It’s Saturday afternoon, and a St. Thomas More parishioner is handing out free Bibles, rosaries and other Catholic materials at the Arizona State Fair.
For the last seven years, Pasquale Lombardo and other volunteers have operated the Love of Jesus booth in the exhibit hall at the state fairgrounds. From Thursday through Sunday, Lombardo stands offering freebies to passersby. “Jesus — He’s the Way, the Truth and the Life,” he tells them. “Here, have a rosary. What color do you like?”
The exhibit hall opens at noon and doesn’t close until 10 p.m. Lombardo admits the long hours are taxing, but the returns are, well, heavenly.
“You feel so good inside,” Lobardo says. “I think it’s the joy. They come and they ask me who Jesus is. I tell them He is the Son of God, but the idea is to not end here, but to keep going.” He keeps a list of prayer intentions and jots down requests from those who visit the booth.
Sometimes, pastors from other Christian denominations question him. The booth features images of Mary and dozens of brightly colored rosaries, alongside Divine Mercy images and pamphlets in English and Spanish about the Eucharist and Confession.
“They ask about why we are doing what we’re doing,” Lobardo said. “Before you know it, they hug you and say, ‘we’re going to see you in heaven.’”
Most of the other booths in the exhibit hall feature everything from teeth whitening to jewelry, perfume and water treatment. A table just around the corner from the Love of Jesus display promotes abortion rights. Lombardo secured prolife pamphlets and flyers listing local pregnancy resource centers in response.
Joyce Coronel, evangelization and sacramental life manager for the Diocese of Phoenix, said Lombardo’s efforts line up with the call of Pope Francis to reach out to those on the margins and share the Gospel.
“Public events like the Arizona State Fair are an excellent venue for seeking out those who may not be coming to our parishes. We want to meet people where they are and invite them into a relationship with Christ and His Church,” Coronel said.
Lombardo says he welcomes volunteers from the Diocese of Phoenix to help out at the booth which will be open Thursdays through Sundays until Oct. 29, the final day of the state fair.
Information: (602) 672-8955.