| By Rachel Rodriguez | Correspondent

Inviting people to Mass with a knock and a smile

At St. Luke Parish in Temple, on the first Saturday of each month, Father John Guzaldo and a team of parishioners walk through the streets of Temple to evangelize.

Father Guzaldo founded the Door to Door Ministry in January 2015 at St. Louis Parish in Waco, where he was pastor at the time. He said the idea took root as the parish was starting a Spanish Mass. He wondered to himself why people were going across town to attend Mass at a different parish. He then decided to go door to door and invite those who live in the neighborhood near the church to Mass. He recalled his father ministering door-to-door when he was a boy, and he remembered other faiths going door to door, as well.

Father Guzaldo and a few parishioners planned to meet for the first time; however, there was miscommunication as he was in the church praying and his team was at his house knocking. So, Father Guzaldo decided to go by himself on a cold and cloudy day. He recalls thinking to himself, “I’m crazy!”

At the first house, dogs came at him, so he retreated. The second house was empty. Then he went across the street and knocked on the door of the third house. A Hispanic lady greeted him and as he started introducing himself, she said, “I know who you are. I see you on TV.” He inquired “Are you Catholic?” and to his joy she was. He proceeded to invite her to Mass. With renewed spirit, he went to a few more homes and met a few neighbors. He began to think, “It’s almost starting to be fun.”

At the last house, only 100 yards away from St. Louis Parish, was a family who invited him in. They were Catholic, but they attended Mass across town. Door to Door Ministry, on that first day, proved ever fruitful as the family became good friends of Father Guzaldo and faithful parishioners. He credits them as instrumental in bringing about change and growing the Hispanic presence and community at the parish. The couple were married in the church and their children joined the youth group and brought their friends from the neighborhood.

Although off to a great start by himself, Father Guzaldo was missing his team of parishioners. The next month a few parishioners joined him, and the ministry grew to multiple groups. Eventually he handed off the ministry as he was transferred to St. Luke Parish in Temple in 2018. Within a few months of his arrival, Father Guzaldo introduced the ministry to the parish.

The mission of the Door to Door Ministry is to reach out to former or non-practicing Catholics. Father Guzaldo’s approach is simple: smile, be friendly and welcoming. The goal is to invite people to church making it clear there is no selling or soliciting of donations. With permission, they leave a current parish bulletin and a gift such as a rosary, medal, bookmark or book.

Father Guzaldo feels the days of waiting for people to come to church are over, so his mission is to invite people back to worship.

“We need to go and get them!” he said.

The parishioners who participate in the ministry feel they greatly benefit from walking the streets and reaching out to their neighbors. Even when they strike out, they feel it strengthens them and their resolve to keep going. After each trip, they come back together and share the day's experiences. They share a meal and continue to build community as they share the love of Christ with one another and with the greater community. Several members have experienced growth in their own faith as they invite their neighbors to Mass.

As one participant said, “Why do I do the good things that I do? It can bring people into a greater understanding of truth and a greater understanding of how we see God in each of his creatures and that is what I feel we get when we are out here.”

Rachel Rodriguez is a mother of three with wanderlust in her soul. She is a parishioner of St. Ignatius Martyr Parish in Austin.

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