Adam Janke is the Program Director with St. Paul Street Evangelization which is an apostolate bringing Christ to the streets.
Could you describe what you do at St. Paul Street Evangelization (SPSE)?
St. Paul Street Evangelization was founded in 2012 as a grass-roots apostolate of the Catholic Church to respond to the call of the Holy Father to go out into the streets and share the Gospel. We have two hundred teams, and we are growing all over the country and world. Right now, we are in eight different countries and forty-three of the fifty states here in the U.S.
SPSE invites Catholics in local communities to come together who want to evangelize and take their faith to the streets. We provide the tools, the avenue, and the resources for them to share their faith effectively and in a very non-confrontational way.
As Program Director, I assist in providing those tools. We have online training; we have live training workshops; we have workshops for Catholics who want to evangelize either on the streets or in the circumstances of their everyday lives.
SPSE provides a bridge of trust from the community into the local parish. To help connect the parish with the community, we provide a workshop called “Entertaining Angels” with the Catholic Hospitality Training Institute that prepares every volunteer, employee, and parishioner in the Church to receive people in the name of Jesus. For example, a parish could have business managers and secretaries who don’t necessarily think in terms of evangelization. As people enter from the street into the church, their experience in the local parish can vary greatly. As program director, it is my job to assist in forming Catholic staff and lay-people in the mission of the Church which includes the practical steps of how to evangelize; the very pragmatic “what works and what doesn’t work.” In both parishes and dioceses, we try to implement those tools and resources that are effective for evangelization.
How do you share and let people know about the tools like the seminars and live training? Do parishes invite you for the live training or do you also host regional ones?
Right now parishes, schools, and dioceses contact us and ask us to provide our workshops on site. We offer Basic Evangelization Training, Youth Encounter Training, Entertaining Angels, retreats, and a number of keynote and break out talks. We advertise through our website, social media, our e-newsletter, diocesan newspapers, and other local outlets.
What got you first involved with SPSE?
I am a convert to the faith myself. I worked at a Catholic parish for about eight years and I saw what Steve was doing before it became an international ministry. Here was a guy with a few people out on the streets of Portland, Oregon sharing the faith! He posted some pictures on Facebook and when I saw those, a lightbulb went off. I said, “Yeah, our parishes need to go out of the doors of the Church and into the community. We need to be available to the community to help and assist them. We need to disciple them and bring them into the Church.” That was exactly what Steve was doing so I started my own team in Lansing, Michigan. Steve discerned that this was something God was calling him to do full-time rather than as a hobby – that it should be an apostolate and ministry in the Church instead of just him and a couple of his friends out evangelizing. So, we decided that it should become the ministry St. Paul Street Evangelization out on the street evangelizing.
I came on board as a member of the founding Board of Directors to assist him with organizing this as an apostolate. I have been with them as a Program Director and Team Leader since 2012.
He was doing this years before you were an officially organization?
He started the first team in May of 2012 and by December it was rolling into St. Paul Street Evangelization.
What kind of fruit have you seen from this?
It has been phenomenal! You can see it is a work of the Holy Spirit because people are walking away from their brokenness by depending on God’s grace. Babies have been saved from abortion; people have walked up to us that are addicted to heroin or other drugs and asked for help; people that are on their way at that very moment to commit suicide have walked up to us to see if we can assist them; people ask us for prayer. We are able to connect people on the street to the ministries and charities of the local church where it would be otherwise intimidating for those who are not Catholic and have no connection to the Catholic Church. They are in need, but to simply knock on the door of the Catholic Church and ask for help, they don’t know what kind of reception they are going to receive.
The Church can go out into the street, into the world, and say, “We are here to assist you and we’re normal people too. We have jobs; we follow the local sports team; we live in this community. Whatever the case is, we are your neighbors and we care about you.” In doing so, we are able to bridge that gap between the community and the local parish, because the local parish usually is no longer the center of a community as they used to be. There are other places that we would call our cultural center of the modern community than the Church. Our approach, taking the Church to the streets, has been very effective.
Two minute conversations can change a person’s life forever. You are opening up the door to them and to a relationship that they can establish with God. Our teams will go out there, pray together, and will simply have this public presence on the street in order to share their faith with other people. They will offer to pray with them; they will ask them about their relationship with God; they’ll offer them sacramentals such as the Rosary and Miraculous Medals which allows each person to walk away with a tangible reminder. We want them to have something they can hold in their hand that speaks of Jesus’s Love for them.
Our motto is: To Listen, Befriend, Proclaim and Invite. Sometimes a simple invitation is all that is needed, but often times there needs to be follow up and you need to make the invitation more than once. For example, somebody might initially say, “No, that’s alright, I don’t want anything to do with this.” And the next week they will stop and say, “You know, I’ve been thinking about it and I actually do have some questions.” If your teams are out there at a stable time each week or each month, the community gets to know you.
One time, someone walked up to me and said, “Thank you for being normal! There is a Christian down there screaming through a bullhorn a few blocks away, and I do have questions, but I want to talk to someone who will actually talk to me.” That is what our teams are all about. In a non-confrontational way, we present the Gospel of Jesus Christ and allow people to respond to it. No matter where a person is, we try to get them to take the next step. If I meet someone I might ask, “Are you Catholic?” They say yes, and then next I’ll say, “Oh that’s great, do you go to Mass every Sunday?”
“Yeah I do.”
“What about Confession? Do you go to Confession on a regular basis?”
“Oh no, I haven’t been to confession in seven years.”
Then I might say, “Can I give you one great reason why I go to Confession on a regular basis?”
You make it about me as the evangelist so you aren’t saying there is something wrong with them. “I just want to share why I am going to Confession.” Or, if they aren’t Catholic, you might say, “Can I give you one great reason why I became Catholic?” Everyone is willing to hear one great reason.
If they are Catholic and they are going to Mass and Confession, you might say, “Have you ever consecrated yourself to Mary?” We constantly invite them to the next step and if they are full-fledge, on-fire Catholics “I’ve consecrated myself to Mary; I go to Mass; I believe in Jesus; I go to Confession” then we’ll say, “Well, have you ever heard of St. Paul Street Evangelization? We need you out here with us!”
That is the end game, to get everyone to respond to St. John Paul II’s call for the New Evangelization. The moment has come for everyone to get engaged and for all the Church’s energy to be focused on the New Evangelization.
If there is a local team, people could go and learn from the local team. What do they do if there is no team and they want to start a new team in their area?
That’s great! We ask them to fill out a form online called the “start a team” form. Then our National Director Steve will call every one of those people and make sure that they are ready to start a team. We will walk with them through the process of getting a team up and going. We offer online training for them and ideally we’d like to come out and do a live workshop, but it’s not always possible.
We have a very hands-on workshop where we work with the team and everybody else from the parish to get them prepared to have those conversations about the faith. We can talk about evangelization, we can go to conferences on evangelization, we can listen to our pastors preach about evangelization, but it is different when I say, “Okay, Zane, go talk to that person about their faith.” You might say, “Wait a minute, how do I do that? What do I actually say? How do you break the ice? How to you get to know who they are as a person?” We try to give people those practical, pragmatic tools so that they can begin to evangelize in their everyday life or out on the street.
What else do you want to share with us?
We really want people to know that we are looking for support especially by joining a team or starting your own team. If you can’t do that, please pray for us. We need lots and lots of intercessory prayers because the work we are doing is putting a target on our backs; without prayer we are going to fail.
We also depend solely on donations to fund the apostolate. We produce all these different resources because our evangelists expect it to be all apologetics when they first go out, but it isn’t; it is brokenness. So, they’ll come back to us and say, “We need this type of resource and it doesn’t exist.” SPSE will try to provide it for them because that way they don’t have to worry about raising money or coming up with resources. We provide all that for them so they can just focus on doing what they want to do and be out on the street helping people.
Are all these resources available through the website?
Yes. We try to make it as low-cost as possible for our teams. For example, we produce full-color pamphlets, but we also have them available in black & white so they can just run them off a copier. If you are going to give one hundred of those away a day, it is going to add up. We have downloadable audio talks, team development tools, pamphlets, low cost holy cards, medals rosaries, Gospels, a-frame signs, and more. It used to cost a team $500 to get the basic materials they needed to get started. We’ve been able to lower that to less than $200.
Thanks for giving me your time and God bless your work!