Transfiguration parish holds evangelizing blitz

BLYTHEWOOD—Members of Transfiguration Church are taking their faith to the streets in a new evangelism effort.

The 70 families taking part in the “Lenten Blitz” have been visiting homes throughout Blythewood and parts of Columbia for the past six weeks, dropping off door hangers that offer information about the church and what Catholics believe.

Father Andrew Trapp, parish administrator, came up with the idea as a way to spark an evangelical spirit in the congregation of about 214 households. He spoke about evangelization in his homily for several weeks prior to Lent.

“I wanted them to know that everyone is called to share the faith, not just priests and nuns,” he said. “I’d always admired the door-to-door zeal of our Protestant brothers and sisters, talking to people about their faith, but that kind of thing can be a hard sell for Catholics.”

St. Francis de Sales was the inspiration for the door-hanger campaign. Father Trapp said the saint passed out printed material about the faith to hostile Calvinist households in Switzerland and ended up drawing many people back to the church.

He ordered 2,500 fliers from a local printing company that he thought would last during Lent. By late March, he had ordered three more batches. Volunteers passed out more than 7,500.

Each door hanger includes a colorful flier about Transfiguration with an invitation to the weekly Lenten fish fries, and a copy of Our Sunday Visitor’s popular “10 Most Asked Questions” brochure.

Newspaper outreach is another part of the blitz. The parish took out a series of six color ads in three local newspapers that reach about 10,000 households in the Blythewood area.

The goal is to reach out to lapsed  Catholics and clear up misconceptions about the faith. Topics included the meaning of the Eucharist, confession and Mary. Another ad, “Why don’t churches agree?” focused on Jesus’ desire for the church to be united in faith and as a body of believers.

The ads also were successful in attracting new members who may not have known about the church. In a column on the parish website, Father Trapp mentioned one couple who had recently moved back to Blythewood and started attending Transfiguration after one of their parents mentioned the ad.

Michael and Betty Jones, who live in the sprawling Lake Carolina community about eight miles from the church, say the blitz has given them a chance to live out their faith in a more public way.

“I’m excited about it because I’ve been interested in evangelism ever since Pope Paul VI and John Paul II urged us to be evangelical in our approach to faith,” Mr. Jones said in an interview with The Miscellany. “Father Trapp and his ideas have been a real injection of excitement for our parish.”

The couple, who moved to the Columbia area from Florida in 2008, has made two trips to neighborhoods in their area. They pick up envelopes of door hangers at church and mark down the addresses they cover, which are then marked by pins and highlighted on a large map that sits near the church entrance.

On a recent Wednesday morning, the couple drove to a subdivision near their home and hung fliers on about 20 doors. No one was home at most of the houses, which didn’t matter because they weren’t ringing doorbells and attempting conversations with potentially unwilling people.

When the occasional person did walk by or come out of their garage, Mr. Jones would ask if they liked fish fries and then tell them about the upcoming event at Transfiguration. The goal is simply to share information about their parish with as many people as possible.

“I was a little nervous about doing this at first, but now I’m really excited about what we’re doing,” Mrs. Jones said. She said she has only heard positive comments about the effort from other church members, and she knew at least two people attended Mass because of the fliers.

“The ‘10 Most Asked Questions’ brochure does a good concise job of straightening out myths about Catholicism, which is a very important thing, especially here in the Bible Belt,” Mr. Jones said. “It’s not really like you’re out street-preaching or anything. This kind of evangelism is very subtle and non-confrontational.”