All the final arrangements had been made, the speakers lined up, the four gospel choirs chosen and rehearsed to perfection and the 2,000 fliers printed and distributed to teenagers in the parish.
It was then that the Rev. Patrick McCaffrey, pastor of St. Francis DeSales Catholic Church in Northeast Washington, realized that the night chosen by the parish for their program, "Youth Encounter With Soul," was going to fall on the first night of the World Series.
"If the turnout is good," McCaffrey said Tuesday night before the program began, "It will truly be a work of God." And that's the way it turned out.
The evening, which was described in advance publicity as an attempt "to reach out to youth with the message of Jesus Christ," grew out of the parish concerns about its young people.
McCaffrey said that parents in the parish were worried about their children who seemed, they felt, to be drifting away from the church.
"A survey we conducted here found that they were overly negative about things and rootless and even they (young people) were concerned about themselves," the pastor said. He added that the activities planned by the church through its CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) "were of limited success and were unimaginative and lacked vitality."
So with the help of Brother Edward Adams of the National Catholic Conference of Bishops' office of evangelization, a program was designed in cooperation with young people of the parish to appeal to and attract young people to the church.
And they came, nearly filling all the church pews. Asked what he was doing in church on the first night of the World Series, Herman Forbes, 19, said, "I know who's going to win anyway. I came to listen to some good sounds."
The "good sounds" were provided by the church choir and three others brought in for the occasion. And although most of the teenagers chattered and squirmed throughout the spoken parts of the evening, including a moving and graphic description of Christ's suffering on the Cross by the Rev. Carl Fisher, a young evangelical preacher known for his dynamic sermons, they sang loudly and with enthusiasm, rising to their feet when the gospel groups performed "Oh Happy Day" and "Jesus on the Mainline."
"The Catholics are sounding more like the Baptists every day," said D.C. City Council member Jerry Moore, Baptist minister who told the audience that he just wanted the young people to know that "there are those of us who are working to improve the quality of life and brong the kingdom of God on earth."
Even though some of the other speakers invited didn't make it ("born-again" Bullets basketball star Elvin Hayes had an unexpected practice and a local radio celebrity asked to emcee for the evening didn't show), McCaffrey said he thought the evening had been a success.
"The point was really to get the young people involved actively in the parish and to show that we are attempting to reach out to our parish and others outside the parish in a challenging way," he said. "I think we accomplished that."
The genesis of Tuesday night's program began nearly three years ago when Adams began working with the predominantly black and middle dan parish families in implementing the five-year evangelization plan established by the Archdiocese of Washington in 1974.
"The idea of evangelizing is a new concept for most Catholics," said Adams. "We are encouraging parishes to do more outreach in addition to nurturing. We are trying to stimulate more enthusiasm in the church by calling on Catholics to go out into the marketplace and live and talk about their faith.
"The form evangelization takes depends on whom you are trying to reach. If the parish is poor and hungry, you try to feed them. If you are talking about the young, you try to get away from religion as a head trip, full of a bunch of facts in the catechism, and try to get across the message of Christ through social activities."
The ultimate target, Adams said, is the estimated 80 million to 90 million unchurched in the United States.
What this means for Catholics at St. Francis DeSales, McCaffrey said, is that "they must realize that their faith is really not exactly the private matter that most of them feel it is."
"We are trying to go from a centralized approach to a decentralized approach, to have the parish share some of the responsibility for what happens in the church and to bear witness to others," he said.
Participants received pamphlets describing what evangelization was all about as they filed out of the church.