By Tanya Connor | The Catholic Free Press
WEBSTER – Spreading the message of the Gospel out in the world – starting with the neighborhood.
There’s a very big drive at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish to do that, according to Joan Machado, head of the parish’s evangelization team.
On Aug. 27 they had their third annual neighborhood cookout, one of the events held for this purpose. Neighbors had been invited by parishioners who walked the streets ahead of time, distributing printed invitations and leaving them at homes where no one answered, Miss Machado said. She said the cookout was a chance for neighbors to “come and see that we’re real people.”
“We’ve been seeing growth year to year,” said parishioner Ray Guerin, a member of the music ministry that played Christian songs for the cookout. (Musician friends from other parishes joined Sacred Heart members.)
Though each year more people come, “we don’t measure the success by the numbers,” but by “the way the Holy Spirit is moving people to socialize,” he said.
The first year, some neighbors didn’t know how to take it, he said. The second year, when they were invited, some asked, “Are they going to be doing music again?”
Cookout entertainment also included a bouncy house, face painting and “duck pond fishing” to win a little toy with a Scripture verse. There were school supplies, religious pamphlets and CDs, and rosaries made by evangelization team member Marianne Lesieur, whose husband, Paul, is the parish’s permanent deacon.
Everything was free, thanks to donations from the team and other parishioners, Miss Machado said. She said the team, which numbers about 10, organized the cookout.
The team also provides surprises for the annual Easter egg hunt and loaves of bread which are delivered to neighbors at Thanksgiving along with announcements about parish events, she said.
“Come one, come all, to our cookout,” Father Adam Reid, pastor, said at Mass Aug. 27. He said there would be “fellowship along with evangelization, to reach out to our brothers and sisters in the neighborhood.”
After Mass the rectory lawn was filled with parishioners and others who chatted over hamburgers, hot dogs, chips and cookies. Signs informed them they could talk with the people wearing red shirts (evangelization team members) for information about the Catholic faith.
“I think I evangelize by being here,” said parishioner Gilbert Guay. He spoke of talking to people who are “not parishioners but they might be.”
“This parish is really blessed with people who care to put on something like this,” he added.
“I thought it was really nice; we got an invitation in the mail” (the mailbox), said Tianna Mellen, of St. Brigid Parish in Millbury. “We’re actually new to town so it’s nice to be able to do something like this.”
She brought her daughter, Mikalina, 4, and Albert Brooks, who she said is one of her clients from a nursing home.
“I figured we got invited, might as well take him for a change of scenery,” she said.
“It’s wonderful they do something like this for the community,” said Robert Kontoes, of United Church of Christ, Federated.
His wife, Regina, said they’ve come each year, they usually see people they know, and Father Reid remembers them. This year they came without their son, Gregory, and his wife, Lisa, who are members of Sacred Heart but were away with their children.
“I think this is the sweetest thing they can do, because they’re feeding people,” commented Vicky Coulter, who said she goes to Sacred Heart. “And it brings people together.” She said she thought some families wouldn’t be eating as much, or these foods, if they weren’t provided at the cookout.
“I think the food was very awesome,” Alex Jones, who said he goes to Sacred Heart, said simply. “And the drink was really good.” (He had lemonade.)
“The music’s uplifting,” said Sacred Heart member Richard Renaud. “This music’s better than some of the music on the radio.”
He said it was wonderful that everyone got together as a family.
“We’re all God’s children,” he said. “We’re all going to meet the Lord someday.”