have no interest in going to church, and “a large number of Baptists.”  But regardless of where they’re coming from, Mauro said, “90% want a relationship with God.”

He continued, “What I find is that there are a lot of people struggling, and have someone in their family or among their friends who is in need of prayer.”

Read more: From a simple sidewalk stand, this group is leading many into the Catholic Church

Mauro continued, “When we pray with them, we show that we care. When we leave them, I know we’ve made their day better.”

Mauro believes their small group of volunteers has made a significant positive impact “and if we could get 100 volunteers, we could change the City. We need to be out there telling people about Jesus.”

Mauro concedes he was uncomfortable when first asked to participate in the ministry, but has found that every time he goes out, he gets more and more effective. The “political climate” is hostile to God, he believes, so a friendly, concerned Catholic on the doorstep “can really make a positive impact for the Church.”

There are some Saturdays he gets up and would rather be doing something else, but is always glad when he perseveres and goes out. “I get a tremendous grace from it,” he said. “I end the day very fulfilled, and know I’ve been doing what God wants me to do.”

He concluded, “Jesus told us not to keep our lamp under a bushel basket, but to put it on a lampstand so it gives light to the whole house [Matthew 5:15]. So that means to me that He’s telling me, ‘I want you to be out there going door to door.’”

Read more: The Church’s story is service, not abuse

Read more: Yeah, he’d been homeless … but he was my friend

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