As Thanksgiving approaches, many communities host agricultural fairs to showcase everything from the best potatoes to the best heifers.
At the Metcalfe Fair, in a small rural town in the Ottawa archdiocese, local Catholics decided to showcase their faith Oct. 1-4, putting evangelization into practice by offering free popcorn, rosaries, pamphlets, friendly glances, kind words, and meaningful conversations. One of their big draws is the presence of the Queenship of Mary sisters in their habits.
Fr. Anthony Hannon, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena parish in Metcalfe, first attended the fair in 2008 and noticed the Presbyterians and the United Church had booths, so he decided his parish would have one the following year.
But he recalled it was a tough slog. The first year, they handed out literature and found many people would either avoid their booth or politely take the pamphlets only to throw them in the trash can as soon as they were out of sight. He recalled going outdoors and finding one of their pamphlets about Jesus outside in the rain, lying in the mud with a big footprint mark on it.
While Mother Mary Bernadette, the Queenship of Mary founder kept the popcorn machine going, Sister Teresa Catherine Marie said she toured the barn where there was a display of animals for children, including some baby ducklings. “There’s a very family feeling to the fair,” she said. “Being able to share the hope we have is always a plus.”
“Yesterday, all of us went on the rides,” she said, grinning. “That was a lot of fun. It’s also a way of evangelizing.”
Ottawa father John Pacheco brought his five daughters and some members of the Legionnaires of St. Maurice, a men’s group he leads at his parish, to help out at the booth and to get ideas for their own evangelization projects.
Pacheco said he wanted his kids and the men in his group to see “evangelization is a normal part of life” and not a “hard sell” where someone “presses a button and you put on your evangelization face.”
“Most Catholics have never been involved in evangelization” he said. “We keep talking about the new evangelization, but nobody ever does anything. It’s all talk, talk, talk.”
Helping out at the fair gives the men in his group a chance to see how people react. “It’s all about practice,” he said. Next year they might rent the booth next door and add some other elements, including music and a man dressed as a medieval knight to help spark questions and opportunities to talk about chivalry and Catholic moral teaching.