ORANGEBURG—Catholic Roads, a multi-media evangelization effort, touts “Shrines! Wines! Interesting People!”
While the brand slogan is primarily metaphorical, under the concept of a Christian’s prayerful, everyday journey, it certainly applies to Frank and Beth Rengel’s own road.
Frank has been writing articles and drawing cartoons for magazines and newspapers since he graduated from high school 50 years ago. He’s been published in such storied journals as the Saturday Evening Post, American Legion magazine, and the National Enquirer. From a military family, he joined the Marines in 1970, later doing an inter-service transfer to the Army, from which he retired in 1996.
He met Beth Crawford at Auburn, where they were both students. He was in the U.S. Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps, and she was a graduate student. Both have terminal academic degrees, and have a career development business. They are active members of Holy Trinity Church in Orangeburg, and have a connection to St. Michael Catholic Community, a parish of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, which serves Fort Jackson in Columbia.
It was during his various deployments that Frank became estranged from the church. He stressed that he felt no animus toward the church, but the deployments coupled with the shortage of priests led him to drift away.
Following his retirement from the Army, Beth and Frank became active in a large evangelical community. Frank was both a pastor for 13 years and a “church planter,” founding over 100 churches and ecclesial communities. They made a mission trip to China, ran a food pantry, volunteered with crisis pregnancy centers, and ran a Christian women’s jobs program, using their skills in workforce development.
Frank credits Catholic media with his “reversion” to the church.
“Media outlets like EWTN, Catholic radio, and CatholicTV are worth every penny people in the pews contribute — and then some,” Frank said. “Any person who wants to know something about the Catholic Church can find it in the various Catholic media resources.”
“I would say, however, that we have been terribly disappointed how few of our Catholic friends actually take advantage of these amazing resources,” he said.
The influence stayed with both Lengels. They are “cooperators” (similar to a lay “third order”) with the Daughters of St. Paul, whose charism is evangelization through media. They are associated with the Pauline Books & Media Center in Charleston.“
Meeting Sister Margaret Charles Kerry and learning about the Pauline family showed us exactly where our little niche in this great and amazing church would be… Sharing the Gospel through media was right up our alley,” Beth said.
Beth is a convert to Roman Catholicism.
“I came kicking and screaming a bit at first,” she said. She agreed to attend Mass with Frank, just “once.”
“But that was quickly followed by RCIA. What the heck was that? Each day brought so many awesome things. History that we didn’t know existed. Traditions that preceded the Bible itself. Saints. And Holy Doors, too. I found myself saying, ‘Catholic is Cool’ over and over,” Beth said.
Hence the “Cool2B” menu on the Catholic Roads website (www.catholicroads.org).
The Lengels run Reach One Media out of the barn on the north pasture of their farm, “The Shabby”, they call it. Reach One Media is the incorporated part of the apostolate, including Catholic Roads.
“Each of us is responsible for evangelization of others around us,” Frank said. “We do it through prayer, love, and service, one soul at a time. And, as the children of God, we are all part of one family.”
“The idea was born on a vision of reaching the world with the Gospel one soul at a time. It was all about reaching outside the walls of the church and encouraging fellow believers to get out of the pews and go into the world with the love of Jesus Christ,” Beth said.
One of the joys of the apostolate, she said, is watching cradle Catholics and reverts fall in love again with the church, deepen their faith and knowledge, and bring their gifts to sharing the faith.
Beth said they have been using webcams to teach for years, adding that this digital skill and capacity may have equipped them for the social distancing and sheltering in place that has come with the Covid-19 pandemic.
In embarking on this apostolate, Frank said they understood the new evangelization to be aimed at existing Catholics, who were going through the motions with little enthusiasm. In their Protestant tradition, he said, “we would have said they were in need of a ‘revival’.”
“The message we had for them was ‘Shrines! Wines! And Interesting People!’ In a nutshell, it says to others that it’s cool to be (Cool2B) Catholic. Shrines represent the holiness of the Catholic Church. Wines represent all the fruit that is available to Catholics who stay attached to Christ through His Church and the sacraments. And, the interesting people speak for themselves. The Catholic Church is full of them,” Frank said.
By T.F. Shaughnessy