Diocese of Phoenix hits the streets to evangelize during Super Bowl LVII week
As 1 million visitors are expected to descend upon downtown Phoenix for Super Bowl LVII festivities prior to the Sunday game, the Diocese of Phoenix is capitalizing on the opportunity to share the love of Christ.
“We want to offer people the love of God and the hope that we have in Christ,” Joyce Coronel, program manager for Christ in Our Neighborhood, the diocese’s evangelization program, told CNA Friday.
Coronel has set up a team of about 12 volunteers to encounter pedestrians and hand out sacramentals like rosaries and miraculous medals, in addition to informational pamphlets on the Catholic faith.
Additionally, an assembly of priests has been organized to cover continuous hours of confession in an outdoor confessional right on the side of the street.
All the volunteers are set up outside of St. Mary’s Basilica at 231 N. 3rd St. in Phoenix, right across from the Phoenix Convention Center, which is hosting an event called the Super Bowl Experience for fans.
“It’s really cool because you’re walking down the street and all of a sudden you see this wooden confessional screen, and there’s a priest sitting there, and you see people kneeling down and just repenting, and getting that healing. That mercy from God is really beautiful,” she said.
On Thursday, priests heard confessions from 2:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. They will be hearing confessions in the same time frame on Friday. On Saturday, priests will be hearing confessions all day, from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Referring to the screen in the confessional, Coronel said: “We wanted to make sure that we gave anyone that approaches that sacrament the option for anonymity, and so far every one of them has preferred that, which is really great because people have a right to that anonymity in the sacrament.”
In addition to having water bottles and granola bars at the diocese’s booth outside the cathedral, there are signs that say “Can we pray for you?” and “Catholic priest available: Need confession? Have questions? Want to talk?”
Coronel said two volunteers had encountered a woman who had six children, three of whom passed away. After so much loss, she told them, they had all lost their faith in God.
The woman told the volunteers: “We told God that three strikes and you’re out,” Coronel said.
“There are three remaining children who now no longer believe in God because they had lost three of their siblings. So these two volunteers stood out there on the street and held hands with this woman and prayed with her. And we’re keeping a list of current intentions, and we’re gonna keep praying for that family, and praying for those children,” she said.
Coronel said there is a sign at the booth that shows the daily Mass times for the basilica and its Sunday Mass schedule as well.
The basilica offers 12:05 p.m. Mass each day and a 7 a.m., 9 a.m., and 11:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday.
Coronel said the idea for the booth was sparked by Brett Meister, the diocese’s communication director who is a “huge sports fan,” and was responsible for putting a large banner on the basilica saying “Welcome football fans!”
A sign that says “Welcome football fans!” hangs on St. Mary’s Basilica in Phoenix during Super Bowl week. The Diocese of Phoenix is offering the sacraments and free sacramentals — as well as information on Sunday Mass times and locations — to pedestrians in the city on the days leading up to the NFL Super Bowl, which is Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023, in Glendale, Arizona. Coronel loved the idea and wanted to expand upon it by bringing the street confessional and evangelization volunteers.
She said many people seem like “everything looks great” on the outside, but on the inside, “there are a lot of broken hearts out there.” Coronel says she found freedom and healing in Jesus’ mercy and wants to share that with other people.
by Joe Bukuras, Catholic News Agency