Redfern locals welcome the Word on the street

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The Emmanuel Community’s Victoria Costello talks to a passer-by on the street. Photo: Patrick J. Lee

A group of Sydney Catholics are gently but confidently taking Jesus Christ to the streets of Redfern each month.

The outreach run by the Emmanuel Community is a shared passion with the parish priest of Catholic Community of City South Father Paul Smithers. On Friday 13 September around 40 members of the Emmanuel Community and others gathered on Redfern Street outside of St Vincent de Paul Church for the regular ‘mission night’.

While half of the group remained outside to sing praise hymns and offer a friendly greeting, chat, or even the offer of a prayer to passersby, the others prayed for their efforts before the Blessed Sacrament.

Reconciliation was available and people deciding to enter the church had an opportunity to light a candle, pray quietly, take a short scripture passage home, or simply pause for a moment before going on their way.

Rebecca Saleme shares a greeting with passersby on Redfern Street. PHOTO: Patrick J Lee

“Our aim is not to get people to come to into the church, some do, but we hope they will have an encounter with Jesus either through our presence outside or anything they encounter inside,” said the Emmanuel Community’s Helen Wagner who believes she has never had an unfriendly reaction to its unique style of street evangelisation.

“Even if someone doesn’t want to engage very much with us but only takes away an impression of a friendly smile and a ‘hello’, that is still valuable,” she said.
“It might be an important step towards building a bridge of trust with the Church.”

Emmanuel Community member Renita Rosario and Sam Laffy discuss life, the universe and everything with members of the public. Photo: Patrick J. Lee

Father Smithers said that the locals appreciate the fact that the group is a regular “gentle presence for the curious” and his experience of the mission nights this year corresponds with recent statistics that 24 percent of non-Christian Australians were ‘warm’ towards Christianity.

“It is a ministry of simply being present to talk to those passing by on the street,” he said. “They don’t push faith, they are a gentle presence for the curious. Some people even take the step to come into the church to spend a little time in quiet prayer.

“We have a great gift to share. Why hide it?”

Last month the Catholic community of Waterloo, Rosebery and Redfern celebrated the 160th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone of the Shrine of Our Lady of Mt Carmel in Waterloo, at which Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP said he trusted that “new adventures” in the parish, including in evangelisation and formation, would bear fruit.

The next mission night will be on 18 October from 7.30-9pm. Anyone wishing to join the team may email [email protected].

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