Griffin Rain (left), Robert Pauley and Steven Kehoe are discerning a new religious community at St. Catherine Parish Milwaukee, the Missionaries of the Real Presence. (Photo by Zachary Hanson, HansonBush Creatives LLC)
While attending Marquette University, Griffin Rain felt God tugging at his heart but wasn’t sure exactly what he was called to do.
“I have had a sense for mission and reaching out to the most abandoned and neglected,” he said. “I began attending St. Michael’s Parish on the northside, and noticed that most parishioners didn’t match the demographics of the neighborhood and the neighbors to the parish had little connection to the parish.”
In his senior year, he met a man named Joe Livaudais, a street evangelist who traveled the country. For a day, the two walked the streets and evangelized the homeless.
“I was amazed at how open random people would be to having conversations about the Gospel, the Catholic Church, and their struggles and where they need God’s mercy. I then went back to the parish and started doing some evangelization in the neighborhood around the church the summer before entering the diocesan seminary,” Rain said. “I realized that most people are simply not Catholic because nobody has invited them or walked with them on their journey to faith.”
While in the seminary, Rain realized God was calling him to religious life and not the diocesan priesthood. He visited a few communities, but he couldn’t find any living as contemplative missionaries. He felt the call to prayer and mission but couldn’t find a good balance anywhere.
“I believe that from our prayer the desire to evangelize arises and that the fruits of our prayer are what we can share with those around us. I also saw a great need in Milwaukee to evangelize its northside, where there had been a large Catholic presence, but it has since dwindled over the past few decades,” Rain said. “Milwaukee is not alone in this need to renew parish life in poor, mostly African American neighborhoods, as cities across the United States are having this same issue and few have found an answer.”
With the permission of Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki and under the supervision of Fr. Ricardo Martin, Rain developed the Missionaries of the Real Presence and is discerning a charism for a possible religious community. Though not a formal community, Rain and two others live a life structured like religious brothers and live in common at the Visitation House at St. Catherine Parish. They are open to having more men join this contemplative order.
They hope to wear a habit at some point to witness to others they are consecrated to God and are approachable for prayer or questions.
“Many times, when we approach people, they think we are either Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses or the police,” he said. “We are Catholics, and it would be good to have a habit that is specific to our group so people may identify us with the Catholic Church.”
“Our charism that we are discerning is contemplative missionaries focused on renewal of parish life in poor urban areas,” Rain continued. “Each of us devotes our entire life to prayer, community life and evangelization, and does not work other jobs and so are dependent on donations from those who see the necessity of having Catholic missionaries spread the Gospel to Milwaukee’s northside. We hope that men who want to devote themselves more fully to living out the Gospel call consider joining us. We hope to one day become a religious community and take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.”
Before they moved to St. Catherine Parish, the men began at St. Rose of Lima Parish in May 2021, and they helped 10 Catholics return to the Church and two people became Catholic.
“Since moving to St. Catherine’s about four months ago, we are seeing greater results among non-Catholic evangelization where already two people are in catechism classes with us preparing to become Catholic and two others have decided they want to become Catholic and begin classes,” said Rain.
The men pray the liturgy of the hours together each day in the church. The prayer is open to the public at 6:30 a.m. for morning prayer, noon for daytime prayer and 5:30 p.m. for evening prayer.
“We pray the night prayer with just the men living in the house,” Rain said. “Praying at the same time helps keep things consistent and stable. People in our area are surrounded by instability and the church should stand as a source of stability that we are all looking for. Opening the churches up for daily prayer is so important. Having lay people lead the liturgy of the hours is something that more parishes should try since it can be led by anyone.”
In addition to prayer and street evangelization, the missionaries offer classes at the Visitation House on skills and hobbies, present talks on what is important to the community, and share in work and other activities.
“We have been hosting a community lunch open to the public after our daytime prayer each day Monday to Saturday. Many join for prayer before and usually 20-30 people attend the meal with us after,” Rain said. “On feast days and solemnities, we grill out in the morning in front of the church, and have sports and games set up. There have been a lot of people who attend that, and since it is tied to major feasts and solemnities, it allows non-Catholics and Catholics alike to see the richness of the liturgical life of the Catholic Church.”
Rain welcomes men interested in devoting their lives to missionary work to contact him through their website, www.realpresencemissionaries.org. For women interested in a similar vocation, he encourages them to visit the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate in Monroe, New York.