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A New Chapter for Evangelization: Innovative Outreach in Tipp City

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by Rebecca Sontag

Oh, wait! Somebody just pulled up. It’s a white SUV. They haven’t gotten out yet, but they’re still there. They’re definitely looking.”

Deacon Chuck Wright, the director of evangelization and catechesis at St. John the Baptist Church in Tipp City, quickly jerked the cord pulling up the blinds covering his office window. Peering out his window overlooking the parking lot of the church, he was perfectly positioned to keep an eye on the sturdily built and pin-tight wooden box set atop a 4×4 post filled with about 30 or so books.

Inside that wooden box can be found divine truth, some popular self-help, a bit of fiction and a few children’s stories, too. But more importantly, it is an invitation to the community to open the door and see what’s inside.

The now international network of “Little Free Libraries” is a non-profit organization whose mission is “to inspire a love of reading, build community and provide book access for all.” It was a mission this church could happily and readily embrace.

In a collaborative effort between parishioners and church staff, it was decided that building a Little Free Library on the St. John the Baptist Tipp City campus would be an excellent tool for evangelization, a wonderful addition to the neighborhood and great way to further connect with the community at large.

Tipp City, just north of the Dayton International Airport, is a growing city. With new communities being built and lots of younger families moving in, the gesture of welcome has great appeal
to those in the area. Moms and dads pushing babies in strollers stop and pick up books to read or leave old favorites behind. Parishioners enjoy the Free Little Library as well, both a source for new reads, or a good home for books ready to be passed along.

Sharing a love of reading and encouraging literacy at large is more the icing on the cake rather than the actual cake itself. Attached to the book box is a pamphlet that makes the true message clear.

All are welcome. Take a closer look and come inside because “we are a diverse and growing parish and we need you.”

It is a gentle evangelization, the scratch of paper against paper as pages are turned. It is an ongoing welcoming and reaching out to those beyond the parish roster. And, as the little library always has a Bible available, it is a literal sharing of the good news – the very definition of “evangelization.”

When Pope Francis released the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel) in 2013, the Holy Father made clear “the Church’s primary mission of evangelization in the modern world.”

In fact, in the very opening paragraph of his exhortation, Pope Francis urged and encouraged the Church in its entirety “to embark on a new chapter of evangelization.” It doesn’t take a very close reading to see that St. John the Baptist Tipp City and their brand new Little Free Library has taken him at his word.

If you are interested in starting your own Little Free Library, finding one close to you or to looking up St. John the Baptist Tipp City, please visit: littlefreelibrary.org.

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