Holy Week is the most sacred time of year for Catholics, yet sometimes the holy days can go by as if nothing very different was happening. Sts. Simon and Jude has found that the secret to make the holy days come alive is to make holy week a mission week. It’s a way to evangelize and reach the people in pews.
Holy Week is Mission Week! That’s the way the pastor of Sts Simon and Jude in North Houston wants it. “It’s a time of prayer, a retreat, service and a mission all in one”, Fr Pat Garret said; “I hope every year we can weave together the Church’s liturgical celebrations with the lives of the parishioners and the needs of the community.”
“This parish is enthusiastic and full of initiatives that reach out to the surrounding community” said one of the organizers, a consecrated woman of Regnum Christi named Charlene Alexander. “So we harnessed that enthusiasm and put a mission-focus on the most sacred time of the year so people’s faith can come alive!”
The effort to have members of the parish become missionaries has been growing steadily for the last three years. Instead of a staying safely and comfortably inside the doors of the parish, they go out into the neighborhood, downtown to the homeless shelter, nursing homes, parks, the public square, shopping plazas…They have a knack for leaving behind a parish focused on, in Pope Francis’ words, mere “maintenance” and self-interest in favor of a parish focused on mission!
Charlene added “Opening the doors of the church and going out to help others in need is characteristic of our parishioners. We believe that when we show people we care about their material needs, they are then open to us helping them with their spiritual needs as well. We bring our community to them and invite them to come experience our community.”
For example, the work done in collaboration with the Mission Youth apostolate during the last Holy Week included over 300 families, youth and young adults in both the North and South ends of Houston all decked out in Mission Youth t-shirts doing an astonishing list of mission work!
Here’s some of what they did: they went through the streets the neighborhoods especially affected by Hurricane Harvey and listened to peoples stories, inviting them to pray and then of course invited everyone to all the Holy Week services and Easter Masses. The missionaries welcomed these same people at the church and made sure they felt at home. The missionaries provided detailed lists of mass times in Spanish and English. A neighborhood soccer game was arranged for youth as a natural way to bring families together and get them on the church property. Another outreach was working together with the St Vincent DePaul Society and sixty three Easter meal baskets were arranged and personally delivered to families and persons in need, men’s and women’s clothing were brought to the homeless shelter on 3 different occasions and after serving them a meal they could freely choose clothes items of their choice. The youth went on a smile and gratitude campaign …smiling and thanking workers in Malls and public places. Visits to homes for the elderly were among the highlights for both the young and old. A living stations of the cross was organized in a park nearby the church on Good Friday and Holy Saturday large groups carried three handmade crosses through the busy Waterway Park area where prayer petitions were solicited from passersby’s and then nailed to the cross. These crosses came back into the parish narthex where all parishioners were invited to join in to take on the prayer petitions personally.
“We’re definitely doing this again next year”, said Fr Pat. “Holy Week will always be Mission Week for us. That’s what the Church is about! Jesus said to go out into the streets to proclaim the good news. That is literally what this parish is doing and I hope many more will do the same!”
For more information:
– More info on Mission Youth Missions here.