San Gennaro Mission Blog

“The Promise”

St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, So Ho.  After a long wet week in New York, the sun has dawned, and a nostalgic sense of another summer’s passing lingers in the warm air.  Missionary recruits from the weekend’s Lumen Convention have arrived, along with our core missionary team and four LC priests.  Surveying the scene down Mulberry, a smoky haze from the sausage grillers hangs over the crowd streaming towards us.  We station three missionaries in the church, three in front, two on Prince and Mott, and two on Mulberry near the back entrance and the two large “Confessions” sign we’ve posted there.  A single missionary stands alone on Prince and Mulberry, maintaining visual contact with the two street stations on either end of Prince.  The Holy Spirit promptly hands him a family of seven, and business starts up.  Many stories, but three stand out…

“Mama’s Talking to You”

All afternoon long, the missionaries are inviting souls into the church, as if raking the coming autumn’s leaves.  Gina from Houston, posted at the rear door, is standing joyfully in the middle of Mulberry Street as if she was just another zeppoli vendor, and is drawing a crowd all afternoon.  She stops Robert, in a hurry to get somewhere (nowhere?)  with his girlfriend.  “No, no, no!   We’re in a hurry, it’s been away too long, and anyway, I’ve long since forgotten how to do it.”    A long discussion seems to be going nowhere.  Then Gina lays down the law.  “Listen to me, Robert.  I’m your Mama talking.  You need to do this!  I can see it in your face.  Let’s go! We’re going in together!”  In the church before the Lord,  they review the guide to confession.  Then, into confession Robert marches.  “Yes Mame, I’m going in!” He returns later,  glowing.

“The Promise”

Doug, out on Prince and Mott, brings in Mary Ann, accompanied by a Protestant friend,  to the missionary in the back of the church.  “Just here to pray, thank you!” She prays a while, silently.  “Mary Ann, you know, while you are here, would you consider going to confession? I have wonderful missionary priests here, and they give the most beautiful confessions!”  “Oh, no! I really couldn’t!  I just came to pray, thank you.”  About 5 minutes later, the missionary approaches again.  “Mary Ann, I promise, this will be terrific.  Just what you need.”  Her friend chimes in, “Mary Ann, you should go.  It will be good for you.” No, thank you. I’ll just light a candle.”  Later, the missionary approaches for the third time.  “Mary Ann, I promise you.  Trust me on this!” “But I don’t even know how to do it!  It’s been over 20 years.” “I’ll help you.  I promise you, you will not regret this.”  Together, they review the confession guide, then Mary Ann asks if she can go to the priest behind a curtain.  Sometime later, she emerges, glowing.  “You were right!  Your promise was right! I feel as light as air!”  She returns to her friend, still patiently waiting, and performs an impromptu “Confession Jig”  right there in the pew.  Another promise kept.

“Sophie Finds Her Soul”

In front of the church, two attractive young RC women, 17-year-old Sophie and her older sister Gianna, stand joyfully at the church’s entrance.  Sophie is not sure why she is here, but one of the missionaries assures her she is here for maybe just one soul whom she is uniquely gifted to bring in.  About 6:00 pm, he arrives.  “Good afternoon, sir! Would you like to come into light a candle?”  “No, not really.  But thanks…   Hey, would you young ladies mind if I took a slow-motion picture of you out in front of the church?”  The girls consult, and Gianna agrees it is ok.  While Brian is filming, the girls make small talk with him.  Then they decide to get to the point.  “Look, John, we think you’re Catholic.  How about taking one of our rosaries?”  Brians eyes well up in tears.  “What’s wrong John?”  “My grandmother used to give me rosaries.  She and I were very close.  She died this morning.”  A long discussion ensues and eventually,  the threesome walks ever so slowly into the church, where they light candles, kneel before the Blessed Sacrament, and pray the rosary together.  Later, as he is leaving, Brian talks about how this encounter changed him.  “You two were placed here for me, I’m quite sure.  I was very low, but now I’m back on track.  Thank you.”  As Sophie excitedly tells her story later to a missionary, she seems to be glowing even brighter than some of the new penitents now wandering through Little Italy.  “You were right Mr. Auth!  You were right! I did find my soul!”

A missionary.

September 16, 2018