Mall ministry’ reaches believers where they shop

Nov. 17
November 17, 2009
Mr. Heath Adam Perkins
November 19, 2009
Nov. 17
November 17, 2009
Mr. Heath Adam Perkins
November 19, 2009

Locals who have taken to the Southland Mall for an early start on the holiday shopping season over the last week may have noticed something a little less conventional during their spree – a cart containing information about the Catholic Church and the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux.

The program known as “mall ministry” was the brainchild of Bishop Sam Jacobs who said the mall was chosen because that is where the majority of the people are at this time of year.

“I think if Jesus Christ were here today he would minister in the shopping malls,” the bishop said in a release. “That’s where the people are.”

The cart is located across from Champs Sports near JCPenney. It is open Monday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., except on Thanksgiving Day. It will remain in its location until Wednesday, Dec. 23.

Jacobs said he felt a presence by the church in public places would help bring people together.

“The main focus of this new project is to bring the presence of the diocese ministering in the name of Christ to the people, especially during the Christmas season,” he said. “With Christmas becoming more and more commercialized, people tend to forget that the central focus is the birth of Christ.”

Nearly 100 people have volunteered to man the cart. They are on hand distributing information and answering any questions the public might have.

Sue Manning and Margaret Orgeron from St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Thibodaux are two of the workers who volunteered their time to work the booth.

Both see it as an opportunity to get out and be visible to the public while sharing their faith.

“I love evangelization and being able to talk to everyone,” Manning said. “It’s a chance to share our faith and Jesus with others and we love that.”

“We had one bypasser say he wished we were here forever and was very pleased with the fact that the Catholic Church is making a presence to the public,” she added.

Orgeron said they have had people stop by just to browse around and see what the booth had to offer.

“We ask them questions to see if there is anything in particular they are looking for,” she said. “Then we thank them just for stopping by. It’s great to see people stop.”

Resources available at the cart are free and include Bibles and a CD containing three short talks by Jacobs; Father Mark Toups, pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist Church in Thibodaux and St. Lucy Church in Houma; and Paul George, diocesan director of the Office of New Evangelization.

The three talk about the true meaning of Christmas.

Also available is a Catholics Come Home DVD, a letter from Jacobs, handouts from different diocesan offices outlining the services they provide, a list of diocesan contacts, schedules of upcoming events, parish Mass schedules and documents which deal with questions Catholics and non-Catholics may have about the Catholic faith.

Written prayer requests are also accepted at the cart. They will be taken back to the pastoral center on La. Highway 311 where they will be placed on the altar of the chapel and prayed upon daily.

The ministry was made possible thanks to a $10,000 private donation specifically designed for this type of ministry, according to the diocese.

The original idea was for the diocese to open a store in the mall but the expense of renting a store did not make the idea plausible, according to Jacobs.

“I’ve always had the thought that the church should be present where people gather,” he said.

Margaret Orgeron (left) and Sue Manning arrange books at the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux cart in the middle of the Southland Mall in Houma. * Photo by KYLE CARRIER