LANGLEY – Along with local produce and fresh flowers, visitors to the South Whidbey Tilth Farmers’ Market and the Langley Farmers Market can enjoy the fruits of a “prayer station.”
“We’re there simply to care, to pray, and answer questions,” said John Scehovic, who heads the evangelization committee at St. Hubert Parish in Langley. “Our goal is mainly to connect.”
Visitors to the prayer stations can pick up a rosary, a Miraculous Medal and pamphlets on the Catholic faith, as well as information about local Mass times.
“We’re a small community but we’ll get 12 people stopping by in an afternoon,” said committee member Christine Schoeler. “At least half want to pray, and that’s a plus right there.”
Teams of two from a pool of four volunteers have been going to the Tilth market from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays since the beginning of July, Scehovic said. In August, they added a prayer station at the Langley market, held from 1 to 5 p.m. on Fridays.
Scehovic said he was inspired to set up the stations after reading “Catholic Street Evangelization: Stories of Conversion and Witness” by Steve Dawson, the founder of the Catholic nonprofit organization St. Paul Street Evangelization.
Schoeler said she got involved because going to the local markets seemed less intimidating than trying to evangelize in downtown Seattle. “I didn’t know if I was bold enough to do this, but I was,” she said. “It’s a good stepping stone for small communities.”
Talking about our faith in public
Most interactions between the parish volunteers and visitors at the market are simply saying hello and finding a common interest, said team member Maralie Johnson. Then volunteers ask, “Is there anything you’d like us to pray with you about?”
She recalled praying with a man who has health problems. “He sits down on his walker and says, ‘I want to pray, not for me, but for my wife,’” Johnson said. “That just really touched all of us.”
“One person at a time, we’re making a difference,” she added.
Elizabeth Guss, St. Hubert’s pastoral assistant, stopped by one of the prayer stations, witnessing the gentle way the team approached visitors. And she had the chance to pray with the team for her own intentions.
“It was so meaningful to be at our little market and share a moment of prayer,” Guss said.
The evangelization committee is living out the Gospel in a unique way, she said. “They are deepening people’s faith and raising the profile of what it means to talk about our faith in public.”
Christine Schoeler, a parishioner at St. Hubert in Langley, is part of the evangelization team offering information and prayers at the South Whidbey Tilth Farmers’ Market in Langley on Sundays. Photo: John Scehovic
Education assists evangelizing
Books from the parish lending library are also available at the prayer stations for visitors to pick up.
“The idea is that they would have to come to the church to drop [the borrowed books] off,” said Scehovic, who helped start the parish library in 2015 (it now has about 350 books).
The evangelization committee is also helping educate parishioners. About 40 parishioners are participating in a book discussion group, and there are plans to show an educational video series to the parish.
“[We] Catholics, we are so lukewarm,” Schoeler said. “It’s time to get some fire under these people.”
Educating parishioners in their faith can help evangelization efforts, said Deacon Larry Jesmer, who helped get the library project started.
“We have a lot of parishioners who are active, but maybe were afraid to do evangelization because of what they didn’t know,” Deacon Jesmer said. Evangelization at the farmers’ markets is just the beginning, he said.
“John [Scehovic] is the seed, the apostle, going out, not knowing what’s going to happen,” Deacon Jesmer said. “It’s in its growing stages with nothing but positive things ahead.”