Crookston, MN: The Office of Evangelization of the Diocese of Bemidji saw providence in coincidence.
This year's annual day to promote vocations--callings to priesthood, religious life, or sacramental marriage--coincided with Minnesota's annual fishing opener. In Bemidji, Minnesota Catholics celebrated the annual fishing opener by being "fishers of people". They went door to door and asked people to consider their vocation in life.
A long planned event and well-publicized in town ("we didn't want to shock people," said Fr. LeRoy), the parishes of Bemidji trained parishioners to go to at least five homes and ask the residents if they had ever considered their calling in life. "I was skeptical," admitted Fr. Roy LeTour, "but they keep telling us we need to reach out to people we don't necessarily know. And on the day of the Opener, the 'fishers of people' hook--heh heh heh heh, sorry--was kind of amusing. Finally, let's face it, the snow just melted here and we're dying to get outside and actually see some people. So I encouraged my parish to give the Great Commission a whirl."
Fr. LeTour, of St. Agatha's Church, handed out "talking points" to all parishioners for the evangelization project. They encouraged people to go in pairs, be inviting, smile, and offer information about the local Catholic parishes. They also had sample conversations on this crib sheet ("Sir, have you thought about your calling in life?" "Why no, I've stumbled through, pretty much. Who is it that is calling me?" "That would be God, sir. And He has a plan for your life. Would you like some information on seminaries?"), but many parishioners admitted the conversations didn't go according to script.
"I had problems convincing people I wasn't Mormon," said Lydia McGee, "but then I started approaching the door with my rosary in hand, and that helped. And the first few times I started with the 'Do you know that God has a plan for your life?' line, but after a few people responded with 'Can't be--I'm Lutheran!' I switched over to 'Look, come and see already. Here's my church, I sit in the second left pew. I'll show you the ropes. And if you want to talk, I'm around.' It was amazing; some people seemed interested."
Others reported they were able to have some surprisingly meaty conversations on the vocation of marriage with women whose husbands had been gone at the Opener all weekend. "I'll tell HIM about a vocation to marriage, you betcha," said one of the contacted women, who asked not to be named. "A weekend of fishing is one thing, but he's been polishing his rods and reels for two solid weeks and you KNOW who is going to be scaling the fish, right? Not him. Right now I'm feeling called to eat at the Golden Corral round bout the time he comes home, ya."
Fr. LeRoy said it was too soon to judge whether "Fishers of People" was a success or not, but he is already planning for next year. "2012, I'm hitting the lakes. I'm going to motor up to people and ask them if they want to be fishers of men. I'll even throw in a walleye dinner in the deal if they listen to my pitch."