Fr. Tim Kitzke, the pastor of three East Side Milwaukee parishes that include seven churches, recently told a story about his high school seminary days. He said that he used to ponder the idea of becoming a missionary in some exotic country, and now, here he is, a priest on Brady Street. Brady Street, part of Milwaukee's "Fashionable East Side"or FES for short, is home to many bars, coffee shops, restaurants and tattoo shops. The residents are known to be the most trendy young people around, and whenever I visit the area I marvel at the amount of people who sport tattoos, face piercings, gauge earrings and non-traditional hair styles and colors. Brady Street is definitely exotic!
In an effort to evangelize the neighborhood, Fr. Tim, along with some young adult parishioners, have begun a wonderful new initiative called Oremus MKE (Milwaukee). On a recent Saturday night, the busiest night of the week on Brady Street when the bars and restaurants are filled to capacity, Fr. Tim opened the doors to St. Hedwig's Church (part of Three Holy Women Parish) that sits in the midst of all of the life and activity on Brady Street, from 9 PM to Midnight for Eucharistic Adoration and confession. He sent many young parishioners out into the neighborhood to invite passersby in for a few moments of prayer.
Two of my sons and I had the joy of attending for the first grace-filled hour. The church was ablaze with candles, and local and extremely talented organist, Jake Heidel, and equally talented violinist, Brandon Rindfleish, set the prayerful mood with lovely strains of music such as the Salve Regina and God Beyond All Praising. All evening long people steadily streamed into the church. They were given candles to place at the foot of the altar near an icon of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and encouraged to spend a few minutes in prayer before the Eucharist. Information sheets were placed in the pews explaining the Catholic belief in the Real Presence along with promotional materials for Theology on Tap. Four priests awaited anyone who would be moved to confess their sins and then the evening closed with benediction at Midnight. As we left we were told that Oremus Milwaukee would be offered again later this summer or in the early fall. I highly encourage those in the Milwaukee area to attend and bring along a friend or two.
What exactly was it that the organizers hoped to achieve with Oremus MKE? From the Mission Milwaukee website:
"We are doing it because in Milwaukee we have a lot events (most of them are good events by the way) just for Catholics; there are service events, social events, liturgical events, but there is no bridge for inviting people outside of the Catholic circle to come to Catholic events. And even though most events in the church are open to everyone, how do we go about inviting people? Most people (including myself) get nervous when talking with a non-Catholic about our faith. We get so stuck in our little Catholic world that we don’t take the time to invest in people who are not part of the Catholic church. We only invest in people who are already Catholic but don’t take the time to invite other people who are outside of the faith. It forces us outside of our comfort zone. It's safer to talk to Catholics
But guess what; non Catholics find us intriguing. To a hipster a faithful Catholic might seem ‘anti-establishment’ or ‘going against the grain’ of culture. To a young person a faithful Catholic might look like someone who has a strong sense of identity, both personal and corporate. At the very least, an offer to come into a Catholic church to pray [for peace if that's what we ask for. its universal, its biblical, its something that people want] and feel like they are participating in something. Why into the church? Why not a prayer garden? Why can’t we just invite people into the prayer garden, or to the lakefront. Those places are good, but Catholics have something great we call ‘The Real Presence of Jesus Christ’ in every church. Perhaps nothing happens [to those who come into the church], but later on, when they are out at a ….bar…a party…they remember the moment of silence and peace and they realize for a just a moment that there is something more for them to do and…believe…but even if all they do is pray (unknowingly) before the Blessed Sacrament and the Sacrament (AKA Jesus, Real Presence) is present for them, is there for them, maybe this will prompt something for them. Maybe the Holy Spirit will work in their lives. What is the ultimate goal? To fill the pews; not really. To promote peace; maybe, to bring about peace; maybe. To bring people into union with Jesus, yes. To bring people before the Lord. Yes. It’s simple enough. Just open the door, and invite them in."
Visit the Mission Milwaukee website here for more information.
|photo credit: Sam Vosters/Tom Klind|
|photo credit: Sam Vosters/Tom Klind|