Throughout Lent, the office of Evangelisation and Catechesis are delighted to offer weekly stories of accompaniment & the Hope, Faith, Joy, and Love of Christ from the lay faithful of our diocese in the journey of Missionary Discipleship.
Sharon recently completed the diocesan Mission Made Possible discipleship sessions. She is married to Mark with two grown up children and lives in Bournemouth. Sharon has been bought up in the Catholic faith by her Italian mother and her English father converted to the Catholic faith later in life. Looking back, Sharon is aware that she was a late developer in understanding the faith when she was young, but the basic teachings of love and kindness were strong. It was when Sharon’s father became very ill that her faith increased, but her epiphany came on the day that her father was to be called back to his Heavenly home. She went to fetch her priest, who came and gave her father the blessings and prayers to see him safely to his new home. On the return journey to take her priest back to his parish she had an urgent need to ask for the Holy Spirit. Asking the priest whether he ever had the feeling that the Holy Spirit was wanted so much more than was felt at the time, she asked for him to pray for her and invoke the Holy Spirit. Her dear priest said a prayer and it was then that her life changed – the Holy Spirit was indeed with her, like a bolt of lightning she felt different and realised that life was about getting back to Heaven and to save as many souls as possible.
A conversion like this is not easy, there is a period of transition which lasted several years, but always guided by the Holy Spirit, despite difficulties, heart aches and many tears, she feels she has found her place. During the above time, Sharon studied a lot with the help of Fr Mike Schmitz podcasts for Bible in a Year. Books about the Saints, in particular St Loui De Montfort (and she consecrated herself to Mary) helped, and she was last year professed into the Secular Franciscan Order, living in the real world but following the life of St Francis of Assisi.
Whilst going to the local high street running an errand for my mother, I invoked the Holy Spirit to send me someone to share Jesus with.
I noticed the people passing by, their facial expressions, their stances, their ailments and felt connected to the world. Smiling at those that looked up I waited for an encounter. Despite a few hello’s and exchanges of conversations in the shops, nothing happened.
Then, on the way back to the car a man standing on a corner offered me a leaflet. All I saw was the word GOD, and gave a smile saying, no thank you, I am a Catholic and Franciscan.
I only made four or five steps when I thought, oh no, what have I done, that was not right, go back, go back. I felt terrible, really disappointed in myself and a bad example of a Christian. I went back, apologised to the man and explained that I didn’t usually go out to shops as I felt anxious as I didn’t like the way the world was going. I asked if he would pray with me for the world. We stood together and I shut my eyes and said a few words of personal prayer for the world, love, peace, faith for all and then opened her eyes and asked if he would like to pray the Our Father. He seemed more than happy to do so. After saying the prayer, the man seemed very moved, maybe even tears, so I gave him a hug. He proceeded to tell me about his wife who was very ill and for whom he was a carer. Another hug later as emotions were very strong, I told him about the healing service that day at my local church, but he was unable to attend so I said I would pray for them both there as well and keep them in her heart.
Leaving and going back to her car, I felt uplifted, and a wonderful warm feeling of love and hope from the encounter and very blessed by the Holy Spirit for working through me. Amazingly, my anxiety gave way to the realisation that there are many good people in the world and not to be afraid.
If you would like some information on the diocesan discipleship formation sessions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Fr. Jon Bielawski has been a priest for 32 years. He heads up the department of Evangelisation and Catechesis for the diocese and is co-founder of Genesis Mission for the formation of Missionary disciples. You can hear more of Fr Jon’s encounters here https://podcast.genesismission.co.uk/