Evangelization may seem tricky, but the Community of Jesus Crucified in Saint Martinville, La. has created a unique way to follow in the footsteps of Saint Paul and meet people where they are.
Father Michael Champagne, the religious Superior of CJC, spoke with ChurchPOP regarding the incredible way they take to the streets and evangelize using their mobile confessional.
According to Father Champagne, the CJC was founded in 1986 by Father Jerome Frey and includes laity, religious brothers, sisters, and priests.
This community is especially devoted to Eucharistic adoration and performs new evangelization endeavors like mobile confessionals.
They even hold an annual continuous reading of the Bible in the public square and an annual 40-mile Eucharistic Boat Procession on the Feast of the Assumption.
Father shared that the idea of a mobile confessional first came to him when he was a young priest assigned to hospital ministry.
“Among the types of ambulances that would frequent the hospital was a Critical Care Transport,” Father Champagne explained. “I thought it would be helpful to have an old ambulance converted into a Spiritual Care Unit that could go out to where people are and provide evangelization and possibly confessions on the street.
“[When] Pope Francis called the Year of Mercy and emphasized making the Sacrament of Confession more available, I went on eBay and acquired an old ambulance and retrofitted it into a mobile confessional,” the priest continued.
Since it was first acquired in Dec. 2015, it has made over 500 stops.
Check out the recent video on X (Formerly Twitter) below:
I love it! A religious order in Louisiana transformed this ambulance into a mobile confessional! They park it at tailgate parties, shopping malls, and anywhere else the Holy Spirit takes them! pic.twitter.com/2k2oZO9ptw
— Jason Evert (@jasonevert) November 29, 2023
According to Father Champagne, they drive the confessional to various sporting events, fishing tournaments, hospitals, shopping malls, breweries, construction sites, movie theaters, parish events, hunting camps, Mardi Gras, and more.
He said that while some locations were one-time stops, they visit others regularly.
Father said the response to this endeavor has been amazing from Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
“For the first few years, we used a clicker to track how many people entered the mobile confessional, but after a few years, we stopped doing this.
“When we stopped counting, we already heard over 10,000 confessions. The majority of people coming are those who have been away from the Sacraments and ecclesial life for some time,” Father Champagne said.
“They return to the Sacraments and then we see them at Mass on weekends in the various parishes throughout the diocese.
“Since we began, we have added a ChurcHaul (retrofitted U-Haul trailer for use at nursing homes) and two more old ambulances donated by our local ambulance provider.”
Courtesy of the Community of Jesus Crucified
“Today we have so many Catholics that no longer identify with the Church or perhaps have not been to Confession in years,” Father Champagne continued.
“These persons are often not in our congregations on Sunday, so we have to show up where they are to meet them. By getting on their turf and having a team on the outside of the mobile confessional to engage them, and answer questions about the Church and the Sacrament, amazing miracles happen.”
“Jesus did most of His preaching and ministry along the highways and byways and we must continue to have this as part of our ministry,” Father Champagne added.
“The Church has become too secularized and sedentary with office hours and having people come to us. Jesus did say we need to leave the 99 sheep that are safe and go out after the one stray sheep.”
Courtesy of the Community of Jesus Crucified
When discussing what this ministry could look like in the future, Father Champagne revealed his desire to continue this epic way of evangelization.
“The Church is missionary in its nature and we need to rediscover a zeal for souls that Jesus manifested on the Cross when He uttered ‘I Thirst!’
“So many are encountering Christ and His Church by encountering the Spiritual Care Unit. Because they are grateful for the grace they encountered, they end up evangelizing others in a similar way.”
Father stated that he knows of another mobile confessional plan in Michigan and even heard that a bishop in Texas is interested in one for his diocese.
“I think every diocese should have a mobile confessional unit and have priests assigned to do this street ministry on a regular basis,” he said.
“One cold day in the mobile confessional, I sat for about five hours hearing confessions. I looked out the window of the old ambulance and saw a line of people, young and old, standing for hours waiting to go to confession. The thought came to me: ‘People do want to go to confession; we just don’t want to hear their confession. We priests are few and are so very busy and hearing confessions is hard work; but if not us, who?’”
“There will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10)
A religious order in Louisiana saw an advertisement for an affordable used ambulance. The vehicle is now a beacon of hope. The Community of Christ Crucified has turned the ambulance into a mobile confessional. The brothers take it to the shopping mall, football games and anywhere… pic.twitter.com/FASBcLa4Sv
— EWTN News Nightly (@EWTNNewsNightly) December 6, 2023