Last month, I reported on our effort to reach out to non-practicing Catholics in our parish. A group of about six parishioners took the initiative to plan a Wednesday evening informal social gathering over pizza and refreshments. We placed a box in the rear of the church where people could leave the names and addresses of family members, friends or acquaintances who were once Catholic but no longer attend Mass.
During the weeks preceding, our little group met frequently to plan our approach. Each time, we prayed together for a successful outreach. Announcements were printed in the church bulletin and our pastor talked about the effort at Sunday Masses. Ads were placed in a local advertising paper. Pamphlets and other information resources were purchased for distribution. We even taste tested the pizzas from two different sources.
We went through old parish rosters to find former members who no longer attended. Invitations were professionally printed with space left for personal messages. The box containing potential contacts had more than a dozen potential contacts. We later discovered that all but one were provided by a member of our group. Still, sixty-six personalized invitations were mailed out.
On the day of the event, we met to decorate the room, clean tables, display resources, hang signs, and set up a Catholics Come Home video. Not knowing what the response would be, we decided to order six pizzas and five 2-liter bottles of soda to start. Everything appeared to be ready to go.
When the time arrived for the gathering to begin, several parishioners not part of our organizing group came to support the effort. As for the sixty-six invited guests, only one showed up, an older gentleman who had been away for some 35 years. Before you call our event a failure, we all considered even one returning Catholic to be well worth the effort. The evening was spent listening to his concerns. He asked to meet with us again, and we also arranged a luncheon date for him with our parish priest.
Since that evening, a couple of others have expressed regret at missing the gathering. We plan to continue meeting on Wednesday evenings with an eye toward attracting more involvement. We won’t give up and are not discouraged. We can only plant the seeds. The rest is up to the Holy Spirit.