Planting the seed

Above: Ray Reilly, far right, represents S.E.E.D. at a fair in Wendell Nov. 5.

Our journey began in May of 2021. Covid had changed our faith life in ways never experienced by Catholic Americans. The pandemic closed churches and accessibility to daily and weekend Mass. Our community in the Diocese of Raleigh began to think outside the box.

Our Sunday service was now streaming on the internet. Isolation, which is a terrible ailment in our society, was being met through outreach by many parishes. During this period, though, God did provide a gift of quiet time. A time to think, reflect and be with him.

Helene Werner, a parishioner of St. Eugene Church in Wendell, was using her quiet time to reflect on a new approach to our adult faith formation. She reached out to Terrie Baldwin, who was coordinator of adult formation for the Office of Evangelization and Discipleship for the diocese at that time. Baldwin suggested a Paulist Evangelization Ministry program called The Journey. While gathering in small groups through The Journey’s 18 sessions, we explored the person of Jesus and his community while sharing our experiences and growing our Catholic Faith.

Werner reached out to Charlene Giacco, Mary Ann Reilly and myself, whom she believed had experience with such ministries as baptism preparation, faith formation for children and adult faith formation. With the core assembled, a new acronym and name were born - S.E.E.D. It stands for St. Eugene Evangelizing Disciples.

A mission statement of “Teaching to Reach … Reaching to Teach” was presented to Father Archie Tacay, C.I.C.M., pastor of St. Eugene. With his blessing, S.E.E.D was planted. It’s still growing today.

Our small group meets on Thursday mornings and has grown to 24 members. Each week consists of a constructed class session created by the Paulist Evangelization Ministry that includes Gospel reading, video lesson, group discussion and sharing. Each week our members have grown very comfortable in their faith sharing among the group. After completing "The Journey," we began our current program, “Sent to Serve." That provides a communal sharing experience. Through reflection of the Gospel, the Beatitudes and the sacraments, we are building the confidence of faith sharing. It was evident amongst a quite a few of our group. I proposed that we have an evangelization booth at an upcoming food festival.

Some felt they wanted to do that while others were uncomfortable. A lesson I learned a few years ago from my son Michael was that “God does not want you to be comfortable when proclaiming his word!" You need to proclaim the Good News in every situation or the right moment for you may pass.

The festival had our parish family as well as their family members in attendance. The possibility of non-practicing Catholics being present was great.

I borrowed the evangelizing format used by a very successful program called, “St. Paul Street Evangelization” to mirror our efforts. We purchased Catholic pamphlets in both English and Spanish on subjects relating to returning to the Catholic faith, the Eucharist and Mother Mary. We offered free rosaries and cross necklaces. We were also given a life-size cutout of Pope Francis and many people wanted their picture taken with it.

We experienced encounters with people wanting a rosary and to learn how to pray the rosary. One young boy wanted a rosary because his grandmother was teaching him and he wanted his own.

It was near the end of the day when a young couple and their infant stopped by after walking past us a few times. I asked the young man if he was Catholic. He replied no and said that his father was, but left the Church. He explained how he has been doing research of the Catholic Faith and wanted every pamphlet that we had including a rosary for he and his wife. I then turned to his wife and asked, “Are you Catholic”? She replied “no” and mentioned that they were disillusioned with their current faith life.

That is why we were there! God led them, Jesus whispered in their ear and the Holy Spirt opened their hearts. All we did was plant the seed, or S.E.E.D!