by Tom Blackburn
'I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church's energies to a new evangelisation and to the mission ad gentes. No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.’ (St Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, 1990)
As Leicester Square bustled with its normal Saturday buzz, seminarians from Allen Hall and young men seeking vocations to the priesthood in Westminster joined the Spirit in the City team for an exciting day of evangelisation.
The annual event began on Friday 31st May in Notre Dame de France Church in Leicester Square with a celebration of Mass, adoration and worship, before spilling out into the streets on Saturday with live music, street evangelisation, a tent for Adoration, a Confession tent, foot washing, talks and workshops, question and answer with Catholic Voices, and a prayer ministry with the faithful leading individuals in prayer. In the evening Bishop Nicholas Hudson celebrated Mass in the church, before the event came to a close at 8pm.
Spirit in the City was first organised in 2006 as an initiative by local churches in response to a desire to share something of the Catholic faith with visitors and the West End community. The theme for 2019, ‘Life to the Full (Jn 10:10)’ was based upon the Scripture passage. Jesus is the gate through whom we enter, in whom we find our safety and in whom our lives are filled to abundance. This was the heart of the day and the prayer for us, and for all those we encountered on the streets of Leicester Square.
There were different ways in which the seminarians were encouraged to participate. Mainly, they were following the simple instructions of Christ to go out two-by-two to announce the good news to anyone and everyone! The men each came with their own experience of evangelising, and throughout the day it was apparent that the Holy Spirit was using each person for different things. It was beautiful to see one seminarian opening the Scriptures for members of the public, while others washed feet, danced and enjoyed the wide variety of music that was being provided for the event.
Many of the volunteers were witnesses to beautiful moments with members of the public, with some instant fruits of this evangelisation being visible, while we pray that this witness of the love of God for every person will continue to bear fruit going forwards in people lives.
At Mass, Bishop Nicholas preached in the French Church about Jean Vanier, who had sadly passed away recently. He preached of the evangelisation of a humble man who founded the L’Arche communities which in their own unique way gave value to those with disabilities. In this way, looking at the evangelisation and mission of the Church he brought the day together with an image of one church and one mission.
‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ (Matthew 28:19-20 )