INDIANAPOLIS – A historic Indianapolis church is in the centre of festivities surrounding the Feb. 5 Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium.
St. John the Evangelist Parish, founded 175 years ago when Indianapolis was a small town on the edge of the American frontier, is the middle of the Super Bowl Village hosting many events across the street from the church and on streets surrounding it.
More than 100,000 visitors are expected to be in town, with tens of thousands of them walking by the church on streets largely closed to vehicular traffic for days prior to the Super Bowl.
There is even a zip line on which riders can zoom for 240 metres from a starting height of 32 metres and ending in front of St. John Church.
When the riders put their feet back down on solid ground, they see a sign in front of the parish's 140-year-old church that reads, "If you thought the zip line was a thrill, . . . come in and spend some time with Jesus!"
Such a sign shows that Father Rick Nagel, St. John's administrator, and his parishioners considered the Super Bowl a tremendous opportunity to evangelize.
"You can run and hide or you can just jump in," said Nagel. "We've decided to jump in and do some outreach.
"Our biggest goal is to give people a great sense of the Catholic Church."
To do that outreach, approximately 70 tour guides called "St. John evangelists" have been trained not only to explain the history, architecture and other aspects of the church, but also to explain how they embody the Catholic faith.
Several priests also have been hearing Confessions in the church for 28 hours during the days leading up to the game. And visitors can get answers to their questions about the Catholic faith at the Ask a Catholic booth set up in the church's narthex.
On the weekend of the Super Bowl game, additional Masses have been planned to accommodate the large number of Catholic visitors to Indianapolis.
Nagel was excited that his parish is taking seriously Blessed John Paul II's call to "open wide the doors to Christ."
"The new evangelization is alive and well here in the heart of our city."