Evangelising by train

train evangelisation

In an effort to reach out to local people, a German Catholic priest from the Diocese of Limburg has adopted the habit of taking a weekly train journey during which he makes himself available to chat to other passengers.

Father Olaf Lindenberg has experienced enormous success with his simple idea of setting out to meet people while he travels on local trains.

Nearly every Tuesday he boards the 6.55 a.m. train between Limburg and Frankfurt-am-Main.

“I sit in the front carriage – always the same one – and wait for people to come,” he says. “People see my Roman collar, recognize me as a priest and if they wish they come to talk to me.”

He repeats the exercise on the 5.01 p.m evening train in the opposite direction. During the hour long journey, Father Lindenberg offers a comforting presence and an opportunity to listen.

“The compartment is a public space,” he says. “People don’t talk about the rain or the weather but things that really concern them, both positive and negative.”

“By the same token, we rarely discuss genuinely existential issues,” he says. “The question of God is often raised indirectly in a somewhat covert manner.”

“The most important thing is that the people find a person who will listen to them. It is a very clear need,” he adds.

Along with his train project, Father Lindenberg has also launched a blog entitled “Praying differently.”

He makes use of this to accompany people who have never prayed, who do not know how to do so or think that only “monks know how to pray.”

Father Lindenberg posts a prayer daily on his blog, which he records himself so that it can be either read or listened to.

“Many people tell me they want to pray but don’t have time,” he says. “Yet we don’t need a lot of time. It’s simply a matter of creating a space for it.”

Ordained 26 years ago, the blond 52-year-old priest with blue-framed glasses credits the influence on him of the writings of French author Madeleine Delbrêl, “who encouraged the church to be where the people are.”

“Where a meeting takes place actually matters little as long as we are there to listen,” says Father Lindenberg.

“Going to church may impress people as may knocking on the presbytery door to meet the local parish priest,” he says. “In the train, however, I meet people who may or may not be believers. I often know nothing about them.” Continue reading

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