WILMINGTON, Del. — “I want the Church to be in the streets. I want us to defend ourselves against all that is worldliness, comfort, being closed and turned within.”
So said Pope Francis during last year’s World Youth Day in Brazil. This year, the people of St. Paul’s Parish in Wilmington kept the pontiff’s words in their hearts, as they celebrated their faith outdoors during Misión en la Calle, or Mission in the Street, from Aug. 5 to 8.
An annual occurrence since 1982, Misión en la Calle is held on the church grounds or in a nearby neighborhood for four weeknights every August.
“We hold the mission outdoors so that people in our neighborhood who don’t normally go to Church can hear the message of the Gospel and feel invited to stop by,” said pastor Todd Carpenter, OFM. “Our parishioners are encouraged to bring a friend who perhaps feels alienated from the Church or who is not practicing his or her faith.”
The mission, conducted in Spanish, is sponsored by the parish’s Charismatic Movement, an organization that has been a pillar at St. Paul’s for more than 50 years, according to Todd. Approximately 100 people attended each night of this year’s event, with 150 people participating the final evening.
“During the last couple of years, this has been a mission that most Latinos would be familiar with,” said Todd. “There was lively music by our talented Charismatic choir, charismatic-style prayer, preaching, faith healing and fellowship.”
The mission is very much an evangelization effort, according to the friar, stationed in Delaware since 2008.
“Each night, the preacher used one of Pope Francis’s popular phrases for the topic of their preaching,” said Todd. “I preached on the first night and chose Pope Francis’s words from his interview with America magazine last September. ‘The thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful. It needs nearness, proximity. I see the Church as a field hospital after a battle.’
“I spoke about the need for the Church to bring healing to those who are on the margins of society and the Church,” he added.
Todd performed the final blessing each night of the mission. On the last evening, Paul Breslin, OFM, newly assigned to St. Paul’s, attended after arriving in Wilmington earlier that day. The friars have also been joined by a Capuchin friar who is serving until May as a transitional deacon at St. Paul’s.
The mission is just one of several community events organized by the parish. This month, St. Paul’s is holding a Juan XXIII Women’s Retreat and a Hispanic parade. Many parishioners come together on a monthly basis to walk through crime-ridden sections of Wilmington, peacefully demonstrating against violence and drug use.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.