The New Evangelization is Alive and Well in Soho Print
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 22 February 2008 06:27
One remarkable initiative in England is happening at St. Patrick's Church in Soho, London: St. Patrick's Evangelization School. (SPES) At. SPES, young adults spend 9 months being formed spiritually and in terms of the New Evangelization. It is one of the very few programs of its kind in the UK and is parish-based.

Anyway, I came across the SPES student's blog (Hope in the Heart of Soho) and this description of an outreach in the north of England that took place last May:

Christ Alive in the North

We're just back from a weekend up north, staying with Fr. Richard Aladics in Huddersfield. He's on his own in an area that is largely lapsed (and also the product of a drug and binge drinking mentality) and he feels that if he is to do anything significant there then he needs the help of a community. 'It's not a parish, this - it's missionary territory.' On Friday he held a prayer and healing hour in his church, and we spent the morning handing out flyers as he processed through the streets blessing them with Holy Water and saying 'May the peace of Christ reign here!' We also handed out flyers at the local Catholic primary school. For the prayer and healing hour Fr. Richard heard confessions as we prayed before the Blessed Sacrament, and then he blessed individual people with the Blessed Sacrament as they came up. He said to us there were more parishioners there than at any other event he had held in the parish.

On Saturday we went to Bradford to help the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal with their event: Christ Alive in Bradford! A tent had been put up in the green, in which there was an afternoon of talks, testimonies, adoration, a May Crowning of Mary, and praise and worship. Fr. John Wilson from Leeds gave a particularly good talk on the Eucharist and the family, stressing the importance of families spending time together and praying together. The weather was not on our side for most of the day, but that did not stop the friars and the rest of us from going downtown to invite people to the event. A few people came to the tent from off the streets, merely because they were curious, but left noticeably changed. It was a wonderful event and hopefully the first of many like it.

There are a number of these wonderful schools of evangelization around the world where young adults can live in community and receive both personal formation and formation for evangelism. I've blogged on some of them before here.

But how important it is for those of us who haven't had that opportunity to also have some experience of true Christian community, apostolic formation, discernment, and mission. And the parish is the only place where 99% of us will ever experience anything like it.

At St. Patrick's, prayer and mission is at the heart of everything. Eucharistic Adoration takes place from 11 am to 6 pm everyday and Mass is celebrated in Portuguese and Chinese. And there is a school of evangelization right at the heart of things. This is a very tough neighborhood. At least 1000 addicts and 60 brothels are found within the parish. But the parish has responded in some very creative ways, including the SOS Prayerline, operating at the top of the church's Victorian tower, in which the School of Mission students take the time to pray with and for the callers. The telephone line is open from 7pm to 11pm seven days a week (0011-44-20- 7434 92111). It is not a counselling service but rather a service that helps callers offer their prayers and petitions of all kinds to God, who is exposed in the Blessed Sacrament in the room where the telephones are answered.

Another move that met an important need in London was the 2003 opening of St Patrick's London Fertility Care Centre, offering expert help to individuals and couples seeking alternatives to artificial contraception and artificial reproductive technologies.

For more on St. Patrick's and its remarkable pastor and community, check out this article in the May, 2005 edition of AD 2000.