PARSONS: Evangelization - Planting seeds of faith

July 14, 2020

As summer beings and we work out in our yards, planting flowers and, maybe, planting vegetables, we are reminded of new life. 

Evangelization is a lot like planting seeds in your garden.

There was a Russian ocean tug that was coming into Galveston every 10 days from Coatzacoalcos, Mexico. Every time they arrived, I visited the vessel. At first, the visits were not so welcomed by the crew, but little by little, I continued to smile and greet the Russians. After a few months, the chief engineer, Victor, asked me, “Do you trust in God?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “Why?” That little exchange opened the door to a wonderful evangelization moment that continued on every visit.

Victor was very curious about my faith and asked many questions. It happened that one of their trips into Galveston came during Holy Week — the day before Palm Sunday. At that point, I was comfortable asking Victor if he would like to go to Church with my family to see what it was all about. He said yes. So we took Victor to Palm Sunday Mass. He was wide-eyed and taking it all in. After Mass, he wanted to know about each stained glass window in St. Patrick Catholic Church in Galveston.

It was a beautiful day. The vessel was due to leave that evening, but an engine problem caused a delay.

As Holy Week continued, I asked Victor if he would like to go to Holy Thursday Mass and Good Friday services with us. He said yes. Both services were very different from each other. He watched all the people in the Church; he saw the washing of the feet, the stripping of the altar, the Veneration of the Cross, heard the Stations of the Cross, and so much more. Then on Easter Sunday, he came with us again.

The glorious bells ringing and celebrating the Risen Lord was breathtaking. He was so in awe of it all.

Victor’s vessel left, and when they were in Mexico, the owner changed its route, and we never saw them again. A year later, I had the opportunity to travel to Kaliningrad, Russia, to meet Victor’s family. When I arrived there by boat, Victor was nowhere to be seen. He was called back to sea the day before I arrived. His wife, Larissa, and daughter, Natasha, met me.

They took me to their home, where I saw the front cover of St. Patrick Parish bulletin from Easter Sunday, with the Risen Lord on it, in a frame hanging in their living room. Natasha explained that, when her dad came home, he told them about what he learned about faith in Galveston. Then she took me to a Russian Orthodox Church that they began going to together.

Planting seeds, seeing sprouts, watching new life grow! The seeds of love bring forth sprouts of faith and new life in hope! 

Karen M. Parsons, OFS, is a port chaplain with the Apostleship of the Sea.