BY JOHN GALLAGHER
Franciscan University’s newest ministry on campus wants the student body to know it is not getting comfortable because opportunities to actively spread Christ’s love rarely prove a comfortable undertaking.
Guided by ministry leads Sydney Ford and Angela Richardson, Franciscan’s street evangelization regularly fills a 12-passenger van en route to two hours of mission work in order to fulfill an agenda that begins and ends with Christ’s will.
Discerning that will, said Ford, is essential to the success of the ministry. “Unless you have the Holy Spirit, you can’t minister,” she said. “This ministry is literally the Holy Spirit. We ask him to give it to us so that we can give it to them.”
The goal of the ministry is a simple one: to love all, without complication. “We try to bring the love of Christ down to the people who have never received any type of love from the Lord,” said Ford. At the heart of street evangelization remains the dignity of all those encountered on the streets, and during the winter months, in a local nursing home. More than anything else, students attempt to highlight the intrinsic worth present within each and every individual they encounter.
Street evangelization was only approved last semester as an official ministry advocated by the Works of Mercy. Ford was adamant that now, in their first established year as a recognized ministry, the focus was on “learning, and trying to make relationships with people, in the mall and in the homeless shelter in the winter.”
Despite the program’s recent inception, the results to date more than validate the evangelization’s existence. Ford acknowledges a much deeper connection between the ministry’s street interactions and the selflessness required to fully complete successful street evangelization. Specifically, Ford addressed how the illusion of control must be dissolved by those willing to allow Christ to work in their ministry. “Something I’ve learned is that I don’t want control; I let (Christ) overshadow me so that I can speak not with my words, but with his words,” she said. “It’s the beautiful freedom of having no freedom.”
Ford attributes the mission’s success to the unique level of comfort the members can tolerate. “It’s different because it’s very outside of everyone’s comfort zones,” she said. “It’s led by the Spirit more than anything else.”
Any students interested in participating in this unique mode of evangelization should meet at the Rosary Circle on Saturdays at 6:45 p.m. for prayer and subsequent deployment into the evangelization-ready streets of downtown Steubenville until 9 p.m.
Where the agenda is Christ, where love is bred through uncertainty, where relationships are solidified in courage, where reservations wither before the drive for better community, there one will find Franciscan University’s newest mission, street evangelization, driven to forsake comfort in pursuit of pure Catholic zeal.