Pubs, bars and taverns can be the setting for discussions ranging from sports to news, to faith.

walk-on-waterSeminarians Andres Soliz, left, and Mark Mleziva talk to two patrons outside some of the bars in downtown Milwaukee during Saint Francis Seminary’s annual Walk On Water Street event on Saturday, April 28. (Submitted photos courtesy Saint Francis Seminary) “In society there’s this ‘you should never talk about politics and religion.’ Well, we’re talking about religion in probably not the most polite of cultures out there on Water Street on a Saturday night,” said Fr. Peter Berger, director of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s vocations office and one of the participants in the Walk On Water Street event organized by his office.

“It’s a good reminder to keep preaching the faith … even in places where we might not want to go or feel comfortable going to, to do it,” he said.

The second annual Walk On Water event was held April 28 when Fr. Berger, a deacon and three seminarians handed out fliers to people outside bars on Water Street inviting them to the Saint Francis de Sales Seminary Open House the following day. A couple hundred people attended the open house.

“Some (people) were a bit confused as to what was going on,” he said of Walk On Water Street. “Some were intrigued because of the historical nature of the people. Other people were interested, perhaps, because they themselves were Catholic.”

The priest said there wasn’t any negativity aimed at the group and people seemed open to their message.

“It was interesting how in the middle of Water Street, you know, you were starting to have a faith conversation with people,” Fr. Berger said. “It’s kind of a good experience for us, too, to have the opportunity to interact with people who, some of whom, may not be involved in the church, and to see how to begin those conversations.”

Fr. Berger said the response seemed better than the year before.walk-on-water-2Fr. John Hemsing, seminary rector, left, and Fr. Peter Berger, forefront, vocations director, greet students from St. John Vianney Parish, Brookfield, as they arrive at the Saint Francis Seminary’s spring open house on Sunday, April 29. (Submitted photos courtesy Saint Francis Seminary)

“People were more willing to talk,” he said, adding that they interacted with a lot of tourists. “I was surprised by how many tourists; people for conventions or just visiting Milwaukee. I know I met people from St. Louis, New York, Chicago, so that was kind of cool, too.”

One bachelorette party was surprised by the group.

“One girl I heard, said, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to behave, there (is) a priest out there,’” said Fr. Berger, who added that he knows his presence caught them off guard.

The priest, who will leave the vocations directorship July 1 in order to become administrator of St. Mary Visitation Parish, Elm Grove, said he hoped that when they saw people their age encouraging others to think about vocations, it might make them think about their own faith.

“Seeing young men from the seminary down there, they’re people their age, and so I think that’s a good witness as well to see other people their age invested in the church,” Fr. Berger said.