St. Barbara Parish in Brookfield caught on fire during the Pentecost vigil and burned with the Holy Spirit for more than 12 hours.
For the second year in a row, the parish welcomed in the feast of Pentecost with an overnight vigil that consisted of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and a bonfire burning in front of church throughout the night.
Close to 80 people signed up to be adorers during the night or tenders of the fire. More came on their own.
The fire proved to be a beacon. Throughout the night, people would stop by and ask what was going on at St. Barbara.
Two young men driving down busy Prairie Avenue pulled over and inquired about the fire and decided to come in and pray. Last year, there was a man who came into church, who said that he had been Catholic but had fallen away from the church and in fact had stopped believing in God for a period of time.
At midnight, 24 people were gathered either in church or outside with the fire. Earlier in the evening two guitarists with the choir led a group in song.
Eighth-grader Keith Schroeder, who came to tend the fire at 2 a.m. while his mother Marcia prayed inside church, said he saw the overnight vigil as a chance to serve the church in a special way.
“I am ending altar serving at graduation. Altar serving is all I can do (as a teen). …I’m going to be a teacher’s aide (next year), but working with the fire seemed to be a really good idea and a way to do something to serve the church. I thought it was actually really fun,” Schroeder said.
The original idea for the overnight vigil was truly inspired by the Holy Spirit during an evangelization team meeting last year.
Trying to brainstorm ideas for Pentecost, the image of a fire of course came to mind.
For many years, several E-Team members were involved with the Relay for Life in Brookfield, which involved staying up all night and walking to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Part of the evening always included a bonfire and luminaries along the walking path.
“We can have a bonfire in front of church and roast marshmallows,” someone joked at the meeting.
The idea of a bonfire burning through the night, representing the fire of faith in our parish quickly caught on. But something more than just folks sitting around a fire was needed. It was then that the Spirit fanned the idea into flame.
What if the church was open all night and people could come and adore the Blessed Sacrament?
It was one of those rare instances in a meeting where everyone said “yes!” at the same time.
Last year, about 70 people were involved in the vigil. This year the numbers grew, despite Pentecost falling on Memorial Day weekend. In fact, the vigil attracted several people from surrounding parishes who had seen notices about it in their bulletin. At least two deacons inquired about having the vigil at their parishes.
While they may not have used the word evangelization, those who participated in St. Barbara’s Pentecost vigil saw it as a special way to reach out to parishioners in the pews, people on the street and the community at large.
“It’s a nice way to show the community. It makes them curious,” said Maria Espinosa who has taken shifts in the middle of the night the last two years. “The Holy Spirit has been calling me the last couple of years to come closer. I’m getting back to do more things — choir, religious ed, working with the confirmation classes. I do feel the calling,” she said. “This is my way to be part of the community of St. Barbara, to be an example to my family, my boys.”
Deacon Dave Brencic is a member of St. Barbara Parish and one of the organizers of the Pentecost vigil event.