Taking church on the road to the county fair

By Gianna Canevari | Contributor
Sunday, August 14, 2011

For the third year in a row, the Lake County Fair wasn’t just for carnival rides, funnel cakes and petting zoos. Peter’s Net, an evangelization booth founded and run by parishioners from St. Raphael the Archangel Parish in Antioch aspired to be a site for evangelization, education and inspiration for non-believers.

Featuring everything from prolife displays and educational literature to a sacrament exhibit and Vatican flags, banners and a crucifix, Peter’s Net hoped to bring more than 4,000 people into the booth to trigger conversation about the church.

Paula Emmerth, president of Peter’s Net, and her sister, Teresa, had more than 50 people volunteering for the duration of the fair, July 26 to 31 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., in Grayslake.

In addition to Catholic literature and spiritual signs and posters, volunteers at the booth were hoping to engage passersby in conversation about what they know, what they don’t know and what they want to know about the Catholic Church. The goal, Emmerth says, was to educate an entire range of people, from children to adults.

She feels that the older generation has more information about the church and that educating young people about the church is important for the faith.

“We are at a different starting place because the youth is so secular,” Emmerth said. There are many young people who have not been introduced to faith at all, she says.

For the children who would visit the booth with their parents, there were games and guaranteed prizes for all of them.

“The prize we give them has the name of Jesus on it and they receive it from a smiling, friendly, generous person,” said Emmerth. This gives them a good impression of the church, she said.

For those that come to the booth interested in the church, a directory of most Catholic parishes in the archdiocese was available. This was the first year for that directory.

Next year Emmerth would like to set up a county-wide committee so that there can be equal representation from other parishes. After that, she would like to see Peter’s Net go national, introducing more people to the church by being kind, generous and knowledgeable about the foundations of the faith.