Open Streets opened the Word for many visitors

The Open Streets event Sunday afternoon, Sept. 17, at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament Parish campus drew passersby, many of whom were surprised at the evangelization effort by Catholics. Some of those stopping at the canopies learned about Catholicism or a bit more about their Catholic faith. (Courtesy photo)

There were a lot of prayers ascending from the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Wichita on Saturday, Sept. 16 – many of them from outside the church.

Volunteers under the Encounter School of Ministry canopy prayed for many passersby during the annual Open Streets ICT, a free community-building event organized with the cooperation of the City of Wichita.

Street blocked off

Samantha Ridder, Blessed Sacrament’s Parish Life coordinator, said Douglas Street is blocked off for Open Streets ICT, and the surrounding community is encouraged to walk or ride their bicycles to the activities.
In addition to offering prayer, she said, Open Streets volunteers handed out water, cookies, rosaries, and Miraculous Medals while priests heard confessions and evangelization teams from various parishes engaged individuals in conversation about faith and life.

‘A Catholic experience’

“For several parishes to come together to be a Catholic presence at Open Streets, it’s just wonderful,” she said. “It was a really cool Catholic experience.”

The parish hosted the annual Open Streets event in collaboration with the diocese’s Office of Leadership in Missionary Discipleship with the assistance of a number of parishioners – many of whom have served as missionaries with FOCUS, NET, Vagabond Ministries, and Totus Tuus.

Ridder said non-Catholics and Catholics from many parishes in the Wichita area stopped by – including children who were drawn to the bouncy houses and yard games.

Yes, we are Catholics

“There were people who were surprised we were Catholic because of what we were doing,” she said. “They didn’t think we were normal Catholics because normal Catholics don’t do this. Catholics were excited because they were able to say my church is doing something. I think it was a very positive thing to happen.”

Erin Graver, co-director with her husband, David, of Encounter Ministries, said their booth was at the edge of the street where they greeted those visiting the event.

“If they seemed interested in engaging, we would invite them – ask them if they needed prayer for anything in their lives. Quite a few people took us up on that offer,” she said.

One woman they prayed for had a challenge in her life, Graver said.

“As we prayed for her she had tears running down her cheeks, good tears. And she said, ‘You know, as you prayed, I felt God giving me wisdom and the strength I need in that situation. I don’t feel scared of it anymore. God is real!’”

Graver said it was beautiful to be able to minister to a non-Catholic sister in Christ.

Spreading the faith

“It really struck me that there was more than one person who assumed we weren’t Catholic…because we were out on the streets praying for people and talking to them in person,” she said. “I was so excited to be out there showing people that Catholics believe that Jesus is alive and can make a difference in their daily lives and love them personally.”

She said she was thankful to be a part of a group to help people understand what Catholic beliefs really are.