By Seth Gonzales
The Texas Catholic
RICHARDSON — The best way to evangelize can often be the simplest. Such is the case for Father Jason Cargo, the tech-savvy pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church who has begun leading his parishioners in a daily, Lenten recitation of the rosary as they walk through the parish’s surrounding neighborhoods.
For 45 minutes, as many as 20-25 participants cover roughly 1.5 miles while reciting 15 decades of the rosary.
The Rosary Walk, as he calls it, is a form of public witness seldom seen these days and is an open invitation, he said, to parishioners and non-parishioners to deepen their prayer life and their relationship with Jesus Christ during the season of Lent.
“It’s an evangelization opportunity where we can meet people and invite them to the church,” Father Cargo said. “It also provides an outward expression to people that a priest has been in their neighborhood and that the church is alive and well.”
While attending a retreat for priests in 2015, Father Cargo said he felt God was calling him to lead the Rosary Walk as a means of reaching out to the community beyond the walls of the church. He began the ministry two years ago while still pastor of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Corsicana. The idea, he said, was to walk through every single neighborhood within the parish boundary — a goal he admitted is more attainable in piecemeal in Richardson, given the larger geographic area.
Father Cargo said the Rosary Walk is also a response to Pope Francis’ exhortation for priests to “go outside the church structures…and smell like their sheep.”
“I wanted to know what my parish looked like outside of my parish,” Father Cargo said. “I wanted to see with my own eyes and experience what kind of neighborhoods the people were living in.”
Father Cargo said for the most part, his encounters with people in the neighborhoods have been positive, ranging from those inquisitive about the Catholic Church, to those who have fallen away. The sight of a priest walking through a neighborhood while praying the rosary is certainly unique and can be a little jarring for some; for others it’s inspiring.
“As we walk past the homes, the people seem to be grateful and happy to see us praying,” said Christine Barrantes, a parishioner at St. Joseph. “One day we even had a lady join our group. She just noticed us and came and got into the line, so that was kind of a fun moment.”
Chris Dunn, a track and cross country student-athlete at Bishop Lynch High School, said the Rosary Walk is really an extension of the Mass.
“At the end of every Mass, we say ‘Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,’ and that’s really what we’re doing here,” Dunn said. “I figured I put so much time into physical conditioning for cross country and track that I should put some more time into spiritual conditioning, especially in this time of Lent when we spend so much time in prayer and fasting and preparing for that Easter Sunday.”
Father Cargo said while he hopes the Rosary Walk inspires residents to come to St. Joseph, there is a broader goal in mind.
“I just pray that we be an authentic sign to the people who are driving by, living or walking in our vicinity that we be a sign that Christ is alive,” Father Cargo said.