Jim Graves is a Catholic writer and editor living in Newport Beach, California. He previously served as Managing Editor for the Diocese of Orange Bulletin, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Orange, California. His work has appeared in the National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor, Cal Catholic Daily and Catholic World Report.
St. Joseph’s Parish in Jacksonville, Florida—which includes a historic church dating back to 1883 and a newer, main church—has launched a door-to-door ministry called Two by Two to knock on doors within the parish boundaries to invite neighbors to church, pray with them and offer other assistance. While it’s an obvious form of evangelization, it is surprisingly rare at Catholic parishes today. I spoke with Fr. John Sollee, a young parochial vicar at St. Joseph’s about launching the new program.
How did your door-to-door ministry start?
Like any good thing in the Church, we copied what we’ve seen fruitfully done well elsewhere. In this case, a nearby parish, Assumption Catholic Church, under the leadership of Father José Panthaplamthottiyil who is a religious brother of our pastor (Father Sebastian George), was doing a door-to-door ministry as part of a more comprehensive evangelization strategy. One of our parishioners was actually involved in it with Assumption and asked if we could start it at St. Joseph’s. Father Sebastian entrusted it to our pastoral year seminarian, Mac Hill, and he got it off the ground.
How does it work, and how many people are involved?
It’s still in the beginning stages. We’ve only been doing it since March. We have about four or five families participating.
On any given Saturday, we’ll have five or six people join us. So, it’s a small operation. We meet on the second and fourth Saturday mornings for fellowship, prayer and to delegate the areas we’re visiting. Then we go two by two to those neighborhoods and knock on doors.
We’re not soliciting anything. We approach each house as a kind neighbor, introducing ourselves, inviting residents to be a part of our St. Joseph’s parish family. We have simple materials about Mass times, bulletins and overviews of our ministries. Each person goes through a training of how to approach people, how to share their testimony in two minutes, how to share the kerygma, and just simple apologetics topics.
What fruits have you seen?
We’ve met a few fallen-away Catholics who said they would like to come back to Church. We’ve surprised quite a few people that “Catholics do this kind of thing.”
Since it’s still in its infancy and we’re drumming up parish support, the best fruit has been the response and deepening of faith of the 4-5 families who participate. A faith that is shared is a faith that grows.
Can you tell me about the community you serve?
We serve the Mandarin neighborhood of the City of Jacksonville. Mandarin is a southern suburb. It’s a diverse middle class area. In addition to our English Masses, we have Masses in Portuguese, Spanish, Latin and Albanian every Sunday, and Polish Masses twice a month. We even have a Mass of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter on Sunday. (Did we miss anyone?)
What else would you like to share?
We’re proud of our parish in stepping up to provide this door-to-door ministry. It takes a lot of courage and a thick skin! It’s all part of an effort to be more welcoming and intentional in our Mandarin area. It is married to our quarterly new parishioner welcome lunches at the rectory, calling inactive parishioners to check in with them, reaching out to grieving families beyond the funeral preparation/funeral, and all the other evangelical activities our many ministries undertake. We try to instill in our ministries an evangelical focus that is outward-looking, intentionally sharing the Gospel.